What You Should Know When Buying Vintage Watches

Author David Millette
Date Jan 13, 2015

Vintage watchesPart of the charm of vintage watches is their uniqueness and individual backstories. In recent years, we have seen a lot of growth in the community that surrounds these timeless timepieces. This is exciting news as it means that there are more pieces on the market, giving you a better selection than ever before.

However, because there are more vintage watches on the market, there are now a lot of imitation and modified pieces out there as well.

We want to help you make an informed decision on your purchase and get what you pay for. After 135 years in the business, we know that being trustworthy and transparent is the only way to guarantee customer satisfaction.

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of tips and things to look for in any vintage watch before you make a purchase. We hope that it will help you in avoiding bad deals both online and in person and will bring you one step closer to finding a perfect vintage timepiece for your collection.

Decide whats important to YOU in your watch

Unlike watches that are still in production and can be customized to meet the desires of a customer, vintage watches come "as is" and there's no guarantee that the watch you want will be on the market. For this reason, it's important to decide what features are important to you in a watch before you start your search. This way, if you can't find a perfect match, you'll be able to find one with the features you care most about.

If you're interested in a timepiece that will double as an investment, you'll probably prioritize features that make the watch rare and in high demand. For instance, you may want to focus your search on timepieces that had small production runs or came from a historically important collection. Most importantly, you want to ensure that all parts of the watch are authentic and original.

If you're more attracted to the look and story behind a watch than the value it holds, you'll probably prioritize features like the style, condition and functionality of the watch.

Shop the seller first and the watch second

It is estimated that there are more falsely advertised vintage watches than authentic ones currently in the market. These watches can either be a full replica or a "frankenwatch" which started as an authentic piece but has had parts replaced with non-original parts. Both of these are difficult to detect especially to an untrained eye. For that reason, it is important that you find a seller that is honest and trustworthy before making a purchase.

Some tips that we have to help in this process are:

  • Ask friends for references
  • Ask the sellers for proof of authenticity
  • Have a conversation with the seller to determine their knowledge of the watch


If you're shopping online, this can be difficult as you don't get to meet the seller face to face. To gauge the seller, see what his previous customers say about their experience. Rather than focus on the positive feedback, read any neutral or negative comments. There are many buyers who will never know that they have fallen victim to a scam and will leave positive comments. The negative comments will give you a sense of what the seller is truly like.

Do your research

This is the most enjoyable part of the shopping process as it will develop your appreciation for the piece before you purchase it. Have fun with it and learn as much as you can before you decide to buy anything. Make sure that you know what the watch should look like for the year listed. Know what features the watch includes and verify that they are present. Know where to locate the serial numbers on the watch. This will allow you to check if the number on the case matches that on other parts such as the movement to determine if the parts are all authentic. Ask when the watch was last serviced and if it will be necessary for you to do so in the immediate future. It would be a shame to have your watch stop working because you didn't realize the water tight seal hadn't been serviced and allowed the watch to flood.

Along with researching the watch, research the vendor's buying conditions. Do they give refunds if you aren't satisfied with the purchase or are all sales final? If they do have a return policy how long do you have to return the item? These are important things to know before you commit to buying.

Enjoy your new watch

Once you have found a seller you can trust, have researched your watch, and are confident in the deal you're getting, it is finally time to get your "new" watch. Try it on and wear it with pride. You are now a part of the steadily growing vintage watch community - a community that appreciates the beauty and individuality of these well crafted timepieces.

Long's Jewelers sells a number of quality vintage watches. If you'd like to come see our entire selection in person, feel free to make an appointment or pay us a visit at any of our five retail stores.

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