Buying a vintage watch can be a challenge, as you can't just put a watch under a light and note its overall character, as you might do with diamonds and other gemstones. However, there are a few things you can keep in mind when it comes to buying vintage watches so you can reduce your risk of being fleeced, and "wind up" with a watch that you'll love for years to come.
1. Let it show its age
Vintage watches are not like vintage cars, in that a watch that has a bit of wear and tear may actually be more valuable and more desirable. Some patina or discoloration of the metal and a bit of wear on the band can show of a watch's age and the fact that it's vintage, so don't think that these minor imperfections are a bad thing.
2. Beware of "Franken-watches"
A watch that has had pieces replaced with newer ones is often called a "Franken-watch," as it's been pieced and stitched together with elements that truly don't match. While a new element or piece inside the watch can ensure it's working properly, you need to keep these replacement pieces to a minimum if you want a valuable watch. Look for those with as many original pieces as possible, other than the battery, and be sure that there is paperwork noting any restoration done if you do see mismatched or newer pieces inside the watch.
3. Know the maker
You might easily recognize the brand names Rolex or Bulova when shopping for watches, but note that there are many other very popular vintage watch brands on the market, and these will keep their value over time and possibly become even more popular as they age. Look for Daytona, Omega, Heuer, and other such names, and research the name of a particular watch you see; it may be more valuable than you realize, even if you don't immediately recognize the manufacturer.
4. Beware of even reputable sellers
Sometimes people will buy vintage watches or other pieces through online sites, assuming that if a seller has a good feedback rating, they're sure to get a good deal. You can't always trust these ratings as sometimes they may not be an accurate reflection of the items they sell; some buyers simply won't know they're being overcharged for a piece, for example. It's important that you always do your own research on any watch, including the brand, year, and expected asking price, rather than relying on the reputation of a seller alone to make the decision for you.