In the past decade, as the demand for previously owned items increased, the worth of a vintage wristwatch became more apparent. But what exactly makes a timepiece vintage?
“Collect knowledge before you collect watches”, says Gregory Selch. Today, we’re celebrating the Collector’s Corner with our first episode with the prolific vintage watch collector Gregory Selch, who technically needs no introduction. So, Greg, welcome to The Hour Markers, and we are ready to uncover all that there is to know about vintage watches and more!
THM: What is a vintage watch?
Greg: A vintage watch, in my opinion, is any watch that is not brand new. That is if a watch was purchased last year, but it was purchased by your father, mother, or someone else, and it was even unopened and sitting on their desk, that watch already has a story. As a result, it’s a vintage watch in my opinion.
THM: Is there a particular timeline to categorize a vintage watch?
Greg: People would not have considered watches to be vintage if they were collected in the 1970s or 1980s. They’d have said, “Oh, that’s a new watch.” That is a modern timepiece. But, with today’s technology, I believe things move much faster. Even things made two or three years ago can appear to be from a different era. It is also considered vintage.
THM: We often read online about vintage watches, and they say there’s a timeline of watches that are 20 years old or older are considered vintage. Your thoughts?
Greg: It’s a matter of personal preference, in my opinion. Let’s just say that the collector community, which is very large and spreads all over the world, characterizes it however they want. But, from my point of view, I don’t want to be restricted in any way. So I make it as broad as possible so that anyone who wants to can participate. It’s more of a rule of thumb. And, in general, there are no hard and fast rules. People used to say that watches made after 1985, when computerized design was introduced, were vintage, and that anything before that time was a replica. Anything after that is a modern timepiece. That was a long time ago, and in my opinion, it no longer applies because even if we think of computers today as being very fast, they were very different in 1985. They were more akin to a modern and fancy calculator. So, I believe that anything that isn’t a hard and fast rule is a vintage timepiece.
THM: How would you segregate a vintage watch from an antique?
Greg: An antique, in my opinion, is something that is generally characterized as a museum piece or a piece that would be displayed or have some historical quality, and the same can be said for vintage. However, an antique is something that is a piece, an object in and of itself. It’s something you’d put in a case or put on display. That’s all right. Is it vintage? What about a vintage wine or a vintage car? That is, it is something that has matured. It has a backstory, and I believe this applies. It’s benefited from its backstory and age. It is more complicated. For example, you could buy a Rolex from the 1950s and the same exact model today, with technological advancements, etc., but the inside is different; the same model, same watch, but the one from the 1950s has so much more. This, in my opinion, would classify it as vintage.
THM: So In your opinion, is the GMT from 1954 a vintage?
Greg: Yes, that is correct. That would be vintage to me, just as a military watch from the 1950s or a pocket watch that you would put on display would be vintage to me. It’s still functional and serves its purpose, but it’s old and has a story to tell.
THM: Well, that’s interesting, but there’s a new trend that we see is smaller dials. The sizes are going smaller with watches. In fact, this year, at the shows in Geneva, we saw the case size getting smaller and slimmer. Is the trend from the fifties coming back?
Greg: You don’t have to show as much when you’re confident in yourself. It’s just psychology! You already have confidence in yourself. It doesn’t come from other people staring at you. It’s something on the inside. And when you go out in the world with something beautiful, it may not be something that people immediately think, “Oh my God, look at that huge watch you have on your wrist.” If they look at it and say, “Wow, I don’t know anything about that,” and you start explaining, “Wow, that’s really amazing,” they’ll be impressed. So it just goes to show that watch collectors and watch wearers are becoming more self-assured. It’s a very simple process.
Questions from The Hour Markers Collectors Corner
Karishma Karer: My mom’s hand-down watch is my favorite. It has the original strap. Now, if I change the strap or make an extra hole in it, does it take away from the originality of it being vintage?
Greg: No, I would say. I would definitely wear it if it made it possible for you to do so. Another option, in my opinion, is to get a replacement strap; something you might do just for fun. In New York, there is a very good strap maker. You can buy them or have them made for you. Buying a vintage strap, on the other hand, is a great idea, except that the threads and things are often falling apart because they’re made of leather. As a result, you won’t want to wear them all the time because they might fall off your wrist. So, my general advice is to either cut a hole in it or, if that’s what you want to do, put a hole in it. It is completely your watch.
In my opinion, when you buy a vintage watch or inherit one from a family, it becomes yours. You are free to do whatever you want. You might want a bracelet if you can get one there at certain times of the year. Although gold is expensive, gold plating is not. You’re going to put it on. It will always remind you of the fact that you had to replace a part. If, for example, a part breaks in this watch and you can’t find a replacement hand. It’s pointless to put it in a box and stop wearing it. Replace it with something that appeals to you, and place the old one in a small zip-lock bag. Put it away with its name on it. Because you’ll have the part if you ever want to restore that watch.
Vikram: Should vintage watches be worn or kept away safely?
Greg: Everyone, in my opinion, must make their own decision on this. However, my advice and personal opinion are that they should be worn for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I’m not referring to something from the 1930s that is, you know, extremely sensitive to weather and the monsoon season. Wear it around the house. Wear a sturdy watch if you have to take the subway in New York City. Where will you look if the crystal falls off due to a change in pressure? Take extreme caution. However, wearing a watch is a mechanical tool. It gets better the more you use it. And the worst thing you can do with a musical instrument is put it in a museum and never play it. It’s a piece of equipment. It’s meant to be under tension and used. In my opinion, a watch should be worn. On the other hand, I know people who wear $200,000 gold watches. They put them on every day. They’re so worn that no one notices they’re a valuable watch. You wear them all the time, so it’s entirely up to you.
However, if it is a very important and delicate watch, I would advise caution when wearing it outside of your home. Most people would agree that you should not travel on vacation with an expensive watch. You could start with a simple watch. It may be worth a lot of money, but no one is going to notice it. The dials are extremely delicate. These watches were designed to be worn for a few years before being replaced. However, Swiss watches were designed to be worn until they stopped looking new and working like new, at which point they were returned and replaced. That’s the kind of thinking they have. They were never meant to last for 50 years. That is unprecedented. We’ve entered a new era. In my opinion, these are technological masterpieces.
RedBar Bombay: What are your thoughts on the vintage Omega Speedmasters?
Greg: I’ve owned a few Speedmasters, but one, in particular, stands out. It was made in 1968. So it’s the newer movement, not the older one. It’s also the later style, not the first. However, Omega originally designed the Speedmaster to be a car racing watch. And you see a lot of car racers in the 1960s wearing Speedmaster. But it’s such a large and lovely watch. It was not well-known in the 1960s when many people were buying them, because it had been to the moon. This was not widely known until the late 1960s when they began to make a big deal out of it. The truth is that it is a watch for a race car driver. The idea of a race car driver going 200 miles per hour timing himself is completely absurd. It’s all about fashion. It’s about being both beautiful and powerful. And, while that may seem strange to say about a watch, it is a powerful watch.
It is a strong and dependable movement. It has a stainless steel case and a black dial. And a design as iconic as the Submariner. It’s as recognizable as a Nautilus or a Royal Oak. The fact is that they made tons of these, I’d say millions, and they’re not uncommon. Different models are extremely rare, but not uncommon. You can have one however you want. You can choose between an automatic and a manual transmission. They’re amazing!
Well, this conversation also delved into exploring neo-vintage watches. What is the difference between vintage and neo-vintage? Stay tuned for more and hit the link for the entire conversation on YouTube with the ever-so-passionate vintage watch collector – Gregory Selch!