Do not buy a watch without research
This seemst to be quite obvious, and frankly, it is. However, there are still plenty of people that are misled by vintage watches that aren’t original or that do not work. Vintage watches are usually valuable because they are rare and (obviously) they are no longer being produced, as such, supply is limited. When your watch has parts that aren’t original, or when the watch was badly polished, it can be detrimental for the value of your watch. It is strongly adviced to research a watch prior to buying it, preferably by comparing it to other examples. There are some key points that are often problematic with vintage watches, I’ve listed the most common issues.
The dial is probably the most important part to check when buying a vintage watch. Some watches are clearly fake, but the most common issue is that vintage watches will be ”redialed”, where the watch is still original but the dial is repainted. These dials can look good, and sometimes they appear original and as good as new. However, these redials typically drastically diminish the value of a watch. Some collectors will refuse to purchase a watch that features a redial. Redials can be hard to spot, the best way to spot them is by comparing the dial to other pieces online. It can be difficult to copy the letters or the logo on the dial, as such, this is a good place to start when checking a dial. Furthermore, redials often look brand new. If a watch has decades of heavy wear, it can often be expected the dial will have wear too. So, if you see a brand new dial on a worn vintage watch, be extra cautious. Obviously there are watches with excellent original dials, but keep in mind that some might be repainted.
The dials & lume
Lume is a great invention for watches, that allows you to see the time in the dark. Unfortunately lume typically ages quickly. Lume on vintage watches is often subject to aging, and it sometimes disintegrates when the watch becomes older. As such, vintage watches are often ”relumed”, and sometimes hands are replaced. You can check the originality of lume by testing its light giving abilities, old lume should barely give any light in the dark. The color should also be brown-ish instead of bright white. You can also compare the lume on the hands to the lume on the dial, these colors should almost always be the same.
The crown is another watch part that is often replaced with vintage watches. These watches have been around for decades and as such they have often been maintained by several watchmakers. A lot of watchmakers do not use original crowns when replacing them due to the higher cost. Always check whether the crown is original. Sometimes it can be easy to check, for example when a crown should be signed and it isn’t.
Other watch parts
Besides the previously mentioned parts, there are obviously other parts that you should check when buying a vintage watch. The movement of a watch is of great importance when determining the authenticity. The movement is the hardest part of the watch to fake, as such, you should always pay attention to the movement when authenticating a watch. Furthermore, watches are often outfitted with un-original date discs and steel bracelets. Be wary of sellers that claim to own a authentic bracelet, bracelets can be difficult to authenticate. Sometimes a serial number can be checked to determine authenticity.
Asks experts about your watch.
A good fake kan be almost impossible to recognise, or at least very difficult if you do not know what you should pay attention to. Fortunately we live in a digital age, where information is always within reach. It doesn’t hurt to ask others about the watch that you’re looking to buy, watch collectors will typically help other collectors when authenticating a watch. If you asks experts for advice, they might see issues you have missed.
Asking for advice online is convenient and typically sufficient to authenticate a watch. However, when possible, go to a experienced watchmaker with the watch you are looking to buy. This is worth the trouble, especially for more expensive watches.
If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.
You might think that you found the deal of the century. However, there is no such thing. Some things are too good to be true. If you’ve found a watch for a great price, be extra careful when checking the authenticity.
Be careful with polished watches
Vintage watches have led a long life, they are often damaged and show signs of wear. As such, some vintage watches are polished, making them look like new. Polishing a watch isn’t necessarily bad, however it can be bad for the value of the watch. Some watches are overpolished, which can be bad for the original design and sharpness of the case. So, if you see a vintage watch that looks like it’s new, odds are it has been polished. Dit hoeft geen dealbreaker te zijn, maar je moet je wel bewust zijn van een mogelijk negatief effect op de waarde, vooral als het veel of slecht is gepolijst.
Buy the seller
Not everybody can be an expert regarding vintage watches. If you’re looking for an excellent vintage watch, and you are willing to pay the price, you should look for a reputable seller. Good dealers will authenticate watches and you can buy from them hassle free. These sellers are often more expensive than collectors, however you will be sure of buying an authentic watch.
“The watch was serviced”
Watches require servicing every few years, and as such its a great advantage when a watch was recently serviced. Sellers are aware of this and often claim that watches have been serviced prior to the sale. Take such claims with a grain of salt, sometimes these claims are incorrect and you will have to service the watch yourself. Cheaper watches often have this problem, its often relatively expensive to service a cheaper watch.
Pay attention to the size of the watch.
There is nothing wrong with a smaller watch, I personally like watches between 34-39mm. However, vintage watches are typically smaller than modern pieces. Some sellers don’t mention the size of the watch, these watches are often very small which can be bad for the value of the watch. So, when buying a vintage watch, pay attention to the size of the watch.
Don’t pay too much for the box and papers
A lot of watches are sold with the box and papers, and this often comes at a premium. However, the box and papers of a watch are easy to fake. There are plenty of examples of watches that were sold without box and papers, only to re-apppear on the market with box and papers. So, be careful when paing extra for the box and and papers. They are nice to have, but don’t overpay.
Check whether your watch is gold plated or chrome plated.
There are a lot of vintage watches, but gold is obviously expensive. Most golden watches are gold plated instead of massive gold. There’s nothing wrong with this since these watches are much less expensive. However, the gold plating can wear out. This can lead to scratches on the watch which will reveal the steel underneath the gold palting. The gold plating is typically in the worst condition near the lugs or the crown. Some sellers try to hide the damage to the gold plating by making clever pictures. Always be extra careful with vintage watches since they wear more easily.
Check whether the seller actually has the watch.
If you doubt the seller, it can be good to check whether the seller actually has the watch. You can ask the seller for pictures to prove he has the watch, for example by asking him to set the time at a specific time. The odds are small that somebody that does not actually have a watch will have a picture with the time set at a certain point.