No question, the brand name Rolex is not only known among watch enthusiasts. The company’s products are mostly equated with luxury and status. In fact, the various timepieces made by the Swiss brand tend to move in the four- to five-digit price range.
Worth mentioning is above all the high value stability of these luxury watches. They rarely drop in price – it’s even the opposite: Especially the models whose production has since been discontinued, often increase in value and so achieve higher prices on the second-hand market among collectors. To be more precise: These models are often Rolex vintage watches. These are currently more popular than ever, because in times of low interest rates, many investors are looking for lucrative alternatives.
In the circle of watch enthusiasts, however, very different aspects than the value stability also have an important role: timepieces of bygone years exude a nostalgic charm or tell an interesting story. Which famous person wore this or that model during its lifetime? Was a certain Rolex only produced in limited quantities? And if so, how many of them are still wearable today or even very well preserved? Occasionally, many myths entwine around a model so the owner perhaps builds up a special connection to his watch. Or the year when the watch was build matches with the year of birth of the new owner. This one special watch, for which some collectors are willing to spend decades of intensive search, is also called Grail Watch, Exit Watch or even Holy Grail. Finding and then getting hands on this ultimate vintage Rolex is for many the only chance to stop the fever of collecting watches. In 2017, an enthusiast bought a Rolex Daytona Cosmograph (Ref. 6239), produced in 1968 for a whopping 15 million euros. In this case of course, the former owner was playing a not inconsiderable, if not even the main role. The Hollywood star Paul Newman received the piece with a personal dedication (Drive carefully „Me.“) from his wife, which should remind him to follow the traffic rules. Another famous actor and role model of many speed junkies, was also in possession of Rolex watches. Steve McQueen owned two Rolex Submariner and gave one to his stuntman Loren Janes. This precious gift and expression of deep gratitude („Loren, the best damn stuntman in the world.“) Would have been almost lost. When Janes‘ house burned down, he nearly declared the watch a victim of the flames. A real estate investor, however, could not (would?) believe that and asked the Janes family for permission to search in the rubble of the house. In fact, barely damaged used Submariner of the stunt man appeared in that rubble. In 2018, this vintage Submariner was auctioned of with a minimum bid of 600,000 €. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to flirt with a Rolex vintage watch.
When is a watch considered „vintage“?
To keep it short – nobody can answer the question with precision. For cars, for example, this is clearly defined: A car that is older than 30 years, is considered “old-timer”. Such a black and white classification does not exist for watches. The transition here is rather fluent – or lets call it “gray area”.
Watches are called vintage when their year of construction is more than 25 years ago. There are approaches to which all watches up to the lasting effects of the quartz crisis should be considered vintage, ie production years until the 1980s. Some say that after 20 years a watch should be considered vintage – others say after 30 years. But as we said there is no certain age for the entry into the Vintageclub. If the year of manufacture is even 100 years or more, collectors speak of antique watches.
5 Tips for Buying Vintage Watches
- Reputation of the seller
It is important to check before buying a vintage watch. Whether this is done via threats in online forums, Facebook groups or through certification badges and seals such as Trusted Shops is up to you. However, keep in mind that there are tons of replicas. And just as many dubious people who are looking for quick, easy money. In the best case scenario, have the watch of your consideration inspected by a specialist before purchase or even buy it directly from such a specialized business partner. If an offer sounds „too good to be true“, keep your hands off it.
- Intensive research
Find out more about the model you would like to purchase. Starting with the reference number up to the number of pieces produced, movement and what special features the watch has to offer – all this you should know and make use of in the assessment. A good point to start is Google. Here you can certainly come across smaller websites, which deal exclusively with vintage models of very specific brands. Such pages or forums can prove to be incredibly useful – but even books have proven themselves, because at the time when the timepieces in question was launched, there was no Internet. In addition to these sources catalogs of various auction houses are very useful too. Catalogs are usually documenting goods very precisely.
