How to collect vintage luxury watches
EDGAR turns to lifestyle blogger Jim Joquico, editor of Fashion Chameleon, for his take on vintage watches.
The true mark of a self-respecting man lies not in a designer wardrobe which goes in and out of style, but in his taste for fine timepieces. But the problem for most men when adopting this philosophy is this – luxury watches are cost-prohibitive, at least the new ones. Not everyone can and want to buy a brand new rose gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – so how do we address this issue?
There are several benefits to buying vintage watches. One is obviously the significantly lower cost of entry. Unless we’re talking about the Rolex Submariner, which keeps such a ridiculously big fraction of its value that it’s not even worth considering, most pre-loved decades-old timepieces out there sell for about a quarter of the price of their new brethren. You also don’t have to worry about the big D (depreciation), because somebody already took the hit for you. Another beautiful thing about going for vintage is the aesthetic of a bygone era.
Most of these watches, which come from the 70s or earlier, have a distinct retro look that you just can’t find today. They’re also smaller, because back then people didn’t like strapping wall clocks on their wrists. Looking at vintage watches, it’s amazing to see how these beautiful feats of micro mechanical engineering can keep going after decades of excellent service. You just don’t see that in much of the things the luxury market sells you day in and day out. So knowing that someone out there has test run your piece for years is an undeniable testament to the quality of the product you’re buying. For collectors, there’s always the thrill of the hunt. It’s finding something that few very out there, at least in your own circle of friends, have or can buy whenever they want. Especially if you’re getting them from auctions; once they’re gone, they’re gone. None of your friends could say, “Hey that’s nice, I’m going to get one of those too!”
Sometimes you come across a bargain by pure dumb luck, and you’ll just have to take it in a heartbeat. Of course, there are some drawbacks to this approach, so caveat emptor. Some people just don’t like wearing used items. You’ll also have to accept that these timepieces require proper maintenance and care, so whenever you buy a piece, you’ll have to factor in the cost of service from the get-go and every five or so years thereafter. There’s also the small risk of being duped into getting a fake, but with these old watches, the risk is far less because China would rather focus on counterfeiting newer models.
Now where to start? Here are a few tips on how you can get your vintage watch collection rolling.
Start at home
If you come from a half-decent family, you should be able to find a vintage watch lying around the house, ready to welcome the care of a new owner. Your parents should have at least an Omega that they’ve not worn for years and they would be willing to pass on to you. I scored this 80s Omega DeVille dress watch (below) from my dad, and it’s pretty neat. I just wish I wore suits more, which go perfectly with this watch.
Because we’re in Dubai where everyone loves new stuff, finding a store that sells vintage items can be difficult. I only know of Momentum, based in DIFC, who sells used luxury timepieces locally. Their goods have been inspected by an expert watchmaker for authenticity, so you can be sure that you’re not getting a fake POS. The most obvious advantage of sourcing locally is you can inspect the product before buying it, and see if the size suits your wrist well. And should you run into problems with the piece, you can always take it back to the store and get it fixed.
You can also get your watches serviced there if you can’t stomach the outrageous fees that ADs (authorized dealers) are charging. I made the mistake of taking my old DateJust to Rolex in Dubai Mall, and while I’m extremely happy with the service, I was charged AED 2,400 – and waited for six weeks!
I’m not sure what the general perception of online Rolexes is in the Gulf, but I guess I’m one of the few brave souls who would risk thousands of dirhams on an internet purchase of a luxury watch. The important thing for people who want to do the same is to read up as much as you can about the specific model you want, so you get to know the tell-tale signs of an authentic one versus a fake. For beginners, I would recommend sticking to the likes of Beckertime.com, an online Rolex specialist trader, before exploring the murky waters of eBay.
You’re going to need balls of steel to commit to an eBay purchase, which I did when I bought this retro-cool 70s Omega Seamaster (below). It turned out to be the real thing (checked by the Omega AD at The Dubai Mall) so that was a big relief.