Vintage watches are, of course, something that we see an awful lot of here in our workshop at Manhattan Time Service and we know that there are a lot of men out there who will be looking to get their hands on a classic luxury watch in 2017. Buying a vintage watch is something that can, occasionally, be fraught with potential pitfalls but if you know the right questions to ask the seller then you should be able to make sure you've got all your bases covered.
So, what questions should you be asking a retailer when buying a vintage watch? If you're new to the world of horology (which many people buying vintage watches often are) it can be difficult to know where to begin, so we've compiled a list of 8 key questions to make sure to ask if you're planning to buy a vintage watch in 2017. Take a look at these questions below:
Q: Does the movement have any scratches, corrosion or rust?
When buying a vintage watch, particularly from the likes of Rolex, Patek, IWC etc, the movement will obviously form an important part of the overall condition of the watch and will be responsible for ensuring that it works correctly so you should be sure to ask the retailer about the condition of the movement and whether it has any noticeable damage which make have an impact on the performance of the watch movement. If there is any of the issues mentioned above, it can be used to negotiate a reduction in the price of the timepiece but be sure to bring it in for a service once you've bought it to restore it to its former glory.
Q: Are all the parts original?
Another factor that will have a big bearing on the actual value of a vintage watch is whether it still boasts all of its original parts so make sure to ask the seller if they know whether it's had any parts replaced or not. If they do know that some parts of the watch have been replaced, ask them to go into detail about which they are because some components are more important than others when it comes to them being original.
Q: Can you show me a service history for the watch?
Any reputable vintage watch seller should be able to provide a service history of the timepiece they are selling and this is important because it will give you peace of mind around what type of work has been carried out on the watch and by who. The service history will reveal important information about the watch such as when it was last serviced and what work, if any, was carried out during that service. If you're buying a vintage watch, one that comes with a service history is something to seek because it is that extra assurance that the watch has been well looked after during its time.
Q: Is the watch currently keeping good time / in general good working condition?
A lot of vintage watches will have been well looked after over the years and still working as well today as they always have. Conversely, however, plenty will also have issues that affects their time keeping and general condition so establishing with the retailer whether the timepiece you want to buy is currently keeping good time will give you a good indication of whether you need to carry out any work on the watch following your purchase. If it's working well, a simple service may be all that is required but if its timing is off, more extensive work might need to be carried out.
Q: What can you tell me about the watch strap? Is it original?
Whilst the mechanics of the watch are, of course, more prone to problems, the watch strap is also worth asking about when it comes to vintage watches because if the timepiece you're looking to buy is decades old, whether or not it has its original strap becomes less likely. Ask the retailer of the vintage watch what they can tell you about the strap e.g. whether its the original one, what sort of condition it is in and whether it has had any noticeable repair work carried out on it. It's not the end of the world if your vintage watch has had its strap replaced but a lot of people buying this type of watch want as much as possible to have been as it was when it left the factory.
Q: Do you have an ownership history for the watch?
It's good to know as much as possible about any vintage watch that you're looking to buy and that's why it's sensible to ask the seller if they have any ownership history documents about the timepiece. This should be able to show things like how many previous owner the watch has had, how long each person had the watch for and so forth. This is particularly beneficial for rare and older luxury watches and, who knows, perhaps it once belonged to someone famous!
Q: What is the overall cosmetic condition of the watch?
Speak to the seller about the cosmetic condition of the vintage watch you want to buy and find out if it has any issues with the appearance of the dial, hands, case and crystal glass in particular as these will be the ones that will need the most urgent attention if there are any issues.
These are just some of the questions that you should consider asking if you're planning to buy a vintage watch in 2017 and, if you do, feel free to bring it in to Manhattan Time Service for us to carry out any necessary services and checks.