You know, the past couple of years watch manufacturers have come up with a myriad of vintage reissue watches. You name a brand, and I bet they have a vintage-inspired diver’s watch in their catalog. But why wouldn’t you just buy an actual vintage piece?
Alright, I’ve got to admit, there are some drawbacks with vintage.
The thing that puts many people off is the size. Vintage watches are usually fairly small by today’s standards. Hence, people might opt for a larger reissue. Whereas it was totally normal for a man to wear a 35 millimeter dress watch 50 years ago, nowadays that size is often considered too small.
There is one definite downside to rocking a vintage piece - you constantly worry about it. Or at least I do. If I’m strapping my 50's Zenith Sporto on my wrist, I’ll be thinking what am I going to do today? Is something potentially going to break this thing?
One very common example is riding a bike. Speeding over bumps and potholes causes a lot of sudden shocks for the watch you’re wearing. I guess I am a bit paranoid, but I wouldn’t wear a vintage watch for a bike trip. It’s not that all vintage watches are brittle and will break just at a bare sight of a bicycle, but shock resistant movements were not really a common thing in the 50’s.
Despite of these things I still think it is worth it to take the leap and go vintage. Here are three reasons why you should.
Every vintage piece is unique, so no one will have exactly the same watch as you. Over time, after getting exposed to sunlight and humidity, a watch starts to show some age. Black dials fade into a chocolate brown, and white ones develop this beautiful vanilla tone. Or radium lume on the hands might burn some spots on the dial, leaving these great stripes on it. All kinds of things can happen.
This is all damage, alright. But usually it looks very nice and that’s why I prefer to call it patina. And patina cannot be replicated in a new watch.
I’m a sucker for a good story, and boy, do vintage watches tell some great ones.
Take the Dirty Dozen, for example. During the Second World War, the British Ministry of Defence ordered watches for their troops from 12 different manufactures, the “Dirty Dozen”. The watches had very strict specifications, and they naturally had to be very accurate and durable in order to serve soldiers well in combat. You can still find these watches on the market, and it’s crazy to think what kind of ordeals the people who wore these watches had to go through.
Or take my grandfather's Girard Perregaux. It is a beautiful dress watch he got as a gift from his co-workers. He wore it very sparingly, and it mainly just sat in its watchbox next to a little note he had written. One day, ten years after he passed, I came home and found this little red box on my desk. I opened it and saw his watch, with the note he’d written himself. Every time I take a look at this watch it reminds me of him.
The single best thing about vintage, though, is finding the watches - the hunt. More often than not, you cannot simply walk into a shop, and purchase the vintage Jaeger Le-Coultre you’ve been eyeing. Oh no, you’ve got to go on eBay and forums, trying to find one in decent condition. And it’s always a gamble. You can never be completely sure that all the parts are original, or if the dial is repainted. You need to carefully inspect every single find to make sure it actually is what the seller says. It’s part of the game and keeps things interesting.
I’ve been looking for a black dial Tudor Prince “Small Rose” for months now, and I’ve still yet to find a good one for a decent price. But it’s part of the fun - maybe even most of it.
So go on, do some research, and start an adventure to find your first vintage piece!