Vintage watches are valuable and highly sought-after by watch fanatics for many reasons. Vintage watches act as a unique expression of personality and style, as well as being a good investment.
The market for vintage watches is increasing – more people are looking to own their first vintage watch or find a timeless classic to add to their existing collection. Vintage watches tell a story: they have survived a long time, they carry a significant part of history with them, and they are truly timeless.
While wristwatches have been around since the 17th century, a watch is usually called vintage when it is more than twenty years old. Any older and it is considered antique. Throughout history Switzerland has been famous for producing expert watchmakers. Many of the well-made, attractive and beautifully crafted timepieces of its most renowned watchmakers are some of the most collectable vintage watches today.
What makes vintage watches unique
Vintage watches all have different characteristics: their history and origin, their condition as well as their unique craftmanship which is an example of the traditional process of watchmaking. They are generally classified into the two following categories: important or estate timepieces or preowned watches.
Estate timepieces are highly sought after by watch enthusiasts who look for evidence of important lineage in a timepiece. These watches are usually of a very high quality, were made as part of a limited-edition collection or have very specific and intricate designs.
Collectors also like to consider the previous owners of watches, where a vintage watch once worn on the wrist or in the pocket of a well-known figure can be incredibly valuable. An example of this is Mahatma Ghandi’s pocket watch which was made by Swiss watch manufacturer Zenith and sold for £12,000.
Vintage watch collectors are often looking for watches that are in a like-new condition. But what makes vintage watches really unique is the work and craftmanship that has gone into each individual timepiece.
The appeal of a vintage watch
Vintage watches can also make good investments. Swiss luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe’s Henry Graves Supercomplication is reportedly the most valuable vintage watch in the world. The timepiece, which is made out of 18-karat gold and has 24 complications, was sold at auction in Geneva in 2014 for $24m making it the most expensive watch to ever sell at auction.
Other notable auction listings have included a Cartier full diamond bangle watch which featured on the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Important Watches Sale in 2015. The Panther shaped Cartier watch was listed at $360,000 alongside a Henry Winston Opus 12 wristwatch which was sold for $150,000.
However, not all vintage watches come with such staggering price tags. With a good eye and enough knowledge, a good vintage watch can be bought on any budget.
Vintage watches are also a solid fashion statement, despite the majority of the world now checking their phone, rather than their wrist, for the time. The history and design that comes with vintage watches makes them more desirable than Apple’s wearable tech.
Celebrity watch collectors
A clear indicator of the desirability of vintage watches today is how popular they are among celebrities as well as featuring in films and on TV. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio owns a classic Carrera 1887 Chronograph, a limited edition Aquaracer as well as a Raymond Weil watch. He also notably wore a gold Rolex GMT Master when portraying city hot shot Jordan Belfort in the Wolf of Wall Street.
Football legend David Beckham has a vast vintage watch collection and is often seen wearing the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea, of which he owns two.
Prince William is also a fan of vintage watches. He is often seen wearing an Omega Seamaster 300M, which was reportedly a gift from his late mother Princess Diana and the watch that he wore every day throughout his seven-year stint in the British Military. The Omega Seamaster 300M has also been made famous by the James Bond movies: it is the watch that Pierce Brosnan wore when he was playing Bond in movies such as Goldeneye and Die Another Day.
Luxury vintage timepieces are not just for men: plenty of female celebrities boast their own impressive vintage collections. Jennifer Aniston is a fan of Cartier and often wears her vintage Cartier watch on screen. Angelina Jolie is similarly a Cartier fan and has several models of the Cartier Tank – the classic two-hand watch which was first created in the 1920s.
Where to buy vintage watches in London?
There are plenty of vintage watches for sale and vintage watch dealers in London. Susannah Lovis in London’s Burlington Arcade has a selection of vintage omega watches, used Rolex watches and watches by other famous brands.
In addition to vintage Rolex watches and used Omega watches, the other key brands that have remained in vogue for decades are Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet which can be found at auctions or in vintage watch shops in London.