This is the second article in the series looking at different “types of collectors.
OK, I may be wrong here, but I am not sure I have ever met a collector who only buys vintage. I certainly know guys who only collect modern, but even those guys (over time) evolve into vintage collectors too! But have I ever met a collector who only buys vintage? I don’t think so. So, maybe, this category will be the collector who buys mainly vintage.
Lets start off by saying that a lot of collectors are simply afraid of buying vintage. So many things can go wrong. Thanks to its astonishing appeal, the Paul Newman Daytona can probably be seen as the watch that turned what was originally minor scams into a major industry. I see more Paul Newman dials today than I see original Daytona dials. Fake dials and fake watches have become big business. And over time, the quality of the fakes have become incredibly good.
I was having dinner with one of the most knowledgable vintage Rolex dealers. This dealer has been in the business for decades and is one of the most well-respected. He told me that of the 30 or so Rolex Submariner 6200 that he had seen, he believed that at least 20 had been “modified” in one way or another. In this case, “modified” meant anything from having lume applied to the dial that made it look original to having an entire case manufactured in order to mimic what a 70 year old case would look like. The bottom line is that with today’s technology, it is possible to make a watch that appears to be 70 years old. The worrying comment that he ended on was that the very best fakes were now so good that even an expert like himself could not tell that they were fakes.
Yes, vintage world can be a very dangerous place. And that danger rises exponentially when it comes to manufacturers like Rolex and Patek Philippe where secondary market prices can readily run into six and even seven figure numbers. I have seen a large number of vintage Rolex with very questionable features. It was one of the reasons I decided to cut my Rolex collection substantially. Well…..this and the radioactivity issue with many vintage Rolex pieces…..
However, with Patek Philippe, the manufacturer differs significantly from Rolex. Unlike Rolex, Patek Philippe keep records of every watch that they have ever made. Further, Patek Philippe are very alert to watches that turn up for service that are not 100% “correct”. In this sense, one has a certain peace of mind when sending a vintage Patek Philippe for service that they will let you know if there is anything “untoward” with the watch. Is it a foolproof system? No. But it is certainly better at Patek Philippe than any other manufacturer that I know.
One has a certain “peace of mind” when buying vintage Patek Philippe
So, yes, there are obviously risks involved when a collection is largely vintage in nature. However, many collectors still persist with this vintage-dominated theme. There are usually some identifying features.
Vintage collectors have an eye for detail. Given the risks involved, there is a need to be able to spot issues that are just wrong with a watch. This typically involves doing quite a lot of research into the history of a watch. The vintage collector loves doing detailed research. As one vintage collector stated, they saw the buying of a vintage watch as a detective process where one investigated a history to verify its authenticity. Some collectors truly love this. It is all about the hunt. Some people like it. Some don’t.
Vintage collectors need an eye for detail
Vintage collectors also tend to love the intrigue of a watch’s past history. Did a vintage watch lead a good life? Is it’s history less than perfect? There is always an air of intrigue when it comes to vintage. In most cases one just never really knows.
I think it is also true that many vintage watches exude a distinctive charm. There is something quite special about wearing a watch that has lived through 50 or more years of life. That watch has been through a lot. It exudes a certain charisma and personality. From my own experience, wearing my Ref. 3483A or Ref. 3417A gives a very different feeling than any of my modern watches. The 3448J has a personality that is just distinctively different to anything from the modern era.
Rarity is a tricky area. I know one distinguished collector who essentially wants to wear watches that he knows he will not see on the wrist of others. For him, it is all about genuine rarity. There are certainly many collectors who like to wear watches that are not ubiquitous.
It is always somewhat of an irony when one sees collectors clamouring to buy a Nautilus 5711 because its such a rare watch and you don’t see that many. Yet, with many of the vintage era, maybe only a few hundred were made…as opposed to many thousands of 5711s! When it comes to rarity and exclusivity, vintage usually wins hands down. If you want to wear a watch that you will never see on the wrist of another, vintage is the domain to look. Will it have that Archie Luxury “Look at me! Look at me!” effect? Thankfully not.
When was the last time you saw someone wearing a Ref. 2552?
For me, I love vintage and modern. Whilst I appreciate the technological advances made in the modern era, I also love that essentially unique feel of a vintage watch and the charm and charisma that it exudes.
Vintage carries a charm and charism that is so hard to find with modern.