Stylish Vintage Watches Doing Well at Auction

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about the newest wearable & smartwatches. With accelerometers, heart rate monitors, GPS, and "the capacity" to make phone calls, I've yet to play Dick Tracy and talk in to my of yet. Pretty cool, yes, but not as distinctive and stylish as a vintage watch, in my opinion.

Some collectors fascinated with horology will pay top dollar for vintage timepieces, pocket watches, and wristwatches. Whether it’s the sophistication and pedigree that comes with a vintage dress watch or the cool factor of a dive watch from the 1960s or 70s, vintage watches, in general, are doing well at auction.

The most famous of recent auction history was the Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch that fetched $24 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Switzerland. Dating back to the early 1930s, the watch took several years to build and featured 24 “complications” or functions.

Patek Philippe and rare Rolex watches do very well at auction. Last January, during an annual New Year’s Day auction, in Scottsdale AZ, a custom Rolex 18-karat Presidential Men’s Diamond Watch for $22,000. Dating back to the mid-1980s, it was a true show stopper, featuring diamonds, rubies, a fire opal face and a diamond-encrusted band and bezel.

Other classic brands that I see doing well at auction include Breitling, Movado, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Heuer Autavia, Omega, Racine, Tudor, Mido, IWC (International Watch Company) and others.

What to look for if you’re bidding on a vintage watch? Like anything, do your research about the brand and understand the mechanics of the watch. Examine the condition in person if you can, or have a friend do it for you. If the watch is missing parts, research how easy it is to find replacement parts. The last thing you want to do is spend more money repairing the watch than you paid for it.

Ask to see provenance and try to find out if the previous owners specialized in collecting the brand you want to purchase. Some collectors like to own a variety of different watches, while others will spend a lifetime collecting one or two brands. These collectors really know their stuff and have made discerning purchases.