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Jewellery Insurance

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Buying a Vintage Watch: What You Need to Know

Q Report Team
Updated on March 04, 2024
3 min read

A classic vintage timepiece is always in style, but navigating the vintage watch market can be tricky. The old saying, “Buy the seller,” is as true with classic timepieces as it is with anything. A reputable watch dealer will help you to understand the ins and outs of the market and provide the information necessary to help you make an informed decision.

As you search for a luxury vintage watch, keep the following in mind.



The condition of a timepiece’s face largely determines its value. If a watch’s face has been resurfaced or repainted, it will be worth much less than if it’s in original mint condition. Uneven and crooked printing also affect the value of a vintage watch, so examine it carefully.

For top value, seek out watches with original hands, bezels and movements. Some collectors pay top dollar for vintage timepieces that come with the original packaging, manuals and receipts.

Insist upon seeing the inner workings of any watch you’re considering purchasing. Is the watch clean? Do any of the parts appear to be damaged or bent? Do any of the mechanical parts move oddly?


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A watch’s motor is known as its movement. You’ll encounter two general types of mechanical movements in vintage watches: manual and automatic. Mechanical movements do not require any batteries. With manual movements, you’ll need to wind the watch, usually once per day. Automatic watches, on the other hand, use a weight or “rotor” that uses the motions of your wrist to gain its momentum and wind on its own.

It’s smart to wear automatic watches daily so that the motions of your wrist can keep it finely tuned. In this way, it can store up enough power to run smoothly. If you leave it in a drawer for a few days, wind it up, and it will start running again.



Vintage watches tend to be smaller than modern ones. The larger vintage timepieces, such as Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 570, can fetch huge sums because they combine the classic good looks of a vintage watch with the modern styling of today’s models.

Keep in mind that until the 20th century, only women wore wristwatches. Men didn’t start wearing watches on their wrists until World War I, when soldiers needed to tell time from the trenches. The original goal for men’s wristwatches was to make timepieces less cumbersome, as pocket watches were not very practical.

By the 1950s, luxury watches for men measured 28mm to 32mm. The diameter started to grow during the 1960s and 70s, and by the early 2000s, they had reached huge proportions. Today, a medium-sized men’s watch measures 39mm to 43mm. Decide which size you feel most comfortable with, and realise that it’s difficult to find vintage watches that meet today’s size standards.



Look Out for Fakes

Today more counterfeit luxury timepieces being sold online than genuine ones. It can be very difficult to ascertain whether or not they’re real; jewellers sometimes can’t even tell which ones are fakes until they open them up and look inside.

Keep in mind that replacement parts sink a vintage watch’s value, but mint condition vintage watches can be difficult to find. One of the best ways to avoid fakes is to decide what kind of watch you’d like to buy. Then you can become an expert on that brand and model so you can look for the clues that help distinguish the fakes from the genuine article.

Be extra cautious about buying a vintage watch without seeing it in person, and never hesitate to ask questions or request documentation about the timepiece. Behave like a detective when investigating vintage watches. If a seller refuses to provide you with the information you’re seeking, consider this to be a red flag and move on.


Once you’ve found your vintage watch, insure it with Q Report watch insurance. No matter where you take it, your luxury timepiece will be covered and protected.


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