What is a vintage watch?

What Is a Vintage Watch?

Vintage watches are a hot item. Lots of enthusiasts are searching for them to wear or collect.

Some only like pristine pieces, others don’t care about the condition but want them to be as original as possible. Another group of people is simply looking for specific brands or just watches they think look cool.

But what exactly is a vintage watch? What does vintage mean?

What’s vintage?

Words that are closely associated with vintage are classic, retro, antique and old school.

According to eBay, antique are items that are valued for their aesthetic or historical value and are at least 100 years old. That means that watches and pocket watches from before 1916 are now considered antique.

You can call an item vintage when it’s over 50 years old but less than 100 years.

What is a vintage watch?

Fifty years seems a bit excessive though (that would mean that all 70s and 80s watches aren’t vintage), so for watches, eBay notes that older than 25 years would qualify a watch to be vintage.

Many collectors, however, use their own definition to determine if something is vintage or not. Some draw the line at the 70s or perhaps ’85. Others may consider only watches that use radium as a luminous substance as vintage or just timepieces that have an acrylic crystal.

I’ve even seen brand-specific criteria: Heuer is vintage and Tag Heuer -since 1984- isn’t. Or a Breitling is only vintage if it’s from the period before the CEO of Sicura, E. Schneider, decided to buy and revive Breitling in 1979.

When you’ve been collecting for a longer period, you might begin to develop your own preferences and perhaps even your own definition.

Until then, the “rules” that eBay has provided seem logical and can be used to determine if a watch is vintage or not.

What’s your definition of a vintage watch? Let me know in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “What Is a Vintage Watch?”

  1. Vintage is relative whereas Antique is absolute. For example, what may be vintage to a young person isn’t necessarily vintage to an older person. However, to both the young and the old, what is considered Antique is indisputable because it applies to a time which precedes them both.

  2. Tyrone Johnson

    I have my dad’s ball watch and it’s over 65 years old. I just turned 55 years of age and my dad worked for the railroad back in the late 1940s. This is where this watch was given to him. The watch still works and keeps the correct time. It’s automatic movement

  3. Turn of the last century up to and including the 1950s.

    Anything after that date is too recent, not so well made, and has no value.

    As just one example I researched Seiko, which I love and collect, and decided that the look and feel of the 1970s seiko was totally unimpressive, even naff looking, would likely not keep proper time and was no investment. It was something of an embarrassment to wear them, and would not even be considered vintage.

    Contrast the models from the late 1980s until today which are world class and look class on your wrist. With those you do not need vintage watches and that goes for so many makes of today.

    It is thrilling to have a first world war watch on your wrist. Anything you buy you are likely to have to spend a bit but it is so worth it.

    That being said, I have never yet had an automatic or manual wind watch that kept proper time. You get these for aesthetic value or to find a buyer who wants it for the same reason.

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