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Owning a vintage luxury watch brings with it one very important responsibility – the cleaning of that timepiece. The common rule of thumb is to clean your collectible watch weekly with a soft cloth. Bear in mind that by following a routine of cleaning and maintenance of your rare watch, it will not only look pristine but will continue to operate efficiently.
First, fill a dish with a mixture of warm water and a little bit of a mild detergent. Dip either a soft-bristled toothbrush or soft chamois cloth into the liquid and brush gently over the surface of the watch face. Avoid applying too much pressure or brushing vigorously as you are only interested in collecting the loose dirt and debris that is on the watch face. If there are marks or crystals on the watch face, use a Q-tip dipped into your soapy water solution and gently work around the watch face. If you happen to own a vintage watch, you should not clean it yourself. Older watches contain radium and a specialty jewelry store will have the proper tools to clean your collectible watch correctly. Also, do not remove the watch face to clean the dial. The watch dial will not get dirty as it is protected by the watch’s face.
The construction of vintage watches differs from that of today’s contemporary watches. Early timepieces were not made to be waterproof as it was common to remove your watch before getting wet. Because collectible watches contain gaskets, which may dry out, moisture may seep inside and fog up the crystal. Although that will disappear over time, keeping your vintage watch away from water will prevent it from happening. For the newer watches that are made to be worn underwater, bear in mind that salt water and chlorine can be corrosive, and sweating while wearing a watch playing sports may also increase the possibility of moisture damage. Always wipe your luxury watch clean with a damp cloth after any of these activities.
The method you use to clean your rare watch band depends entirely on the material it is made from. The most common types of watch bands are leather, stainless steel, nylon, and rubber. Before cleaning any watch band it is a good idea to remove it from the
watch. This permits you to wipe them down without the possibility of causing damage to the watch face.
There are several different types of leather watch bands. They include cowhide, ostrich, and crocodile and each should be wiped down with a damp cloth. If the watch band is very dirty or has an odor, add a dab of hand soap to the damp cloth. Before you reattach the watch, gently dry and buff the watch band with a clean cloth. Because leather bands react to moisture and perspiration, remove your watch before any form of exercise and wipe the band daily with a dry cloth.
Metal watch bands including stainless steel, silver, gold, and others may rust. Clean these with a soapy water solution applied with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Allow to air dry completely before wearing it again.
These are very likely the easiest of the watch bands to clean. Once you remove it from your watch, place in a mesh laundry bag, and toss it into your next load of laundry.
Rubber watch bands are much like metal ones only the rubber ones will absorb oils and perspiration. Plus, if they are not cleaned properly, they can develop cracks that will damage the band to where it may break. The best way to keep rubber watch bands clean is to use a warm soapy solution with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Gently clean both sides of the watch band, rinse with clean water, and allow to air dry. Should you wear your rubber watch band in salt water, rinse it off immediately. To keep the band soft and comfortable, use a rubber protectant.
There are times when dirt and grime get stuck to the surface of your vintage watch. While you may consider using a small screwdriver to scrape away at the buildup, you shouldn’t. The metal in the screwdriver can scratch the surface of the watch face. It can also chip away paint from the watch or cause damage to any type of watch strap you have. The safest way to remove stuck dirt or grime from your watch is with a bamboo skewer. Use the sharp, pointed end and work it into the buildup. Not only will you not risk scratching your watch, but the bamboo is also strong enough to permit you to dig into tight spots without damaging your luxury watch.
The main part of any watch is the movements. These are the tiny gears and parts that are carefully hidden inside the watch and are responsible for the dial to show you the time, date, and additional information. Depending on the watch, there could be hundreds of individual components tucked away neatly inside your watch. One way to ensure that your watch movements continue to operate smoothly is to take your watch to a qualified jeweler to examine and clean periodically. This is NOT a do-it-yourself project.
