As not only a watch fanatic, but a gadget lover that has made most of his living off of applications and sites for Mobile and connected devices, I have a huge stake in whatever products Apple puts forward. We knew an iWatch was coming, we weren't sure when, but they began to feel inevitable. During the keynote, Apple proceeded to sell the Watch as hard as possible, citing millions of personalized options, three metals including Rose Gold and Gold, and a whole menagerie of straps using a quick change strap system they came up with.Read More
A fantastic thread was started over on The Rolex Forums recently by user PSV entitled "RIP vintage Rolex hobby", positing that at this point, most popular vintage Rolex models were being priced out of collector's budgets.
This is a topic I've been wrestling with lately as well, having moved most of my watch budget out of newer models and into the 60's and 70's vintage models that I fear may be too expensive to justify soon. Even during the past ten years, most of the classic vintage models in good condition have gone from thousands of dollars to 10's of thousands of dollars. Models like the 1655 Explorer II from the 1970s [pictured below] has gone from something hard to sell for $5k fifteen years ago, to prices near $20k today.
I wasn't around to see the heyday of vintage Rolex, when collectors in the thread spoke about the fun of trading these still recent but out of fashion models in the 1980s. How for a few thousand you could pick up a 5513, 1680, 1655 or a DRSD, all models mostly into five-figure territory today.
This isn't only about Rolex. Heuer, Tudor, Omega, Audemars Piguet, Patek Phillipe and most of the other top watch brands have seen the skyrocketing of some of their iconic models from the middle of the last century. Many have been capitalizing on this trend by creating homage pieces, re-releases of their own classics to try and meet the demand for the style, while updating the quality. Tag Heuer's Monaco [below left], a re-release of their classic Heuer Monaco [below right] now fetch sums double that of the new release:
In the TRF thread, I tried to explain my viewpoint, and how I'm approaching this problem today, a relatively new collector of vintage timepieces. Here is what I said:
I feel this is the most important debate in vintage Rolex today.
I've always loved watches since I was very young, and I arguably still am having recently turned 30. In the last handful of years I have be fortunate enough to have some disposable income to spend on this hobby, so I began to buy, and sell, and buy again. I was mostly interested in newish watches as I didn't know much about vintage and wanted to make sure I was wearing something I could truly rely on.
However the vintage stuff began to captivate me: the plexiglass crystals, the different shades of patina, silver date wheels, open 6's and 9's and all the different types of history of the buyers and the time they were made. So recently I totally changed my collecting strategy, selling anything I had that was new and I didn't have significant attachment to, in order to focus on vintage.
Simply put, I know I can buy any of the new models for the next few decades, but I feel we are in the last stages of being able to ever own the classic models from the 60s and 70s without the kind of investment I know I won't be comfortable with, especially for something so easily broken, stolen or damaged through the years.
That said, I wouldn't buy them if I didn't truly love them and want to WEAR them every day. Do I consider them a form of an investment? Well, I guess you could ask my savings account that. But one of the great things about any Rolex is that it is a way to park money while enjoying it every day.
Would I cash out my 401k in order to pick up a some serious vintage pieces? Even if it might be a much better investment in the long run, I absolutely would not. Part of this hobby is understanding the opportunity cost, the fact that each time you add a new timepiece, it means all the others will have to wait. It's part of the fun and the chase. This is especially pertinent in vintage watches where there is a real possibility they will be much more expensive by the next time you have saved up again. But there is another part of this hobby I've begun to understand which I find to be important. ThomasPP once said to me,
"Don’t be too aggressive with your budget. If you overspend and worry too much about the money, you won’t enjoy it as much as you should."
He's absolutely right. Enjoy what you have while you have the time to. I bet art collectors in the mid-20th century were annoyed that they could no longer afford decent Picasso's for their own collection. Now it seems incredible anyone could have these hanging on their dining room walls.
Fine watches are becoming no different, except you can enjoy them during every part of your day. The older ones are of course more rare, and to some more beautiful, but at the end of the day most of us get enjoy some of each, old and new. For how much longer who knows, I'm not looking to find out, which is why I'm placing emphasis on them now.
Many theories are offered as to why these vintage pieces are rising in price so quickly. Some thought it was the fault of the ultra rich, buying them up like any other precious asset, to save in their safe as another investment instrument. Others felt it is simply the march of inflation and rarity of something special.
There are many factors that can move a small, niche market like this. I'm sure a big auction house could put together a big watch sale (they already do all the time) with outrageous prices and the tide would immediately rise again. I'm sure that once the Asian continent begins to focus on vintage they will go up even more still. But whatever the cause, the effect is fairly predictable.
