Everything you need to know before buying a vintage watch
Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself before deciding on the watch model you would like to purchase. Tick all of them off your list before jumping into your first vintage watch world adventure:
1. Why invest in my first vintage watch?
The most important question is by far the purpose of the vintage watch you're ready to buy. Simply put, why do you need this watch? Are you looking for a wristwatch fit for everyday wear, a special timepiece for a particular event, or are you simply passionate about watches and want to start a vintage collection to keep on display? Any answer is right, and it can help narrow down your search.
2. What is my budget for the watch?
Vintage watches come at very different price ranges, depending on the brand, the quality, and condition of the watch, as well as how old the timepiece is. If your budget is very limited, you can opt for brands such as Timex, Carriage by Timex, Swatch, or Caravelle by Bulova. Depending on their state, you may get these watches at a very low price, but make sure to check with the seller if they are still in working condition.
At an affordable price range, around the $100 - $150 mark, there are many vintage watches you can opt for. Brands such as Citizen, Bulova, Disney, Lorus, or even Seiko, have made some incredible watches that retain that timeless vintage elegance, which is so valued by vintage collectors.
Alternatively, if you have a very generous budget, then maybe it's safe to go for one of the big brands. Our personal favorites are Omega watches, as well as Vacheron Constantin, Hublot and, of course, Patek Philippe.
If you're willing to invest a great deal of money into a vintage watch, we advise you to choose your buyer wisely and potentially seek some counsel from a watch expert.
If you're a rookie in the watch world, but you enjoy discovering impressive timepieces and want to know more about their stories, we recommend the WatchFinder Youtube channel. If you're thinking of starting an expensive collection, you will surely appreciate all the information, as well as the amazing visuals on their channel.
3. What about the condition of the watch?
When it comes to vintage watches, prices vary not only depending on the brand/manufacturer but also depending on how well the watch has been preserved and how old the timepiece is. A watch that is in mint condition and comes with its original box and papers will be valued at a significantly higher price than a watch that is available on its own, and maybe comes with a few imperfections.
Do you see your first vintage watch as a purchase or as a project? At Vintage Radar, we have a lot of experience when it comes to reconditioning old watches. The process is time-consuming, you often need specific tools, replacement pieces, special cleaning supplies. But a project like this can be very rewarding if watches are your passion, so if you don't have the budget for the mint-condition watch of your dreams, you can always opt for a good-condition model and try working on it yourself or taking it to your local watchmaker.
Sellers often specify the condition that the watch comes in, what signs of previous wear it might present, whether the movement is in working condition or not. Pay attention to the photos of the product, ask for extra photos if necessary, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
4. What type of movement should I go for?
Watches come with different types of movement/mechanism. Most commonly, your wristwatch will operate with quartz or battery movement. This means, as you probably know, that you should regularly change the battery of the watch for it to keep time properly.
But before quartz/battery movements have become so popular, mechanical movements were the popular choice, and they have remained so among vintage watch collectors. A mechanical watch is a watch that does not use a battery to function. It's a watch that you need to wind regularly in order for it to charge. There are other variations, of course, such as automatic movements, solar-powered movements and so on.
This is something you should definitely consider as well when choosing your vintage watch. As soon as you narrow down your search to a few vintage watches, compare their movement types, as well as the country where they were produced.
5. Where can I find the best vintage watches?
There are a few markets for vintage and second-hand watches online where you can find some great timepieces. Depending on your price point, our recommendations are the following:
- Ebay is great if you have a low budget. You will find non-functional watches, as well as watches that are in full working condition. Prices will differ depending on the seller, the information they offer about the watch, the condition of the timepiece, etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions, make an informed purchase.
- Vintage Radar is our platform, and we sell vintage and second-hand watches that are in the affordable luxury range. This means that most of our watches are valued between $70- $200. What we make sure is that all of our vintage watches are in full working condition and extensively tested. We've been reconditioning vintage watches for a few years now, we work with local watchmakers, and we're here for you if you have any questions about our products.
- When it comes to expensive watches, there are three platforms that we would opt for:
- Chrono24 - this is a German-based platform for luxury watches that reunites individual and certified watch sellers with interested buyers. We have a seller account on Chrono24 as well, and from our experience, the transaction process is completely safe and very well regulated. Your money will be in escrow until you receive the watch and confirm that everything is alright, which we believe is essential when it comes to substantial transactions.
- Hodinkee - we're great admirers of Hodinkee and their amazing content when it comes to watches. We certainly recommend checking out their vintage watch store, as well as their blog. You'll learn a lot about vintage watches from this impressive New York-based website.
- Watchfinder & Co. - UK's largest second-hand watch seller, Watchfinder & Co. comes with great watch expertise, as well as a certified servicing team and quality control. When you invest a large sum in a luxury watch, it's important to make an informed choice.
There are many other vintage watch markets out there, but we wanted to include some of the ones that we know and have some experience with, as well as some that we look up to, due to their impressive work.
If you're buying your first vintage watch, we encourage you to explore the market a little bit, before deciding to invest in a very expensive timepiece. It's ok to start small and take the time to learn about watches. Invest in a grand timepiece once you have the necessary knowledge to decide what vintage watch is the best choice for you.
Explore our in-house recommendations
At Vintage Radar, we sell vintage watches that fall into the affordable luxury category. Our purpose is to revive the beauty of these amazing vintage pieces and to offer these watches a second chance. In our vintage collection, you will find hundreds of watches for men and women, ranging from $50 to $600 roughly.
Because we want to encourage you to invest in vintage watches, to have trust in their longevity and to get a glimpse of their timeless beauty, here is a short presentation of some of our favorite vintage watches that we would recommend to first-time collectors. These watches are unisex and come with medium-sized dials, a perfect fit for almost everyone.
With reliable Swiss-made movement, this Nelson Extra Flat 17 Jewels mechanical watch is an impressive timepiece when it comes to design and durable craftsmanship.
The mechanical movement is in perfect working condition.
When we talk about vintage German watch craftsmanship, Ruhla is in the top three watch brands you'll most likely think of. A beautiful display of vintage elegance and timeless design features, this watch by Ruhla Europa is a great fit for both men and women. The watch case, glass, and inside components are in pristine condition, making this a very well-preserved, desirable timepiece.
As a first-time collector, you can't go wrong with a Swatch. Swatch watches are reliable Swiss-made watches that are designed to last. They come at a very affordable price range. We have a huge collection of vintage Swatch watches and we can confidently say that these watches keep time effortlessly after 20-30 years of history. This is one of the models we recently added to our collection, and we guarantee, it looks great on the wrist!
This vintage watch comes with a quartz/battery movement.
Finally, this impressive Citizen Elegance Triple Calendar Moon Phase watch is an example of a more expensive vintage watch, with more complications and a more interesting dial display. We wanted to include this piece in our recommendations, to give you an idea of just how exciting vintage watch models can get, at a price point that is still very convenient. What do you think about this one?
Find your vintage watch on Vintage Radar!
We invite you to explore our extensive collection of watches on VintageRadar.com. If you need any help choosing your vintage watch, don't hesitate to contact us.
For our readers, we offer a 10% Discount Coupon Code. Use the code Vintage10Radar at check out on VintageRadar.com to get an extra 10% discount on any purchase!