Skilled technicians can open the back of your watch and work inside of the movements as they carefully disassemble your collectible watch. As they do this, each part that is removed will be cleaned and lubricated where necessary. Many of these parts are hard to see with the naked eye and require special tools to remove and replace. Once a watch technician has completed the cleaning process, your watch will be reassembled and the timing will be adjusted. This will keep your valuable watch working as efficiently as possible.
You may have seen the sales pitch for at-home ultrasonic cleaners. These are commonly used for dentures and other pieces of jewelry. They consist of a basket you place the item you wish to clean and dip it into a cavity filled with water or a cleaning solution. Then ultrasonic waves are sent into the cavity and this provides a deep clean for whatever is resting in the basket. These appliances are effective in some applications but should not be used to clean a vintage watch.
Any type of liquid that could leech through the case of your vintage watch should be avoided. Do not expose your valuable timepiece to perfumes or any greasy substance such as hand cream. If even a little were to end up on the dial of your watch, it could soil it by leaving behind a stain. This would ruin the look you have been taking care of for as
long as you’ve had the watch. Watches manufactured before 1980 are particularly susceptible to this.
The best way to keep your luxury watch looking good and running well is to take proper care of it. With a regular cleaning that you can do at home to the watch face and band, plus periodic internal cleaning conducted by a qualified watch technician, your watch will keep time and look great doing so from many years to come.
Those in search of a great vintage sports watch that’s both subtle and conservatively sized have a rather endless list of options to consider. At the 36 mm mark, there are many options, including Rolex’s wildly iconic — and for good reason — Ref. 1016 Explorer, though at the same price point, there are arguably more interesting acquisitions. If in search of a truly rare and unique sports watch of a previous era, look no further than Omega Ranchero.
Following the success of the manufacturer’s Railmaster and Seamaster tool watch lines, the Ranchero was first introduced in 1958 as an all-around, everyday watch of sorts, though still built to the same tough standards. Beneath the stainless steel caseback Omega fitted the same hand winding Cal. 267 found in some of the Railmaster and Seamaster models, and the case remained waterproof, though most noticeably, the Ranchero received a much thinner case, that was better suited for occasional wear in more formal situations.
Design-wise, the Ranchero is nothing short of glorious if vintage Omega is what does it for you. Inspiration was clearly pulled from what are now regarded as some of the most beautiful sports watches of all time — the Speedmaster, Railmaster, and Seamster of the late 1950s — as the Broad Arrow hands, arabic numerals, and case architecture would suggest. All the defining features of this era of Omega, paired with dimensions that allow for easy wear under a cuff.
Despite an impressive build quality, stunning aesthetic, and pleasing proportions on the wrist, the Omega Racnhero was not exactly a successful venture for Omega at the time of its release. Given that its name roughly translated to “ranch hand,” the watch was not met with success in Spanish-speaking markets, which led to its eventual discontinuation shortly after its release. Because of all this, the Ranchero now represents one of the rarest sports production watches in history, with just a single year production run.
While its production run may have been short, it was not short enough to not be studied and analyzed today. Examples were produced with a number of different dial signature variances, including those signed Ranchero, those signed just Seamaster, and the coveted double-signed versions. In retrospect, this seemingly nonsensical idea to brand a single references in three different ways can likely be chalked up to the fact that the resistance that came as a result of the Ranchero’s original name caused Omega to effectively experiment. These experiments may not have proven fruitful for Omega, but they have certainly made for a compelling, top tier reference for study and enjoyment today.
In today’s market, examples are now awfully few and far between. Not even great examples, but any example for that matter. As such a rare reference, it’s not often that a Ranchero of any sort will surface, though when one does, and it happens to be the most desirable variant in excellent condition, heads of note will certainly turn. It’s the type of watch that on the wrist will likely go unnoticed by most, but those that know will know, earning it a true sleeper status in the eyes of important watch collectors worldwide.
For the dedicated vintage Omega collector, sports watch aficionado, or time-only enthusiast, the Ranchero is by all means an horological must-have. This particular example in our inventory is nothing short of absolutely stunning, with sharp case lines, and an honestly aged dial and handset featuring the original radium compound. Click here for more details.
