Rebecca Struthers, co-founder of Struthers London
The watch has become one of the ultimate boy’s toys of the 21st century and yet, believe it or not, for the first 300 years of its existence the wristwatch was almost exclusively worn by women. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned connoisseur, this series aims to get more women wearing a vintage watch by providing advice and support.
I’ve been passionate about vintage watches since I started training as a watchmaker just over a decade ago. It’s personal preference, but somehow no matter how beautiful the design or engineering is – I find modern watches rarely have the soul and personality of their older cousins.
Vintage is the new black
I love vintage watches because I love history. I love imaging the first person who bought it all those years ago, how much it meant to them and all the things it’s seen. It might sound twee, but I view myself as their custodian for a time in their existence. After all, many of them were around long before us and, if cared for, will be around hundreds of years after we’re gone.
Romance aside, I know investing in vintage watches can be daunting. Just like buying a used car it can be hard to know whether you’re getting a bargain or a potential money pit. So, whether your budget is £20 or £200,000, I’m here to help guide you through collecting vintage watches.
Your first vintage watch will probably fall into one of these two categories. Here are some of my top tips for going vintage…
Top tips for buying your first vintage watch
Photograph by Georgina Cook
Set your expectations. Are you looking for something cool, unique or with investment potential?
Do your research. Particularly if you are looking for an investment piece, a classic sports Rolex or Cartier Tank might be a safe bet but you’re unlikely to get hold of one at a bargain price. Spotting future classics takes time and investigation.
Buy from a reputable source. Particularly if the watch is by a famous brand, you don’t want to get caught out by a fake with your first purchase! If you’re buying through auction, make sure you have buyer protection and will get a refund if the watch isn’t genuine.
Set a budget and be strict. Or at least as strict as you can be. Bear in mind the watch may well need servicing before you can wear it, or even if it’s just been serviced it will probably need another in two or three years’ time. Factor in the cost when you set your price limit.
Love it. If you don’t love it then what’s the point? That includes staying away from anything that’s so expensive or delicate you’d be frightened to wear it.
So, you’ve inherited a vintage watch…
An example of a successful vintage watch restoration
My first vintage watch was a 1940s gold Accurist inherited from my granddad, which went on to become one of my first restoration projects when I started my training and still sits pride of place in my collection.
As restorers we work on a lot of sentimental watches, where the cost of the restoration outweighs the commercial value, but, it is made up by the meaning it has to the client and the memories the watch is associated with. These jobs can be more of a challenge as most high-value watches tend to be better quality (it’s not all a marketing ploy!) and much easier to service.
That said, a good restorer can bring most mechanical vintage watches back to life. If in doubt about the cost of servicing a family heirloom, most watchmakers will give you a quote for a fixed nominal fee deducted from the price of the service if you proceed or payable if you decide not to go ahead.
For the next instalment, I’ll be taking you on an illustrated journey through vintage wristwatch design, from early pocket watch conversions to 1970s digital.
Found out more about Struthers London.