How to Collect Vintage Watches #1

 In Collecting Watches, Tutorials

So you’ve decided you’d like to buy a vintage watch or maybe you’d like to start collecting. It’s very important that you don’t just start buying whatever you can immediately find within your budget. Here’s a checklist of 5 tips that will help you with how to collect vintage watches:

  1. Style
  2. Movement
  3. Match
  4. Case material
  5. Price

The first 2 will be discussed in this article. If you’d like to read the 2nd article click here

#1: Style

There are 2 ways how to collect vintage watches. The first is vertically and the other is horizontally.

  • Vertically means that you want to focus on 1 or 2 manufacturers and aim to own more models of the same manufacturer.
  • Horizontally means that you want to focus on a style, design, period etc. and aim to own similar pieces by different manufacturers.

Some different styles to collect horizontally could be:

  • Dive watches
  • Dress watches
  • Chronographs
 Dive watches

As the name suggests, these watches are made to dive with. They need to be sturdy, easy to read and highly water resistant. A serious dive watch has to be able to withstand at least 20 atm of pressure (200 meters below surface).

Most divers today, however, never see any water except for maybe when shaving or washing the car. Vintage divers aren’t suitable anymore to actually dive with due to seals and/or gaskets that may have dried out or similar problems. Before you do so it’s a good idea to have a watchmaker test the water resistance.

how to collect vintage watches

Dress watches

A dress watch is supposed to be elegant, stylish and simple. The motto “less is more” often applies. The idea is that the dress watch complements your formal outfit or business suit. Some consider only watches without a second hand as true dress watches.

how to collect vintage watches

Omega 30T2 1944


Chronographs are watches that can also be used as a stopwatch. Very basic ones only have a sweep second that you can start and stop and afterward, reset to zero. Often they also have a minute- and hour counter.

Another common feature on chronographs is a tachymeter on the outer ring of the dial or the bezel to calculate speed or distance.

Many chronographs have 2 pushers, 1 to start and stop the chrono functions and 1 to reset all functions to 0. A chronograph with only 1 pusher is called a “mono pusher”. They are/were used in the military, aviation and the timing of sports events.

how to collect vintage watches

Zodiac 50s chronograph

#2: Movement

It’s important to decide which movement you’d like for your vintage watch. The first choice you’ll have to make is whether it should be a mechanical or quartz movement.

A quick way to see if you’re dealing with a mechanical or quartz movement is to watch the second hand. The second hand on a quartz movement will show the tick-tick movement of 1 tick per second. The second hand on a mechanical watch will show a smoother movement of the second hand.


A mechanical movement is often preferred by watch enthusiasts because they require great engineering and expertise to create and to make them run accurately. A mechanical movement has no battery to power the watch. Instead, it uses a mainspring that needs to be wound, either by hand (manual) or self-winding (automatic).

A mechanical watch enhances the vintage feel of a watch because the general technology on these types of movements hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

how to collect vintage watches

MST 372 mechanical movement


A quartz movement uses a battery to vibrate a quartz crystal and use the oscillation to keep the movement running. They’re extremely accurate and they’re cheaper than a mechanical movement. They don’t show the same amount of craftsmanship as mechanical movements though, so they’re less popular by watch enthusiasts.

how to collect vintage watches

ESA 902.101 quartz movement

Feel free to share this article with anyone who might need some tips on how to collect vintage watches.

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