While the market can seem daunting to budding collectors, there are still values to be had, namely from smaller Swiss manufacturers like Wakmann, Nivada, Le Jour, and others. Though such watches might not necessarily afford the same shock and status value as a vintage chronograph with a crown on its dial, they can be every bit as stunning, and a joy to wear.
Wakmann in particular holds a special place in the minds of vintage watch collectors, as there are several references and desirable models from the brand that can still be described as being relatively affordable, or accessible. Whether it’s sporty, complicated or stripped-down and understated, there’s a Wakmann of note to suggest, which would in turn suggest a look into its history is more than warranted.
The Wakmann Watch Company was founded in the state of New York in 1946, and began both importing and manufacturing fine timepieces of impressive quality. In little time, the name became synonymous with expertise in the field of chronograph production, along with timekeeping in the American market, as a whole. Due to the tax structure of the era that enforced substantial duties on the importation of Swiss wristwatches, Wakmann saw opportunity in their industry by partnering with Breitling, who supplied the brand with watch components to be given a final assembly, and later sold. Their success would lead to the supplying of timepieces for the US military and other professional issue applications, and an eventual Breitling buyout.
One of the most notable pieces from the brand that’s now a sought after commodity, is the Valjoux 72 powered Triple Date Chronograph, which Wakmann produced in several dial and case variations. Remember that this is the same caliber found inside other far more costly watches like the Autavia from Heuer, Universal Geneve’s Tri-Compax, and of course the legendary Rolex Daytona, but offered in a package that won’t entirely break the bank. Countless designs of timeless and iconic nature came out of the watchmaking industry in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Triple Date Chronograph from Wakmann is no exception.
Also of note is the yachting inspired Regate Chronograph, which screams 1970s nautical styling. Powered by the Lemania 1341, these large cased chronographs featured rotating inner bezels with two-register chronographs positioned curiously at 6 and 9 o’clock. The chronograph also incorporated a central minute counter for increased legibility, and a monthly calendar function controlled via the inner bezels. All things considered, it’s again another interesting watch from Wakmann, that would make a great addition for any collector in search of something fun.
The bottom line is that Wakmann represents one of the finest options available if in the market for a vintage watch at the more accessible end of the spectrum. The extensive back catalog of this pre-Quartz Crisis brand is chock full of exciting watches, each offering value and quality in a smart looking package. You could go as far as saying it’s the first and last piece you’d need if simply in search of a nice vintage watch, but as any collector knows, you don’t just get out of the game that easily.
For most knowledgeable collectors, a watch bearing a mechanical movement will almost always trump one with a quartz movement. By simply taking a quick glance inside of the latter, these battery powered pieces seem to lack all the artistry and emotion of their mechanical predecessors. Today, most enthusiasts of horology will be familiar with a darker period in the history of watchmaking; the so-called “Quartz Crisis”. Beginning in the early 1970’s, our now beloved escapements and mainsprings were traded for batteries and stepping motors, and it remained this way for roughly fifteen years. Now, while most will attribute this era to Asian watchmakers like Seiko, the Swiss were equally involved in this movement (pun absolutely intended), primarily through the development of the Beta 21. This collaborative effort of Switzerland’s top watchmaking houses ultimately did help kick off this new age, and now represents an interesting time in horological history.
In 1962, the Swiss founded the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH), with the task of developing a new electronic wristwatch movement. Funnily enough, the laboratory was located in the same building as the Laboratoire Suisse de Recherches Horlogères – the facility set up in 1940 to study and innovate upon mechanical movements. With accuracy on the mind, this collective of exactly 21 watch manufacturers (Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, and IWC to name a few) worked together to develop two prototype movements, and in 1967, they entered their prototypes in the Neuchâtel Observatory’s time trials, setting new records for timekeeping accuracy.