Most of all, I don't recommend buying a watch unless you love it and truly intend to wear it. If not for yourself, then so the rest of the collectors can see them alive and well in the wild. A vintage timepiece with a great story is the ultimate conversation starter, and the friends I've met in this hobby are some of the most interesting people I've known. So if you have the means to buy that Paul Newman Daytona, that's great, but wear it around so we can all admire and talk about it.
At some point in a watch lover's journey, he will come in contact with the YouTube channel hosted by Archie Luxury (aka Paul Pluta). Having done over 3,000 videos on watches, luxury pens and leather goods, ArchieLuxury will invariably show up during a Google search about most common watch topics.
Archie Luxury is a very polarizing figure in the community. Some people, including me, think that he is not only a seasoned collector, but a comic actor who has built a character that is a hilarious commentary on the luxury enthusiast's lifestyle. Others think he's a loud, tiresome, foul mouthed wannabe who doesn't deserve a seat at the table. Either way, he's here to stay, so you might as well have a laugh and pick up the occasional insight he drops along the way.
What is your name? Archie Luxury (aka Paul Pluta) - YouTube Celebrity and luxury goods guru
How old are you? 41 in October
What do you do for a living? I work in the waste management industry. I hope to go full time running the ArchieLuxury channel in the not too distant future.
What got you interested in watches and what do you love about them?
I have always loved beautifully made things. I love superior items. Items made to last years instead of one fashion cycle. I love mechanical things.... things with cogs, gears and not batteries!
Video answer (NSFW):
Do you have a favorite watch brand? If so, what is it and why?
Patek Philippe - The King of the Watch industry... the undisputed Rolls Royce of horology!
Video Answer (NSFW):
What watch(es) are getting your wrist time lately?
I have recently gone back to Rolex - YES - ROLEX. I love Rolex as it is so usable.... My high end - AP, JLC, PP are a bit too delicate.... with leather straps and precious metal cases.
ROLEX is so usable..... I have a Sub no date, Explorer II Polar and a DateJust.....
Also have a Tudor Heritage Monte Carlo......
Video answer (NSFW):
What watch that you own or owned had the best story you could share?
Bought my first Rolex Explorer 1 in 1990 - brand new for $1575- It was model 1016, L serial number.....
Worn it for years.... everyday watch.... my only watch.......sold it in 1998 for $7500- Not many pieces of jewelry can do that!!!!
Video answer (NSFW):
What advice would you give someone just starting out as a watch enthusiast?
Buy Rolex or Omega sports watches and try not to be a flipper.... flippers always lose money in the long run.
Rolex is ideal for every ocassion, Omega sports watches for something different.
Patek Philippe is a great holy-grail watch.
JLC as a high end watch for the enthusiast...... maybe after 5 years as a watch collector.....
Video answer (NSFW):
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Let's Look is a new feature that puts a number of similar watches, currently available, head-to-head. We will discuss value, condition, details to look for and a final verdict. A purchase rating will be applied to each item for sale, from 1-7 stars (★), ranging from 'Don't you dare' to 'Stop everything and buy this'.
1. HQ Milton Red Submariner 1680, offered at $9,900
HQ Milton, if you've never checked them out, always has a great inventory of vintage beauties, mainly from Rolex, Patek, Vacheron and Omega. They are offering this 1680 Red from 1970 with a a Mark 4 dial and creamy patina for what I feel is a reasonable price these days.
Wrist Times Breakdown:
- Great patina on the dial with a slightly more yellow color on the hands.
- Original open 6's and 9's dial.
- Bright 'Submariner' printing.
- Appears to have original 'Fat Font' bezel in good shape.
- All lume plots are even and keeping their shape.
- Very minimal corrosion on the hands.
- Great original top hat crystal.
- Some bubbling on the dial, which is a minus.
- There are a number of oily spots on the dial, not ideal but not distracting.
- Movement parts appear to be a little dirty. Between this and the dial oilspots, there may have been a 'home service' in its past.
- No boxes or papers.
- Backed by a business, not a lone seller.
- Good pricing, but with a few minor tradeoffs.
Purchase Rating: ★★★★★★☆ (6/7 Stars)
2. VRM Seller OzRolex Red Submariner 1680, offered at $9500
I like buying off forums, I just do. One big plus is that it keeps you off the grid (if that sort of thing is important to you). In addition, its nice to support the community, and if you have a relationship with a seller, you can get unheard of deals. WatchRecon turned up this 1680 which comes with a lot of great extras and looks to be in good condition.
