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Vintage Watches (Pt.1): Tips from a Watch Dealer & Collector

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 1 October 2017

We have a thing for watches. Vintage watches that have already lived a long life and are still here to bear witness to their history. They often make our hearts skip a beat. When we gaze at a homogeneous patina on the markers of a perfectly preserved dial, we feel something inside us quite simply inexplicable. We possess a few of these treasures, and this passion has even led us to make it a part of our profession. This should be of no surprise to you. To be properly prepared for this perilous mission, we have surrounded ourselves appropriately. Clement is our “treasure hunter.” Founder of the Epoq Store website, we can now see his unearthed watch and design treasures on the Joseph Bonnie online store.

Joseph Bonnies - Limited Editions

Clément is a watch dealer. Traveling the world to buy and sell watches is his day and night job. Also, and above all, he is a passionate collector. I should even say that Clement became a dealer because he was so passionate. After studying Law, choosing this difficult profession was neither logical nor the only option.

Who better positioned to advise you than the one who advises us. He is someone who we listen to very carefully, and with whom we have already learned a great deal. We have very similar tastes and the same passion for beautiful stories: those that are told by sometimes worn hands and yellowed markers. We leave you with him today…

Clement’s advice on buying a watch

The choice of a watch, especially when it comes to a vintage one is very tricky. Some people mistakenly think it is an “easy” job where only the size of the wallet rules. Quite on the contrary, as when it’s full people generally tend to throw themselves on anything and everything… even if it means making “false good deals.”

Choosing a watch is a meticulous job. Everything matters, especially when dealing with vintage. Every detail from the movement, to the dial, to the finish of the case, and above all… the origin. Whether you are a dealer or a collector, the approach must be the same. Several steps are to be respected if you don’t want the misfortune of purchasing something short-lived.

So here are some steps to follow that will save you from errors and disappointment:

1. Define a Budget

This is top priority. Know that in the watch world, contrary to other vintage objects, “the prices are made.” What does this mean? Quite simply it’s very easy for a seller (private or professional) to inquire about prices, especially now with internet. Thus, there are few or no secrets. When there is one, the retention of information is frowned upon in this sector.

Conclusion: Set a budget according to the quote of the model(s) and be ready to exceed it reasonably if you truly fall for the piece or you find it particularity interesting.

2. Target a Few Specific Models

Are you lucky enough to put a little bit of money aside to really treat yourself? All the better…

First of all, I would like to point out that collecting should primarily be about passion and not about speculation, even if it is sometimes a question of “investment.” When you have your budget clearly defined, now it’s the time of choice. Which model to focus on? The choice in vintage is enormous: divers, chronographs, military watches, etc.  There are vintage watches of superb quality for all types of budgets and each of them is interesting if well chosen.

Tudor - Submariner 79090 (Nato)

My advice is to select between 1 and 5 models for two reasons: first not to lose yourself in your choices, then to not miss the golden opportunity if it presents itself. You’ll avoid missing out on a rare diver you would love to have just because you were too focused on a chronograph!

Conclusion: Target between 1 and 5 specific models.

3. Do Your Research

Sometimes my friends and colleague collectors take me for a real psychopath. However, it seems to me essential to learn about his “prey(s)” beforehand and to bear particular interest (love?) for them. I do not pretend that it is necessary to know everything on the subject, but collecting a certain amount of information in order to not make basic mistakes is essential: date of creation, movement(s), configuration at the release date, etc.

Conclusion: Inquire via specialized websites, forums, books, or dealers with experience.

4. Analyze the Watch Swiftly & Meticulously

This is it. It’s time. Your prey is ready to come out of its den. We must act…and fast. Adrenaline intervenes and the real test arrives. Should I intervene? Am I familiar with my subject? Is the piece authentic? Are there any unacceptable defects? Am I respecting my budget? The purchase must be the result of work you have done upstream.

Conclusion: Are you sure? Go ahead, do not ask too many questions. Are you in doubt? The answer is in the question. In the world of art dealers and collectors, an adage answers this question: “When there is doubt… there is no longer any doubt.”

I hope that these few lines will help the most skeptical among you to take action and put the brakes on the most hot-headed.


Clement, Treasure Hunter for Joseph Bonnie.