So, how exactly did the movement work? Well, just like most other quartz powered watches today, it begins with a quartz crystal. The battery contained within the watch would create an electrical impulse, that would travel through a circuit, to a quartz crystal bar, that would vibrate exactly 8,192 times per second. Then, these vibrations would pass through another circuit, that would be geared down by an electromagnetic motor. All of this would go to ensure extremely accurate timekeeping, off by only a few tenths of a second per day. In this time, it was quite the exciting and incredible feat of human ingenuity.
At the Basel fair of 1970, several manufacturers unveiled their newest creations, bearing the new caliber. The first to be released was Omega’s Electroquartz, containing the same movement which they dubbed the caliber 1300. It was styled rather “futuristically”, with a large, chunky, TV-style case – a perfect match for the advanced movement. Following shortly after, brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe released their own Beta 21 powered pieces, like the peculiar Patek reference 3587, and what is now somewhat of a thing of a lore, the Rolex Quartz 5100. While not regarded in the same manner as the other mechanical pieces from these brands, the watches are still sought after and widely collected.
Now while projects like these may have contributed to what almost killed mechanical watchmaking, you can’t deny their motives. This was a time where the industry and community just weren’t what they are today, and a greater emphasis was being placed on accuracy and practicality over artistry and craftsmanship. The Swiss simply had to do what was necessary to keep up with the times. Looking back at this period in horological history should only serve to increase our appreciation for the numerous mechanical advancements being made in the industry today.
Rolex has an unparalleled reputation for producing some of the world’s highest quality purpose-built watches, and the Sea Dweller is no exception whatsoever. Upon first glance, the uninitiated would be forgiven for mistaking one of these watches as a mere Submariner, but upon closer inspection it reveals itself to be anything but. While they share a design language with date-equipped Submariner models, the Sea Dweller is a decidedly more capable dive watch, with a history as impressive as its the depths it can comfortably descend to. Without further ado, let’s go deep into this family of timepieces’ history, and what makes them so very special.
The globally revered watchmaker’s days of dive watch production date back to the early 1950s with the release of the Submariner. After the introduction of this now iconic watch, it would later become evident that the envelope needed further pushing, largely as a result of the Sub’s shortcomings in especially daring situations. Saturation divers — including those who participated in the United States Navy’s SEALAB expeditions of the 1960s — were left yearning for more after the crystals of their Submariners popped out of their cases during post-dive decompression. After expressing this concern to Rolex, research and development began to solve this considerably niche issue, experienced exclusively by the most hardcore of divers.
Following a bout of intense diagnostics, the problem was determined to be a buildup of helium within the watch case, as a result of helium’s presence in the breathing gas mixture used by saturation divers below the surface. Without a designated point of egress, the helium would force the crystal out of the case, making it clear that a more elegant solution to the gas’ escape was needed. Rolex acted accordingly through the development of the Swiss patent CH499246 – a custom mechanism allowing for the freeing of helium particles in a controlled manner. During the process of testing the newfangled escape valve, watches fitted with it were dubbed “Sea Dwellers,” and subjected to extended stays at great depths, ensuring reliable performance beyond the needs of even the most adventurous.
Both the filing of the revolutionary patent and aforementioned trials gave life to the Sea Dweller in 1967, in the form of the Ref. 1665. To accommodate the escape valve-afforded depth rating of 2000ft, or 610m, the new diver featured a thicker case, characterized by a protruding caseback to secure its movement. Additionally, this watch was distinguished from its less capable cousin thanks to the valve opening at the nine o’clock position on its case’s side, marking a new and exciting chapter in the Rolex dive watch story. All of this was accomplished while maintaining the 40 mm form factory of the celebrated Submariner, ensuring that both watches would enjoy iconic appeal.
