It’s official: From the pages of fashion magazines to a local jewelry store, vintage watches entice us with their glamour and glare. They all offer you the opportunity to wear a nice watch. Still you know you need to take care.
If you are purchasing a vintage timepiece for the first time, or are still relatively new to collecting vintage wristwatches, there are several key concepts you should understand before making informed decision to purchase any vintage watch alive.
Of course, WristChronology is always happy to answer any questions you may have about one of our timepieces, but it is also helpful to you, as the collector, to familiarize yourself with a few general ideas before contacting us.
The general information below will feed any vintage curiosity and help you discover a perfect watch solution.
While there is no such thing as absolute accuracy when it comes to vintage wristwatches, these magnificent timekeepers of yesteryear still perform admirably enough to be worn in everyday life.
Like antique cars, vintage watches have mechanical instruments that can wear down over time without proper maintenance. It is important to remember that back in the 1930′s, 1940′s and 1950′s, wristwatches were not considered collectibles at all. Rather, they were everyday objects prone to all sorts of mishaps.
Although many vintage timepieces are found with pristine, surprisingly accurate movements, others have been damaged by careless watchmakers or by lack of routine service in general. Without regular cleanings, the oil used to lubricate the movement may harden and cause friction to occur between various parts of the mechanism. In these instances, when a major overhaul is required, restoring a vintage wristwatch can quickly become a costly endeavor, so get a repair quote first.
Having said this, we would like to point out that while most vintage mechanical wristwatches (with proper maintenance) tend to be accurate to within 30 seconds per day, no vintage watch, no matter how carefully regulated, can rival the precise accuracy of contemporary quartz watches. While chronograph watches may be able to compete with them, they also come at different price tags that one should consider weighing up the desired price and accuracy-ratio.
Needless to say, every single watch sold by WristChronology has been examined by our watchmaker staff, timed and cosmetically detailed at a minimum. Unless otherwise noted, all sold watches carry a standard 1-year mechanical warranty.
In sum, we can’t promise that our vintage watches will tell the time down to the exact second, but we do guarantee that once you experience the pleasure of wearing a finely crafted, uniquely designed vintage timepiece, you are unlikely to stop.
In the same way that an auto mechanic tunes up an automobile, a watchmaker “adjusts” or regulates a fine mechanical wristwatch movement.
Regulating a watch consists of observing its daily deviation in various positions and temperatures and adjusting them accordingly. Depending on the quality and desired accuracy of a watch, varying regulating procedures are used. The usual regulation of a good quality watch consists of testing in dial-up (lying) and crown-up (hanging) positions. The deviations between these positions are usually 90 seconds a day at most. In officially prescribed precision regulation, watches are tested and adjusted in at least five positions and at two different temperatures to test the resistance in the watch.
A requirement of effective regulation is an exactly balanced balance, since center-of-gravity errors would otherwise occur. In most cases, correction of mechanical watches is done by carefully adjusting the regulator, which changes the effective length of the hairspring.
The art of regulating mechanical watches consists in principle of keeping the number of swings of the balance or hairspring as constant as possible despite disturbance from external influences such as temperature and position changes. Errors may result when the frequency changes. Fine regulation (i.e. to five positions and two temperatures) is usually indicative of a high-quality timepiece.
Box & Papers
When originally sold, virtually all vintage timepieces were accompanied by presentation boxes, warranties, owner’s manuals (“papers”) and other such accessories. Furthermore, most watches were sold with a leather band and buckle designed to complement the timepiece. Needless to say, most people either discarded or lost these items over time.
Today, a vintage watch with its original box and papers (and/or original buckle and band) commands a significant premium over similar examples missing these items. Although we at WristChronology are excited when we can offer our valued customers a vintage timepiece with its original box and papers, we are not able to do so very often due to the rarity of these watches. Thus, unless otherwise noted, our watches do not come with original boxes, papers, accessories, bands or buckles.
However, we pride ourselves on selecting bands and buckles not only to compliment the vintage timepiece in question, but also to be appropriate to the era back when the watch was produced.
That is also how we became inspired to supply you with a nice box holding the Wrist Chronology leaflet A Tale of Time. Vol. I, containing a manual and an inspiring guide full of vintage history.
Most of all, if you contain your watch to these standards you can also contain a watch for a new owner or a next generation.
Bumper automatic vs. full rotor automatic
Movements of the hand move a swinging weight (rotor or pendulum). An apparatus makes the winding drive always turn in the same direction to wind the mainspring. A sliding coupling (drag spring) prevents over-winding the mainspring. Automatic watches usually are more precise than watches with hand winding, because they usually run at full spring strength.
Bumper movements tend to be older self-winding movements in which the rotor can only turn 180 degrees, as there are springs or “bumpers” which restrict the rotor’s movement within the case.
Full rotor automatic movements, on the other hand, were developed in the early 1950′s and feature rotors mounted in such a way that they can revolve a full 360 degrees within the case. In addition to being more accurate, such movements are generally more desirable and expensive as full rotor automatic movements were generally offered in more expensive watches.
With respect to a wristwatch movement, caliber designation refers to its manufacturer, reference number, size and complications (if any). The term “ebauche” refers to the raw movement itself prior to finishing and adjusting; it is the heart of a watch. Even as far as the early 1920′s, watch manufacturers did not make their own raw movements. Instead, they would buy the raw movements from ebauche producers in Switzerland.
