What is the difference between vintage and neo-vintage? Vintage watch collector Gregory Selch takes us through this buzzword and also his coveted collections!
THM: So what is Neo vintage, in recent years?
Greg: People have gathered to discuss neo-Vintage, which, in my opinion, is the period following 1985. That is to say, the modern era. So they’d say, “Oh, this is a watch that’s only a few years old.” It hasn’t earned the right to be considered vintage in any way. In my opinion, that is not the case at all. Neo Vintage is vintage. I think the most common understanding is that you can have cheese that’s only a few years old, but it’s vintage cheese. Wow. Two or three years. Imagine eating something very vintage for a couple of years, and then hearing someone say that if a wine was made a few years ago, it’s not vintage, it was just made a few years ago. It has been in a warehouse for three years. That is, indeed, a distinction. So neo-vintage is more akin to a recent vintage than anything else.
THM: Could you give us an example of a vintage and a neo-vintage of the same collection?
Greg: Blancpain is a great brand in my opinion. And one of the things they started doing in the 1950s that no one else was doing was because the owner of the company at the time was into scuba diving, so they made scuba diving watches, that was their thing. A Blancpain scuba watch–large and beautiful. An old watch from the 1950s is definitely a vintage watch, with a very high value and a high price. They’re a little fragile for their age. In the 1990s, a watchmaker and his partner who made movements bought the company and the name Blancpain, and they began making new watches. They have nothing to do with the antique watches. I mean, the name, the styling, the attitude, but nothing else, no parts, not even a single part, and no factory. Nobody else was doing anything similar to those two things. But they are linked. Those newer watches are considered neo-vintage, while a newer Blancpain is considered neo-vintage, and both are stunning. They are moon phases, and they have a variety of things.
THM: That’s a good example and clears up the meaning of neo-vintage for our audience. Now, let’s dive into your collection which is much spoken about. We know you’re a huge fan of Universal Geneve. But which are the five watches that stand out in your vintage watch collection today?
Greg: I’ll highlight a few watches, the first of which is this Omega Seamaster. This Omega Seamaster is a watch I’ve had for quite some time. And it was made around the same time as the iconic Speedmaster, but it’s called a Seamaster because that was a brand name they had, and it represented a waterproof line of watches as opposed to a Deville, which would’ve been a dress watch. The Seamaster Chronograph is powered by a caliber 321 movement, which is the predecessor to the current manual wind chronograph. It is an amazing movement. This is a watch that is extremely comfortable to wear. It is strong and water-resistant. At this point, I would not consider any vintage watch to be water-resistant. But, this is water-resistant. It won’t be harmed by humidity or anything else. And it has the same chronograph that they took to the Moon Omega – the same design, holy, reliable, and all-black dial. It’s simply a lovely timepiece. It’s large, but it’s a good size. These are not as uncommon as one might believe. That was just something I wanted to bring up. It’s roughly 36mm to 37 mm.
THM: Well, we had a few questions on that watch. Have you made any changes to it?
Greg: No, this is exactly how I bought it. I’d say it’s been serviced, but it’ll keep running forever. These watches are extremely dependable. That’s one of the reasons Omega was the first watch to reach the moon. You can’t have an untrustworthy watch in space. Anyone who has seen the movie Apollo 13 will recognize him as he sits there timing things with this Omega. It undoubtedly saved those people’s lives.
THM: Impressive! So, what do we have next?
Greg: Following that is a watch that I adore. This is a timepiece made by IWC Schaffhausen. It’s an 18k version of a waterproof and rugged watch. It’s known as a yacht club. And, believe it or not, these items are not as expensive as one might think. This is a substantial gold watch with a screw-down back and a small fish on the crown. And I’d say it’s roughly the same size, 36 millimeters across in my opinion. This is a good size for the majority of people. Bigger people and bigger watches work just fine. I like big watches and occasionally wear them. They’re interesting to me. It’s almost like an in-your-face thing. I like small watches as well. Why? That was the fashion from the 1930s to the 1950s. Smaller watches were worn by men. Women wore tiny wristwatches. The numbers couldn’t even be seen.
THM: The collection just continues to get better. Take us through your next pick!
