A Guide To Buying Vintage Watches

When buying a vintage watch online, it can seem like an intimidating process. So before you start make sure you read our guide to buying vintage watches.

Buying a watch online is quite an intimidating process, because let’s face it, you’re either a connoisseur or an amateur. It’s one of those items you’re either profoundly passionate and knowledgeable about, or you’re there because you love them, but wouldn’t invest several thousand pounds on one. That being said, watches are far more than a practical accessory. The right one can elevate and complete an outfit. With many declaring their inevitable obsolescence thanks to smartphones (and smartwatches), we humbly disagree.

A guide to buying vintage watches Vintage Cartier

What makes a Vintage Watch

There’s a great market for vintage and preowned watches. But what is the difference between pre-owned and vintage watches? There are various definitions, but no perfect science behind it. Still, we can assume that the second-hand market covers roughly from the quartz crisis onwards, while vintage deals with anything before that. The Eighties are more or less the cutoff point between these two periods. Vintage watches tend to be smaller, and made using more traditional materials. With modern watches are usually made using plexiglass for instance. 

All vintage watches have a history and their own particular charm, it’s also likely to be a collection piece. This can make it pretty unique, and often (but not always) more expensive. Watch fans expect to buy their vintage watches, especially if high-end and luxury, with original boxes and documents to prove authenticity. Which means that if they’re missing these, watches end up being cheaper: usually 10-15% less than the original price. At the same time if you’re actually interested in a recent watch, but it comes without documents, its value is going to be less than the average for that model. Which basically makes it much cheaper.

What To Look Out For

You might find your watch with it’s original wristband, which is exciting but not a deal clincher. An old band can be easily replaced with a new one. Changing an old band with a new one is pretty satisfying as it genuinely looks like giving a watch a facial! A fresh new look with minimal effort. Buckles are in reality more important as they’re often branded. However the best signifier of a good vintage watch should be maintenance. A serious owner will have their watch serviced regularly by a good repairer. So look out for botched repairs or parts that are incorrect for the brand and model.

Buying Vintage Watches Online

Now that browsing in vintage watch stores is less easy, why not consider looking online. Buying online can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t a seasoned buyer. However  keeping this difference between vintage and pre-owned in mind, you can choose how to make the best deal. There are many websites where you can find stunning vintage options: Watchfinder&Co, The Vintage Jeweller, Selling Antiques, or 1stdibs. The Vintage Watch Company is the last word in amazing collections, they do sell online but it’s better to visit their Mayfair Boutique. If you’re looking for something more recent, then it’s easier to look at preowned websites you would normally browse for clothing. The Vestiaire Collective above all has a great watche selection and a wide price range. Plus they certify the authenticity of designer and vintage watches so you know you won’t be stiffed. We also love Open For Vintage and The Real Real. Etsy is also perfect if you don’t have the biggest budget but make sure to research the seller before parting with your money. For more recent watches, think 1990’s onwards, Depop is another good resource. Wherever you look, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. 

A guide to buying vintage watches Vintage Jaeger le Coultre Watch The Real Real Photographer @chloehorseman

Image: The RealReal / Photgraphy: @chloehorseman

How to Buy From An Individual Safely

If you find a watch you like being sold by a private individual, be sure to ask for actual photos of the watch you are going to buy. A good guide is to ask for pictures of the watch, the crown, the back case, the movement, and the inner part of the back case. Plus images of the watch being worn, and if you really want, a video to see it move in real time. 

When planning on investing in a vintage watch, consider meeting the seller at a trusted watchmaker or watch store. There you can be reassured by a professional if the watch is well functioning and authentic. They can also open it and check that everything is in order. There’s no need to be a pro to enjoy finding and purchasing a great vintage watch online.

Best Vintage Watches

Disclaimer: The people and models in the images featured are not associated with The Vendeur and do not endorse it or the products shown. This post may contain affiliate links. Prices correct at time of publishing.

Did This Put A Smile On Your Face? Why Not Subscribe?

If you enjoyed this then theres plenty more on our email newsletters that you'll love. Whether you're a sustainable newbie or an eco conscious pro, our bi monthly emails will inspire you to live sustainably and ethically.