For emerging collectors of vintage watches, here are a few good entry-point suggestions:
Introduced in 1952, and in continuous production ever since, the Breitling Navitimer marks a significant milestone in the development of aviation watches. Examples in steel from the 1960s and 1970s are relatively easy to come across but condition varies greatly.
Price range: $2,000—$4,000
This interesting series of watches uses a 360 Hz tuning fork instead of a balance wheel as the timekeeping element. Making its debut towards the end of 1960, the tuning fork was powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator circuit, making the Bulova Accutron the second electronic watch in history. It was also guaranteed to be accurate to within 2 seconds a day, considerably better than the mechanical watches of the time.
Price range: $400—$800
An ideal alternative to the near identical models from elder sibling Rolex, vintage Tudor Submariners are experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to the popularity of the brand’s modern collections. “Snowflake” models are very much in favour, particularly those with a connection to Marine Nationale Francé (the French Navy).
Price range: $5,000—$8,000
Before you barrel head-long into the intoxicating world of vintage watches, it’s important to acknowledge that there are some inherent pitfalls. Chief among them are models that are not what they appear to be. Either intentionally (as in the case of counterfeit or “modified” models), or due to incorrect or unauthorised repair or servicing at some point. This can significantly impact the value of a vintage watch, yet things are not often black and white. We are, after all, talking about an item that could be upwards of forty years old; accurate records are not always available.
The best way to protect yourself against a bad deal is to follow these simple rules:
Research, ask as many questions as possible, and, depending on the value, consider requesting independent verification or inspection. (This may not always be possible, but it’s good to ask.)
As you get more and more into the world of vintage watches this is a common refrain you will come across. Essentially, it means that you should buy from reputable sources only, whether that is at auction or through private sale.
In some instances, these will have been lost or destroyed years ago, but if available they can provide additional peace of mind and add significant value.
Unfortunately, as is the case with luxury goods in general, counterfeiting remains a serious issue. This is often made easier with items such as vintage watches due to the limited records available to verify individual authenticity. That’s why rule #2 is so important.
At the end of the day, the key thing to remember is that collecting vintage watches should first and foremost be about personal enjoyment. Buy what you love, what speaks to you and you will never go wrong.