Greg: Okay, here’s another one of my favorite watches. This is a Zenith Defy, and as you mentioned, I’m a big fan of Universal Geneve. And Zenith was a partner to Universal Geneve back in the twenties and thirties and right up until the end of time. They were extremely pleasant. Zenith’s president served on the board of Universal Geneve. It was extremely close. They both made watches for each other. It was a lovely thing. In the 1950s, Zenith purchased one of the Universal Geneve factories, and it was this factory that produced the automatic movement in this watch. They also created the chronographs for Universal Geneve. They eventually converted that factory into the factory that produced the El Primero movement in 1969. This is a long tradition, but this particular watch is a diver. It’s a daredevil diver. Zenith recently released a new model of the same size. It’s a different movement, but it looks like the same mineral. These are fantastic timepieces. This one had a rotating bezel and was a 1000-meter diver. Nobody goes to a thousand meters, after all. That’s completely insane. It’s only for bragging rights. But it’s so lovely, and it’s this tiny gem that really is the shape of a diamond. It also has a fair bracelet, which Zenith wore at the time. And it just looks great. It’s a fantastic watch.
THM: Is this the same watch that they claimed to throw from the second storey?
Greg: Yes. That was the Defy model. That’s fantastic. Isn’t that a fantastic story? That is correct. They did put them to the test. These are extremely tough. And if you look inside one of these, you’ll notice movement, even though it’s very tough and reliable on its own. It actually has a rubber ring wrapped around it inside, allowing it to float inside the metal. So if it collides with something, the rubber absorbs all of the impact. It’s a high-tech mineral crystal. It’s a fantastic watch.
THM: Which vintage timepiece do we have next?
Greg: This one is fantastic, especially for people in India, because it is made by Favre-Leuba. And Favre-Leuba was one of the world’s oldest Swiss companies, with a special relationship with India. I’m not sure whether they had a special relationship with an exporter or an importer. However, many Favre-Leuba players went to India. And one of the reasons is that they are extremely waterproof, and I’ve been to India before. It can become extremely humid. Yeah. And when it rains, it truly pours. And you sweat a lot when it’s hot. You’ll need something that can withstand the conditions. And I’ve seen a lot of Favre-Leubas that have been cleaned. They’re simply smooth. You’re just looking around and thinking, wow, that watch had to be on someone’s wrist. And they took it to the watchmaker every year, and he cleaned it up and made it. And it doesn’t have any little sharp edges. This is a Favre-Leuba that was a sought-after diver. A Breguet diver was recently auctioned off by Phillips. It’s a well-known one, and it was sold for a huge sum. There aren’t many of them around. This watch is actually the same size. It has more movement inside. They are available, and it comes with an excellent bracelet. Watch, you could actually wear that. However, as a vintage watch manufactured by Favre-Leuba and other brands. So these timepieces are fantastic.
THM: Well, the collection just keeps getting better. Which is the last pick?
Greg: I adore this new watch that I purchased. I’ve had one before. I got rid of it. I bought this one because I adored it so much. This is a Memovox by Jaeger-LeCoultre. As a result, it is completely waterproof. Everything is securely fastened. For obvious reasons, this appears to be referred to as a TV dial. And it’s simply stunning. It’s a great watch with a blue hand and an alarm. These were very popular when Jaeger-LeCoultre and other companies produced them. It’s a showy complication, but it’s actually very useful. This one also has a full rotor. It’s known as a Speed Beat. It’s very accurate, has two crowns, and has a beautiful bracelet with a Jaeger-LeCoultre symbol on it. It’s extremely durable. It’s just like any other watch you could buy today. I dare anyone to argue that this watch does not look as good as any watch made today. And, in my opinion, this is a handcrafted Swiss watch from the late 1960s. In fact, there was a special diving watch called the Polaris that had a very unusual back. It had a variety of fins. It has a back that causes the sound to travel further underwater. Normally, I don’t set my alarm underwater. That is not a good plan. But I suppose that was the intention. They were thinking that because it was loud enough, you could be underwater looking at something and then realize you need to go up.
Well, there’s so much to learn from these companies and the world of neo-vintage timepieces. But as Gregory Selch said, “Collecting watches means it ties so much of the history, technology, and style together.”
All said and done, will your vintage timepieces last long if you don’t know the right way to maintain them? Stay tuned to our next episode as the expert shares his insights on this!