- Information about the service history
Similar to the used car purchase, the checkbook which comes with the watch is a great documentation over perceived revisions etc.. It would be utopian to expect bills from the 1950s, yet a luxury watch should be regularly maintained. Over time, it may be necessary to replace parts or gaskets. However, this is perfectly fine and normal, only the quality of the work done is crucial. If it can be proven that the clock after the first purchase was ever with a good watchmaker, that’s a good sign. If the model also has a good condition, you can consider this item as checked.
There have been cases where a vintage watch was bought on the basis of a photograph on which a famous person of past decades allegedly wore exactly this watch. Of course you do not fall for such a creative attempts at deception, you only rely on genuine proofs of origin. This can be invoices stating the correct serial and / or movement number and original papers with stamps or warranty certificate. Of course, you will also let go of such watches, where your gut feeling says „Attention, stolen goods!“. With private sales, there is always a certain risk involved, the safest option is and will remain a designated, certified point of sale.
- Where to Find Vintage Watches
A safe option to purchase a vintage watch are auction houses. Certainly because the watch in question is authenticated, since the auction house will not risk its reputation. Noteworthy: However, that the selling price due to other bidders and prospects is not fixed from the beginning and may increase significantly under certain circumstances. In addition, a commission fee for the auction house is to be paid in addition to the selling price.
The situation is different with certified dealers. Again, you can be sure to get an original, the price is set before the sale. Whether you buy offline or online is up to you. The advantage of buying offline is that you can watch in person in advance. Online you will get the 14-day money back guarantee- no questions asked. You can also compare different providers quick and easy.
If have an account on watch forums, sooner or later you will find tempting offers. The members of such forums usually know about the matter and there is a lively exchange, which you can use to find out more about a watch. But beware, here everyone can offer everything – stay suspicious!
Watch fairs are the linchpin for many traders. The downside that awaits you here is the time. Because you will have little of it, often you have to decide immediately for a purchase. Therefore, you can not check the watch in peace. You should therefore always insist on a guarantee or at least a right of return, otherwise nothing speaks against the purchase here.
Also on Facebook or Ebay watches are offered for sale. For Facebook, there are often „non-public“ groups that you first have to get into. How you should deal with offers from uncertified individuals, you have already been able to internalize in the first part of the article. Nevertheless, here again: Be vigilant and remain suspicious!
Some Rolex models of past years
In addition to the famous individual pieces, for which several million were handed over, you can also get real jewelry for a ton less money. In our onlineshop you will find at any time you will find models that are not produced by the Swiss luxury company anymore. For example, the following:
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 8933
Year 1933 / Condition Worn / Including: Certificate of Authenticity and Warranty
Price: 3.140,- €
This elegant men’s watch with yellow gold case and a fine silver-toned dial has a diameter of 33 mm. The mixture of dash indices and Arabic numerals, as well as the brownish-red leather strap, lend this vintage Rolex its timelessness and elegance.
Rolex Submariner Ref. 6536
Year 1957 / Condition Worn / Including: Original papers, Certificate of Authenticity and Warranty
Price 32.990,- €
The special feature of this second hand Rolex Submariner lies in one detail: The small inscription SWISS – T <25 indicates that the luminous material used is made with tritium. This watch was one of the first models to be released without the highly radioactive radium. An absolute rarity and attraction for collectors of used luxury watches.
Rolex Cellini Cal. 1600
Year of construction: 1960 / Condition: Worn / Including: Certificate of authenticity and guarantee
Price: 2.330,- €
Description: This 25mm small rarity is a ladies model. The champagne-colored dial shows only the Rolex crown, the signature of the series and the hour and minute hands. The number of hours can be found as Roman numerals on the edge of the case again.
At the end of the day …
… it’s up to you which model you choose. Likewise, where you buy it. We have shown you in this article what to look for when buying. We also have explained to you what a vintage watch actually is and hopefully brought the fascination behind these timepieces a bit closer. Therefore, we wish you a lot of fun searching, a lot of success in the purchase and a lot of joy in wearing!