A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO VINTAGE WATCH OWNERSHIP
Whether you're a seasoned collector or a first-time buyer, stepping into the enchanting world of vintage watch ownership requires knowledge and dedication. These are not mere time-telling instruments but historical artefacts, embodying stories and craftsmanship from bygone eras. Each tick on the dial is a heartbeat from the past and as custodians of these pieces, it falls upon us to treat them with the respect they deserve.
Regular Winding: The Heartbeat of your Watch.
Give life to your watch, but gently.
Winding your vintage watch should be a daily ritual (unless its automatic of course!) Simply rotate the crown clockwise gently and you should feel a satisfying click, whether it's a Rolex 'Bubbleback' from the 1940s or a manual-wind Omega Speedmaster, regular winding keeps the movement lively and accurate. It's crucial not to over-wind, as forcing the crown could cause internal damage. A good rule of thumb? When you feel resistance, stop.
Yet, don't forget the difference between self-winding automatic watches and manual ones. Automatic watches wind themselves as you move, powered by your daily motion. A nice long walk does wonders for keeping them ticking. But even these could use a manual wind every so often, especially if they've been off your wrist for a while. A manual wind only watch will need more attention, but these often boast a greater power reserve.
Proper Cleaning: Less is More.
Harsh chemicals or abrasive materials are as welcome as a root-canal, so a soft cloth and a light touch should suffice for external cleaning. For those hard-to-reach places, a gentle brush works wonders - whether it's hardy stainless steel or warm gold. For the bracelet, we recommend removing them from the watch head and employing the use of an ultrasonic cleaner for a deep clean, or the humble children's toothbrush and some lukewarm soapy water in a pinch.
Materials like leather or fabric straps demand their own gentle treatment, often simply requiring a soft, damp cloth to wipe away dirt. Remember, cleanliness isn't just next to godliness; it's the first line of defence against premature ageing of your watch.
Water Resistance: A Cautionary Tale
Even if your watch once boasted water resistance, seals degrade over time. The "Oyster" of your Oyster Perpetual might tempt you to go diving, but remember, years have passed since its birth.
Over time, the rubber gaskets and seals that provide water resistance can deteriorate, compromising the watch's ability to withstand moisture. Even if your vintage watch was originally designed to be water-resistant, it's essential to remember that years have passed since its creation, and the seals may have degraded. Submerging your vintage watch without proper servicing and pressure testing can lead to water entering the case, resulting in significant damage to the delicate movement and other components.
Unless specifically serviced and 'Pressure Tested' - save the deep-sea exploration for modern dive watches, and let your vintage beauty rest on the shore. Better safe than sorry, we say.
Regular Servicing: The Proactive Approach.
A qualified watchmaker can spot minor issues before they turn into significant problems. Remember the vaunted Venus 178 movement in your vintage Breitling Navitimer? It deserves expert care to keep it in prime condition, and it can be easy to pass of regular maintenance as an unnecessary expense, but it may just save you more in the long run.
At Fathom Watches, we believe in the power of this preventative care. Every vintage watch we sell is 'retail ready', having undergone meticulous servicing. We even offer a 12-month mechanical warranty to ensure your peace of mind, and where possible include high resolution imagery of the inner workings of your watch.
Storage: As Safe as Houses.
Extreme temperatures can cause expansion and contraction of components, leading to potential damage and inaccurate timekeeping. High humidity levels can invite moisture into the watch, compromising its intricate movement and encouraging the growth of rust. Meanwhile, magnetic fields—emanating from electronics, speakers, or even everyday objects—can disrupt the delicate balance of the watch's inner workings, affecting its accuracy.
We recommend a watch box, strategically placed away from significant changes in temperature and humidity - some even come with a gyroscopic installation that winds your watch at intervals, when not on the wrist. For more casual storage, perhaps for travel - we love these premium cases from our friends at The Strap Tailor, as pictured above.
Wearing: A Privilege and a Responsibility.
Wearing a vintage watch is both a privilege and a responsibility, as you become a custodian of its history and craftsmanship. However, the decision of when and where to wear your timepiece can often depend on its specific characteristics. Our friends at Jack Davison liken the experience of picking the right time piece to picking the right cut and style of a bespoke suit; "occasion, climate and company are all things to consider, are you dressing up or down - is the event day or night, and is there room for something more playful, or is there a certain formality to adhere to?"
For watches like the sturdy steel vintage Rolex GMT Master, their robust construction and reliable movement make them suitable for everyday wear. These timepieces can handle the demands of a busy lifestyle, accompanying you through workdays, outdoor adventures, and even casual occasions. However, it's important to be mindful of their desirability, as their notable reputation may attract attention, including from individuals with less than honest intentions. Taking precautions and being aware of your surroundings can help ensure the security of your timepiece.
A dress watch, on the other hand is often a delicate vintage piece better suited for special occasions. These exquisite timepieces exude refinement and sophistication, making them perfect for formal events or memorable celebrations. Wearing them sparingly helps preserve their pristine condition and minimises the risk of accidental damage and often feature smaller constructions. They may even become cherished heirlooms, passed down through generations, and their limited appearances add to their allure and sentimental value.
Understanding the nuances of your vintage watch allows you to make informed decisions about when and where to wear it. Consider the materials, complications, and overall fragility of the timepiece. Additionally, factors such as the watch's age, rarity, and historical significance may influence your choice of occasions.
The Right Insurance: Peace of Mind
Insurance is an essential consideration when it comes to protecting your vintage watch from unexpected mishaps. Accidents and theft are unfortunate possibilities that can cast a shadow over your prized timepiece. By securing the right insurance coverage, you gain peace of mind knowing that you're financially protected in case of such incidents.
Comprehensive watch insurance typically covers theft, loss, and accidental damage. In the event of theft or loss, the insurance can provide compensation and if your watch suffers accidental damage, the insurance can cover repair costs or restoration expenses.
When choosing an insurance policy, carefully review the terms, conditions, and exclusions. Some policies may require appraisals or documentation of the watch's value - which we can offer at Fathom in the form of a 'Valuation Certificate'. It's recommended to consult reputable insurance providers with experience in insuring valuable collectibles like vintage watches.
We can offer guidance and recommendations to help you navigate the process of securing appropriate insurance coverage and with the right insurance in place, you can enjoy your vintage watch with confidence, knowing that you're prepared for unexpected situations and that your investment is safeguarded.
To that end, we're pleased to announce that Fathom has partnered with TH March insurance services and you can enquire with them directly by clicking here.
Appreciation: The Joy of Ownership
It's a joy, a responsibility, and a journey of discovery. Appreciate the nuances of your timepiece, the delicate dance of its hands, the glow of its patina. Each is a mark of character, a testament to its unique history.
When you invest in a vintage watch from Fathom, you become a part of the tale it tells, a new chapter in its ongoing journey. Your care and attention help preserve these historical treasures for future generations, making you a crucial part of the story. Now that is a beautiful responsibility to have.