Vintage is the hot thing, whether it’s new vintage or actual vintage.
I’ve never been a big vintage buyer. I like the idea of vintage watches, but I have only bought one vintage watch my whole life — a 1946 Hamilton “Keith” watch. I am a big Hamilton fan, having lived a big portion of my life in Lancaster, PA, the home of Hamilton before it moved to Switzerland. Hamilton made a series of watches with male and female names in the ‘40s, and Keith was one of them.
Aside from that one purchase, all my other vintage watches are vintage because I have held them for so long they became vintage.
The Advantages of Real Vintage
One of the real advantages of buying older watches is that you can get a great deal. You can buy a great timepiece for a fraction of the price when it was new. Many people compare buying pre-owned watches with buying pre-owned cars, and that’s a mistake. A car only has a certain amount of life in it, as driving it on the road really impacts its longevity. That is not true for a watch – if taken care of, serviced regularly and so on, a mechanical timepiece can run virtually forever.
At the same time, while technology in cars is out-dated quickly, in most mechanical watches, the technology is tried and true and hasn’t changed a great deal over the centuries. Reliability and overall quality has certainly increased, but a well-cared-for watch from 30 years ago will run perfectly fine.
There are some great watches out there on the pre-owned market, beautifully designed and timeless. If for some reason you don’t like the way a brand has updated one of its icons, you can always go back and buy the original and often get a great deal.
The Advantages of New Vintage
A real trend is for brands to introduce watches inspired by vintage designs from their history. Some of the highlights from recent years have been:
- The Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec, which is a reinterpretation of a vintage piece from the 1950s, including the distinctive water-tightness indicator.
- Hamilton is a venerable brand with a legitimate American history, and the company has done a great job mining their archives for watches to update and reintroduce. One of the brand’s biggest icons is the Ventura, and Hamilton continues to manufacture this watch in its original size but has also done a number of variations to modernize the distinctive shape. I have an original and several of the updates, and I love the Ventura.
- Grand Seiko recently introduced a collection honoring the very first model from 1960, available in faithful recreations of the original and modern interpretations.
- Zodiac, a well-known brand that the Fossil Group resurrected, has made its bones re-interpreting icons from its past, including the Super Sea Wolf, the Jetomatic and the Sea Dragon. This year, the brand has introduced a new version of the Olympos, a watch from the ‘60s with a mystery hour hand.
- Many other brands are riding this vintage-inspired trend, but the last one I want to specifically call out is Montblanc, who introduced the 1858 Collection to great critical acclaim and commercial success. It’s one of the nicest vintage-looking watches, available in a variety of materials, including bronze (which I love), and a variety of executions, including automatics, manual winds, GMTs and monopusher chronographs.
Vintage Movements/New Watches
Another development that I have been watching for a number of years is the use of vintage movements in new cases, with the movements refurbished and brought up to today’s standards. Two companies in particular are doing this with great success: Armand Nicolet and Vortic. I own a modern Armand Nicolet with a movement from 1957, and it’s a great watch. I am working with Vortic now to put a movement originally made for a Harley-Davidson branded pocket watch in the early 1900s into a modern wristwatch case, which will be a fantastic timepiece.
A New Day Dawning for Vintage
One of the problems with buying vintage is figuring out whom you can trust. There are a lot of watches out there – when you think about it, every watch bought this year will be pre-owned next year, and that happens every year. But, do you really know what you are buying and from whom you are buying it?
That’s why it’s important to know the person or company you are dealing with when you are buying a pre-owned watch. There are many horror stories about people buying fake pre-owned watches with new parts billed as original and of people really being taken to the cleaners.
My advice is to work with an authorized retailer like Feldmar, which has relationships with the brands and sells certified pre-owned. They know where the watch came from (they probably sold it new!) and can service it and get it ready for you with no surprises, and they will be there in the future should there be any problems.
Either truly vintage or new with a vintage feel, I love this vintage trend and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.