In last week’s Fratello Friday — part 1 of this feature on buying vintage watches — I offered my take on what I consider the most important aspects of buying vintage watches: knowledge of the watch, the trustworthiness of the seller, the watch’s service history, and whether the package is complete. In this week’s part 2, I share some pointers on where to find some of these beautiful timepieces.
I left out one of the most obvious sources — watch auctions — as I have covered that topic in detail elsewhere previously.
• Watch Dealers
Yes, this is another obvious one. Many of these have websites where they list their stock, or use websites like Chrono24 to display their stock. Either way, if they don’t have a website and are not close to you to visit, it becomes troublesome. Make sure to get into a daily or weekly routine in which you visit the websites of these watch sellers so you won’t miss out on the “incoming” watches they have. There are some awesome websites, such as www.subgmt.com, which specialize in specific brands and have a great reputation. Make sure to bookmark them and work your way through them. Descriptions and good(repeat: good) photos are key. I’d rather see a picture that doesn’t have the best composition, or beautiful surroundings, but instead shows all the minor details and essentially the watch “as is.” Nowadays, some dealers are nowadays also show their stock on Instagram, so make sure to follow them there, too.
• Watch Forums
I’ve found some of my best timepieces by using watch forums. Most watch forums, like www.watchuseek.com and www.omegaforums.net, have a “sales forum” on which their members can offer their watches. The latter offers not only vintage Omega watches but also a bunch of other brands. Since you are probably dealing with private sellers, please re-read part 1 of this article again to know what you should pay attention to. The great thing about forums is that the prices tend to be more tempting than those offered by watch dealers. Keep in mind that private sellers rarely offer a warranty, so you have to be sure what you are buying. That task can be tackled by checking the posts about these sellers on the forums that offer the watches. Is it a guy who seem to have a good reputation, a good knowledge of the subject, and so on? Do a check!
• Watch Fairs / Trade Shows
As you might be able to tell by my use of the English language, I am not from the U.S.A. So I can’t speak for the watch fairs over there. However, the watch fairs here in Europe (mainly in Germany) are great sources for vintage watches. The only drawback is that you have to decide on the spot to purchase, and do all the checks on the spot as well. Don’t let the seller rush you and ask for his business card when you want to have some time to think it over or do some online checking. Take pictures of the watch with your phone. In any case, always ask for warranty (or at least return policy) when you buy at these fairs. Most of the dealers are professionals that use these fairs to sell their stock but also to buy new watches themselves (they often have an hour ahead of the opening time to do their own “shopping”). There are several overviews available that will let you know about watch fairs nearby. Click here for an overview in Europe, here for an overview in the U.S.A.
• Facebook Groups
There are a couple of groups on Facebook where watches are being offered. Is this Marketplace 2.0? Perhaps not, but it is a very efficient (and free) way to advertise for someone who wants to sell his or her watch. Most of these groups are not open to public, so you have to request membership. This is mainly due to privacy/security reasons. Just go to Facebook and search for Watch Sales or similar phrases. You might find a local group in your region or country where vintage watches are being offered.
• Private Sellers / Classifieds
The ideal scenario would be for a seller to find YOU when he wants to sell a watch. In such cases, these sellers need the money and you will get the best price. However, that’s not very likely to happen if you don’t make yourself known to other watch collectors. When you are active on forums or on watch-related Facebook groups and let people know what kind of vintage watches you are into, you are bound to be offered something sooner or later. My rule of thumb is: if you actively search for a watch, you will pay the highest price. If people come to you to offer their watch, you get the best price.
Next week I will introduce you to some interesting vintage watch brands and models which you probably haven’t give much thought to yet. As a preview, check out this beautiful vintage Tissot Navigator Yachting.