The components of a raw movement (plates, bridges, blocks, wheel trains, hands, etc.) could be purchased in various grades of preparation (for example, with or without jewels). Because of the work and facilities involved, raw movements were (and still are) made by only a few specialized producers. Nevertheless, the value and desirability of a vintage wristwatch movement is usually determined by how finely it is finished, not which ebauche it was based on.
Many vintage wristwatches, at some point or another, have had their dials refinished. Dial refinishing refers to the process of restoring a watch dial to its original appearance. Over time, when exposed to sunlight or moisture, watch dials (from silver or silver-plated brass) tend to fade and oxidize, which can cause the dial to become unattractive or downright unreadable.
Without going into a lengthy technical explanation of how dial refinishing works (essentially, a chemical process in which a watch dial’s original finish is removed, then reapplied), the most important concept to understand is that not all refinished dials are created equal. Like any watch restoration process, dial refinishing is an art and a science, and there are not many companies left that can duplicate the look and quality of an original dial.
At WristChronology, our experience allows us to determine when refinishing makes sense and when it does not. Whenever a dial restoration is decided upon, we always take into account the original appearance of the dial, the correct size and font of the lettering, and so on. In fact, many restored dials are so beautifully refinished that many collectors mistake them for originals.
Whether you are a discriminating collector seeking absolute originality, or simply seeking a vintage watch that looks great and yet be worn casually, WristChronology has timepieces from various decades coming in style to accompany your taste.
Every single watch offered for sale by WristChronology is guaranteed to be 100% genuine and in as close to its original condition as possible both mechanically and cosmetically.
Obviously, when dealing with a 100 year-old timepiece(s), there is no way to guarantee that every single component in the movement is completely original, but we will not sell any vintage timepieces which have been improperly tampered with or modified.
From their experience as collectors, the WristChronology staff realizes that certain watches lend themselves to restoration, while others are best left original. WristChronology will not sacrifice cosmetic appearance for the sake of originality since our policy is to avoid causing more damage to a dial than good.
With this in mind, WristChronology offers watches for both the discriminating collector seeking absolute originality, as well as watches that can be worn casually and have been restored to look like new.
As far as restoration goes, WristChronology replates cases and refinishes dials only when necessary, and with an eye toward maintaining the watch’s original appearance. Either way, you can rest assured that every watch sold by WristChronology is a vintage timepiece you can be proud to wear for the sake of original charm. Any collector will appreciate the value in a deal.
- (see: ORIGINALITY)
When we write in our descriptions that a watch is “triple signed”, we are describing a watch that has been “signed” (i.e., stamped with the name or trademark of its manufacturer) on its movement, case and dial. Triple signed watches are much more desirable and collectible than watches signed only on the movement and dial, because triple signed watches are considered to be more complete and original than their “double signed” or “single signed” counterparts.
On the other hand, there are also watches that are not triple signed, but nonetheless original. During the Great Depression, as well as the early 1980′s when gold was worth $850 per ounce, millions of solid gold watchcases were melted down. Years later, when vintage watches became a hot collectible, many of these orphaned movements and dials were placed in less expensive (and sometimes laughably inappropriate) cases by watch dealers and collectors.
In more nefarious instances, a dial from one watch would be matched up with a movement from another, and then recased. Needless to say, such “put together” watches are not very desirable and WristChronology generally does not deal in them. Our customers should also be forewarned that many vintage timepieces being offered in Internet auctions have been improperly tampered with or modified. In total, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
There are no absolutely waterproof watches. Watches called “waterproof” must be able to withstand the water pressure of a one-meter depth for one hour. Divers’ watches must be able withstand much higher water pressure at even greater depths. In the 1950′s, a series of quick testing methods – employing a device in which the watchcase is immersed in water – were developed for use by watch repair facilities.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for WristChronology to guarantee that any vintage watch we sell (even sports watches originally intended for diving) is still waterproof. The fact of the matter is that the rubber o-ring gaskets which provide water-resistance must be replaced and the watch extensively re-tested before exposing the timepiece to water for any length of time. Because such a repair is generally cost prohibitive, we do not undertake such repairs.
Although most vintage watches will not be harmed by casual moisture (for example, rain), they are by no means waterproof and should be cared for appropriately. Nor do we recommend swimming, showering or diving with any vintage watch. Doing so will automatically void our 1-year guarantee.
Finally, we are unable to modify vintage watches so as to guarantee that they will be waterproof or water-resistant. Sorry.
The sum of it all
We are always available to answer any question and hope that some have been answered here. Whether you are completely new to the hobby, a veteran collector or just wish to preserve an already processed piece of nature in time collecting wristwatches doesn’t have to be difficult anymore. Now you hopefully know what you seek in a vintage watch.
Rest assured that every timepiece we sell has been examined, timed, authenticated and if deemed appropriate, correctly restored. WristChronology is one of the only companies on the Internet with its own in-house service department – one full-time watchmaker on our staff-list – who stands by every watch sold as do the rest of us.
WristChronology also offers one of the most liberal return policies in the industry:
-If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, simply return the watch for a full refund within 14 days.
Please contact WristChronology today and find out why WristChronology aim to become the best Vintage Watch Website on the World Wide Web. We look forward to hearing from you soon!