Like other Rolex sports models, the Sea Dweller was produced in a number of variants over the years, making it wholly possible to build an important collection focused around the single model. The relatively recent Ref. 16600 represents the perfect way to dip your toe in the waters of Sea Dweller collecting, featuring more modern facets like the advanced Cal. 3135 movement and a solid end link bracelet, but after wetting your feet, you’ll surely want to dive deeper into the realm of vintage references. Most begin the next step of this journey with a Ref. 1655 “Great White,” featuring white Sea Dweller text and the same depth rating that first made the watch famous, but the one to have will always be a “Double Red.” As the name would suggest, these early variants produced from 1966-1977 feature two lines of text in red, along with the words “Submariner 2000,” indicating the diver’s origins in the Submariner model. Regardless where your Sea Dweller collection starts or ends, there’s no wrong answer, as each and every execution of the next level dive watch is nothing short of over-engineered perfection.
Vintage watches can be valuable keepsakes, but they were also built to be worn and used. Whether you’ve just bought a vintage watch or inherited one, or suddenly remembered where you’d stored one away, you’ll probably find yourself wondering what it would take to get your old timepiece in proper working order.
Plenty of knowledgeable repair experts can fix your watch’s mechanism, replace worn parts, and freshen up a vintage watch’s look. Whether they should is another story.
One of the Catch-22s of watch collecting is that the more actively we take care of our timepieces, the less valuable they become. Vintage watches are special, after all, because they represent the craftsmanship and design of the times in which they were built. Tinkering with them, even to keep them working as originally intended, can make them less desirable as collector’s items.
Before deciding to upgrade or even to repair a vintage watch, then, owners should take a moment to ask whether the tradeoff is worth it.
Modern watch manufacturers advise owners to bring their pieces in for service every three to five years. This is perfectly fine advice for a watch you wear every day, but vintage watches do not require the same attention. Older watches tend to be built to last, and to incur less wear and tear. If you only use a vintage watch once or twice a month, a service schedule of five years or more is probably sufficient.
On the other hand, an entire industry has grown around the frequent servicing of timepieces, both modern and vintage. Your watch might not need the kind of frequent attention recommended by some experts, but it will need service at some point. You will have to decide when that time comes, and the extent of the work done.
You may be able to send your watch off to its original manufacturer for periodic service, but this can be a costly and time-consuming option: in-house service can take several months. Fortunately, independent watchmakers and repair experts can do just as good a job, often more efficiently. The trick is identifying the right repair expert.
Only consider repair experts who have extensive knowledge of your brand, and can prove it with certification and a portfolio of previous work. Certification alone can prove that a watchmaker has technical expertise, but may not demonstrate that they are ready to restore your vintage watch in exactly the way you prefer.
Among the choices you’ll need to make is conservation or restoration. Restoring a vintage watch may bring it back to its original appearance by upgrading older components, but this can significantly diminish its value. Conserving your vintage watch on its original terms may not bring it back to its original glory, but may preserve its value by limiting repairs to those more in line with its original construction.
Not all damage to vintage watches—or to vintage items in general—detracts from their value. Damaged hands, dials, and bezels can add character to older watches, and can even support higher valuations. Rolex collectors in particular tend to prefer battle-scarred original components to better-functioning replacements. If preserving your watch’s value is an important objective, you might speak to a dealer in rare timepieces before deciding on a maintenance strategy.
Before you commit to any repair expert, be prepared to specify exactly what you want them to do, and how you want them to do it. Many professionals will polish the case, for example, unless instructed not to; persnickety collectors may find that even this routine bit of service diminishes your watch’s character and therefore its value. The same applies to bezel inserts: make sure that your repair expert understands that no aftermarket pieces should be added to your watch.
Be absolutely sure that the repair shop does not borrow parts from other movements while working on your piece. Scavenging parts makes plenty of sense from a functional perspective, but such Frankenwatches can see their value fall through the floor.
Many people gravitate towards collecting watches because of the prestige and awe that come with these luxury timepieces. We all know watches can be expensive, but curating the perfect collection involves a lot more than spending money – it’s a serious investment of time and effort.
To save yourself from as many setbacks as possible, you’d do well to learn from the watch collectors that have come before you and avoid making the same mistakes they did. Below, we’ve compiled seven of the most common yet fatal errors.
We’ve all been in a situation where we really want that premium item – whether it’s a shirt or a bottle of wine – but we just can’t justify the high price tag. Instead, we settle for the version that’s almost the same, but not quite as good.
