Vintage pocket watch open on desk


Top tips for first-time vintage watch buyers

With records being smashed and values rising, the vintage watch market continues to grow

The value of vintage watches is on the rise. According to Knight Frank’s ‘The Wealth Report’ from 2016, the value of vintage watches grew by 5 per cent in the previous 12 months. 

A rise in values has not just been a short term trend, with growth of 35 per cent over the previous five years and 67 per cent over a ten year period.

This increase was highlighted in October 2017 when the world record for the most expensive wristwatch was smashed at auction when a vintage Rolex Daytona previously owned by Paul Newman sold in New York for £13.6 million.

So, why buy a vintage watch?

Steven Yambo, Watch Specialist at auctioneers Fellows, gives three reasons:

1. VAT: Unlike a new watch, second-hand vintage items are VAT free.

2. Depreciation: Vintage watches, by their very nature are not new, and therefore won’t depreciate as soon as you wear them.

3. Provenance: A vintage watch has its own place in history - even if not rare or not previously worn by a famous person, like Paul Newman, it still represents a unique moment in time.

Things to consider when buying

1. Do your research

There are many sources available to help you tell your Casio from your Cartier – from trade magazines and podcasts to blogs about watches online. Previous auction sales results can provide an understanding of market prices, including which brands are most highly prized.

2. Be aware of the ‘buyer’s premium’

When buying at auction it is important to be aware of the ‘buyer’s premium’. This is a fee that the auction house will add to the sale price to cover their costs. It differs between auctioneers, and can add over 25% to the final cost. Despite this, many collectors find that buying at auction can still be cheaper than through a dealer.

3. Don’t just think of it as an investment opportunity

Steven Yambo's advice for would-be investors is clear, “When you’re looking at buying a vintage watch, it is important to pick one that you will enjoy owning and wearing for years to come. Then, to ensure that it holds its value down the line, take time to care for and protect your watch.”

4. Get it valued regularly

If you do decide to make a purchase, it’s vital that you get it valued regularly and insured correctly. Periodic valuations are important, as their value can change over time – so if you don’t get regular valuations you could find yourself underinsured.