Wrist Times Breakdown:
- Slight patina, but it is consistent across hands and dial.
- Silver open 6's and 9's dial.
- Bright 'Submariner' printing.
- No apparent corrosion on hands.
- Comes with a dome crystal, but original top hat crystal is included in purchase.
- Serviced by RSC recently, includes some paperwork, tags, green wallet and Anchor charm.
- Deep black, like new Fat Font insert.
- Updated 93150 bracelet in good condition.
- Two leather cordovan straps included.
- No movement shots.
- Polished, but thick case with good lugs.
- Excellent value due to low market price and extras included.
Purchase Rating: ★★★★★★★ (7/7 Stars)
3. eBay seller wtchmarket Red Submariner 1680, offered at $6,778)
eBay is the true watch battleground. Some hate it, some are scared of it, and some love it. I have personally bought and sold several pieces over eBay, and overall, its been a pretty positive way to get my hands on some interesting timepieces in a convenient way. Right now there is a somewhat beat up, but cheap Red Sub. Let's give it a once over.
Wrist Times Breakdown:
- Nice color patina on the dial hour markers, but a bit dirty.
- Unfortunately the hands appear to be service hands. (Notice the bright white lume)
- The bezel appears to be a replacement. (Notice the white lume pip at 0)
- A little over-polished but done well at least. Lugs are getting thin.
- Top hat crystal, either original or a replacement, unclear.
- Dubious mechanical condition and service history.
- The crown appears to be too small and incorrect.
- Large chips all around the outside of the dial, missing a lot of minute indices.
- Date wheel looks correct to be original.
- May not have the original caseback, seller is unsure.
- Very cheap, but for the same money you could have a mint 1680 White, which is likely a better move.
- Not really a collector grade piece, thus the price.
Purchase Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆ (2/7 Stars)
Disclaimer: The opinions written are for entertainment purposes only. Nothing shown is being offered for sale by Wrist Times or its affiliates or owners unless explicitly noted. Prices are subject to change without notice. Images may be digitally enhanced or altered. Details may be incorrect or assumed based on limited information. Wrist Times does not endorse, vouch or warranty any seller, buy from them at your own risk. Wrist Times does not accept or solicit compensation from watch sellers who may or may not be listed herein.
Like most watch lovers, I have my rituals. Whenever I get a new piece, I grab my old soft toothbrush and go to work with some soap and water. I do the same thing once a month thereafter because I like my watches to sparkle, and if I'm not lying I just like doing it. Gives me a chance to appreciate all the edges, bevels and all the special details we grow to love.
However, I recently bought two pieces that has introduced a whole new level of concern, the dreaded 'bracelet stretch'. The vintage 'President' and Jubiliee bracelets are prone to this malady, and I now own both. I'm lucky in that my particular Day Date has a very tight bracelet...but for how long?
After doing some research, it seemed that wearing the bracelet too tight or too loose didn't matter. Keeping it on a winder didn't matter either. What mattered was keeping the bracelet very very clean. Enter ultrasonic cleaners, everyone was talking about them. I jumped on amazon and picked up this reasonably priced Ultrasonic cleaner. So far, I'm having a blast with it, and the particular one I got came with a nice cloth and gently cleaning solution.
Ultrasonic cleaning basically works by vibrating a pool of water with an object in it. The vibrations create tiny bubbles which glom onto small particulates of dirt and debris and pull them off. Jewelery stores often offer jewelry cleaning, using the same appliance, for $30 per session. Well for basically the same price, an ultrasonic cleaner can be yours to use whenever you want.
The rules of ultrasonic cleaning when it comes to watches seem to be:
1. DON'T PUT THE WATCH HEAD IN THE CLEANING BATH
Because of the cleaning process two things can apparently happen. First, the vibrations can push bubbles past the seals and gaskets and second, the frequency of the vibration can mess with the frequency of the balance spring. The kit I bought has a special watch stand that holds the head above the water while draping the bracelet into the cleaning bath below.
Since I love to tinker with all new gadgets, I've tried it out on lots of other things too and it really works a charm, such a great investment. I've also enjoyed using the cleaning products that Varaet makes, and may post about them someday, but for now I'll leave you with my sparkly clean GMT Master...