Most rookie collectors feel tempted to apply the same logic when they’re buying watches. But trust us, it’s not worth it. Watches are all about quality, so settling for second best is always a decision you’ll come to regret.
Instead of adding a mediocre item to your collection, just save your money until you can afford something that you’ll be proud to own.
Logically, it seems to make sense to give a watch’s strap a lot of weight in a purchasing decision. After all, it takes up a high percentage of the surface area.
Don’t fall into this trap. It might be true that a strap defines the watch to some extent, but it’s nothing you can’t change! Generally, swapping a watch strap is a straightforward process – so easy that you might be able to do it yourself with a spring bar tool.
You might also want to try taking a watch that currently has a bracelet and replacing it with a strap – it’s a great way to breathe new life on to an old favorite.
Some say Rolexes are overrated, but that could never be us – especially not when it comes to Rolex sport watches.
The beautiful thing about Rolex is that it’s such a pivotal, game-changing brand – owning one is like owning a piece of history. In the 80s, the art of wearing and collecting watches saw a resurgence thanks to vintage Rolexes, and this trend has only accelerated over the last decade.
Why the sports watch? It’s the category that is the most reminiscent of what started the whole watch craze off. Our personal favorites are the Explorer/Explorer II or GMT-Master ( or insert your favourite here ) .
As you shop, you’ll learn so much about watches and what determines their value. There are so many little details that don’t get discussed often, like dials, bezels, and hands.
Of course, Rolexes aren’t the only quality watches out there. If you’ve got your hands on a Rolex sport watch but you’ve stil lneglected the Omega Speedmaster, you’re still going slightly wrong in our books.
They might not be to everyone’s taste, but even the most passionate Speedmaster haters would have to admit that there’s something extremely satisfying about watching that manually-wound dial go around.
It might be Rolex that has ushered in the mainstream watch mania we see today, but Omega deserves praise for staying so true to the original design of its Speedmaster. The model has looked practically identical for more than half a decade, which is crazy.
Besides, they’re surprisingly affordable for such a classic, so there’s really no excuse for missing out.
Nobody likes a sheep. That’s true in all aspects of life, but it’s especially sad to copy other people’s fashion choices. Fashion is supposed to be about self-expression and developing your own unique style!
When you first enter the world of watches, it can be intimidating to trust your own judgment about pieces. You might worry that you’re not sophisticated or educated enough to make the right calls. But don’t let that worry you.
You’re spending your own money, so you may as well buy something you like. It’s better to regret buying a watch you knew you liked at the time but later realize is flawed than to regret buying a watch you secretly disliked but knew was fashionable – only for the trend to pass a few years later.
Of course, there will be times when you just so happen to like an extremely popular watch. That’s understandable – a great watch is a great watch, period.
We’ve all heard someone say that watches (most likely Rolexes) are an excellent investment. But did that person know what they were talking about? Probably not.
Watches are just as risky as stocks and shares. Certain models may be fashionable and valuable now, but it’s impossible to know if their popularity will disappear overnight. Maybe everyone will stop wearing watches altogether.
Taste and enjoyment should always be your primary motivating factors when purchasing a new piece for your collection.
Most watch collectors go through the same journey. Before they become interested in watches, they assume Rolex is the best and most expensive brand. Then, they start learning more about other brands.
After educating themselves on Omega, Jaeger, Patek, and more, they dismiss Rolex and look down their noses at it. They want the rarest, most unique watches available. Eventually, they get burned.
And guess who they come running back to? Good old Rolex. The brand that’s expensive but not exorbitant and high-quality without being frivolous. Don’t fall into the trap of dismissing them.
There’s nothing wrong with being new to the world of watch collection – we were all newbies once! Although it’s wise to do your research and avoid making basic mistakes, it’s almost impossible to avoid slipping up altogether.
The main things to remember are to trust in your own taste and judgment and to enjoy what you do. If you’re having fun, what’s the worst that could happen?