Antique watches do not simply increase in value, they’re also accompanied by their very own individual slice of the past, some with a richer history than others. Details are the key point here.
There are those who will only ever want to acquire the latest thing, you know, whether it’s a gadget, the current chart-topping song, or the coolest new model of mobile telephone. However, in the high-end watch world, there are a whole host of reasons to buy vintage over new movements. First off, it’s a better investment. But, looking beyond the investment there’s a deeper, and far more gratifying aspect of antique watch collecting too, namely that it connects those involved to something bigger — a community, further learning, and to the contentment of owning a piece of history- it really is great!
Let’s look at the overwhelming qualities that we watch lovers can get really enthusiastic about. Before the arrival of apps on mobile devices that cover every conceivable avenue you can think of, and more, watches possessed their own distinct purpose and a reserved place in history- especially during the 1950s and 1960s. For example, watchmakers such as Patek Philippe, Omega, Longines, and of course Rolex, made chronographs with what we call ‘pulsation dials’ – chronographs made to assist doctors to take a person’s pulse. Not to only cater for the medical profession, there were watches that had been designed for use by a professional salvage diver, or those that timed race cars. For the collector, you’re buying into that exclusivity that a modern timepiece can’t offer.
At the point in which someone buys a vintage watch, the proud owner will have been studying their new acquisition, searching for some exact model and dial configuration for a long time — chiefly if it’s a Rolex. Maybe they want a Bakelite bezel GMT Master 6542. Those bezels would often crack and were replaced with aluminium inserts. So when a collector finds an original, it’s very exciting. From there, it’s all about examining it: are the fonts on the bezel correct? Are there cracks in it? Has it been painted?
The same goes for the marks on dials. When we refer to a Rolex with an ‘underline dial’, for example, we’re talking about certain watches from about a one-to-two year period in the early 1960s. This was the period when Rolex put a little underline mark under the texts on its dials in order to bring it to the attention of customs officials that deadly, radioactive radium was no longer being used to produce the luminous dial- instead watchmakers began switching to the far safer tritium. Those distinctions add to the value of a piece and motivate the ambition for one of the world’s most amazing gratifying rewards. And that’s where we come in, by helping them to examine those gems and define what’s original.
If you talk to a collector, most will almost certainly tell you that they adore the thrill of the chase. And once they find what they are searching for, they get to enjoy the romance associated with strapping on a simply superb movement with its very own history and its own patina.
Let’s be frank, it is a very human connection to have with an object. Each antique watch has its own story, and that’s something you just can’t buy from the production line.