Might as well get this out of the way now, I am a big fan of Rolex. I used to be a pretty die hard hater...until I got a Pepsi 16710 a few years ago. Since then it has been one of my favorite brands to collect, and the newer models with the updated bracelets are truly everything the brand promises to be. That said, I find the vintage models have a lot of character, history and charm to them. I posed a question recently to the gang on TheRolexForums and asked everyone to list 'Your 5 must have vintage Rolex for under $10k'. I had come up with three I really loved and was curious to see if there were some I didn't even know about that I should consider. Here is the list I walked away with, in no particular order.
#1. Rolex GMT Master 1675 'Radial' Dial - Pepsi bezel
Having had my first Rolex be a nice faded GMT Master II Pepsi dial, and my second be the new Black/Blue GMT Master II, I clearly have a thing for the GMT line. It is a great travel complication, older model bezels can be swapped quickly by yourself for many different looks and they are far less common than the Submariner. What's interesting about this particular vintage GMT is that the dial different from most GMT's you see. If you look closely, you'll notice that the hour lume plots are significantly further away from the minute lines than usual. This is what is referred to as a 'radial' dial. It is a fairly rare variant on the 1675 dial that doesn't seem completely tied to a serial number range. Radial dials can be had at the moment for around $6-8k, a normal GMT from the same time period is more like $5-6k.
#2. Rolex 1680 'Red' Submariner
I have yet to own a Submariner, but if I go vintage it will be hard to resist the temptation of the 'Red' Sub. The matte, maxi-dial (larger luminous plots) with the single, balancing line of red text is starting to rock upwards in value after the rise of its $20k+ price point big brother, the Double Red Sea-Dweller. One of the coolest features of the red submariner is the 'top hat' acrylic crystal dome that sits on top of the case. The watch has so many interesting features and is so well balanced that I feel it has to be on the vintage Rolex short list. While not the rarest, a lot of these have had new dials swapped in by the Rolex Service Centers over the years, so like anything vintage, good condition ones are hard to find. Price is still barely under $10k and climbing fast.
#3. Rolex 5513 'Gilt' Glossy dial
The 5513 is nearly where the Rolex Submariners began. After the 5512 and a few earlier models, rolex stuck with the 5513 for the longest of nearly any other production piece, starting in 1962 and ending in 1990! What's wonderful about some of these early Submariners is the simplicity. For the same reason collectors love the no-date Submariners of today, these had two simple lines of text and no date magnifier as Rolex didn't use those until basically the 1680 (above) came along.
In addition, a 'gilt' dial is one in which the text on the dial is in a golden shade of paint. As you can see on the one above, all the type and the Rolex coronet is all in a golden shade, not in white. The piece pictured is extra special (and maybe slightly out of budget) because it also has a meters first dial on the depth rating. When Rolex was mainly selling in europe, meters was the standard and feet was the secondary unit of measure. After the US market got hot for rolex, they changed all the dials over time to being 'feet first' which are far less rare. On a leather strap these are stunning, simple, purposeful early versions of the most admired watch of all time.
Git versions are just above the $10k mark, whereas white versions start much lower, especially the newer ones, which are just as wonderful but may not appreciate in value as quickly.
#4. Rolex 16758 Gold GMT Master 'Nipple Dial' with Brown Bezel
The nipple dial and all gold case are pure dirty 70s/80s. They styling and nasty brown coloring brings back yuppie businessmen with sideburns and shag carpets. The 'nipple' dial is called that because if you look closely at the hour markers, they appear to be little pyramids with a small nipple of lume. Most hour markers are almost totally covered in lume. The highlights here are the gold case, the brown dial and bezel which is a rare color for Rolex to employ and again, the GMT complication. This wouldn't be my first choice on this list, but would be so much fun to wear on a strap and enjoy on a road trip. Good examples without the gold bracelet are in the $8-10k range.
#5. Rolex 1803 Day-Date with Pie Pan dial
There's a reason the Day Date is called the President. Many of the US Presidents, starting with Eisenhower and moving on to JFK and Reagan (along with countless other world leaders) put this watch on their nightstand before they went to sleep. For around half what most of the watches on this list will cost you, you can pick up an 1803 in solid gold (head only). The 'pie pan' dial is apparent when you look at the edge of the dial where it seems to have a downward slope. If you put the dial face down it looks like a little pie pan! You get not only the kind of history that made Rolex an aspirational brand, but the Day complication which is very cool in real life. While I'm sure you usually know what day it is, letting your Rolex tell you its finally Friday is a true treat. There are lots of different dial variations as the 1803 was made for several decades, and tons exist on ebay for around $4k on a strap or $8k with the solid gold president bracelet.
Note: If you have a gold president bracelet that is saggy, check out my article on Michael Young at Classic Watch Repair who has a magical ability to tighten them again.