How to collect vintage watches like a pro

With fleeting trends, counterfeit calibres, and market mayhem, the charming but challenging pastime of collecting vintage watches is best done with the help of professionals who know the business.

9th November 2023

At Panache Luxury Watches, our chief recommendation is to take some time to understand your style and interests. A valuable vintage watch is one that speaks to you. A collector’s item ought to reflect the collector in some way, with a particular aesthetic, history, or craftsmanship that captures your affections for a lifetime to come. But beyond sentimentality, a collection of vintage watches can count for a lucrative investment.

Advice from vintage watch specialist, Mike Nouveau, reveals the secrets behind the watch-buying business. Nouveau has reached viral success amassing an impressive vintage watch collection of his own. His content mentors how to find and bargain for flea market hidden gems, alongside his popular watch-spotting videos and celebrity cameos.

Nouveau exposes scams, announces market trends, and details the history of luxury watches. His crucial lesson in watch buying is to opt for high-quality timepieces that will maintain value over time; a Swiss-made model with in-house movement is a strong place to start.

At Panache, we have our own body of knowledge built through years of industry experience, so here are our top tips on how to collect vintage watches like a professional.

A notable name

Do Rolex watches hold their value? Do Cartier watches hold their value? Do Jaeger LeCoultre? Or Patek Philippe? These questions have reliable answers and the short of it is: yes.

Investing in a watch that boasts an internationally renowned brand name is a sure way to secure popular interest for your timepiece long into the future. Cartier’s London Tank Cintree is number one on Nouveau’s list of Holy Grail vintage pieces, followed by the Rolex Day Date and the iconic Patek Philippe 1518.

It’s not uncommon for collectors to enjoy focusing on one or a few brands. Doing so provides a level of confidence in the collection as a means of investment, allowing the hobby to be more about passion and much less of a gamble.

The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, the owner of Rolex, understands the importance of a name and the brand represents an incredible marketing feat. The very name Rolex has become synonymous with accomplishment, success, and luxury, routinely elicited in rap music, showcased on the red carpet, and even adorned by U.S. presidents. Any vintage Rolex will have a respectable place in the second-hand market for generations to come. So if you are venturing into watch collecting and looking to make a savvy personal finance decision, the phrase ‘Rolex is king’ is a good motto.

Remember: rarity is renowned

What sets vintage watches apart from their modern counterparts is that they are an investment in exclusivity. Vintage watches are more likely to be discontinued or limited editions, promising the buyer a privileged piece of history.

There are, of course, some vintage models that stand out. To agree with Nouveau, the Patek Philippe 1518 in steel is a notoriously generous investment piece. The model holds the title of the most mammoth resale price known to the second-hand market, going for $7.3 million (roughly just shy of £6 million).

The 1518 was first constructed during an embargo on gold in the 1940s; explaining Patek Philippe’s venture into steel watchmaking. In addition to its historical poignancy, the watch is all the more exclusive considering its original debut was limited to the Italian market. Its craftsmanship is but another example of the 1518 exceptional status, with Patek Philippe’s engineers inventing the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch. All considered, the 1518 is an example of a truly singular and remarkable timepiece and this rarity isreflected in the forever climbing monetary value of the 1518.

If you're looking for something a little more affordable that still has a promising unique quality, a Rolex pocket watch is an excellent way to spend a few hundred pounds. These models have the charm and prestige of luxury sporting horology without the steep price tag. With a distinct, timeless design, limited range, and all-important trusted name recognition, a Rolex pocket watch can be a smart modest investment that will reliably accumulate value over the years.

Scrutinise your sources

With the internet has come unprecedented access to information, which can be both a blessing and a curse for vintage watch collecting. Whilst a collector might be connected to their perfect timepiece from anywhere across the world thanks to the web, there is also the reality of misinformation and a thriving counterfeit market online.

At Panache, we have created guides to protect watch enthusiasts from fraudulent sellers, detailing how you can tell if a Cartier watch is real, along with similar guides on IWC and Breitling watches. For more information on how to securely navigate the market, it’s best to seek the advice of those who have hands-on experience. You can contact our team of professionals for expert opinion and, if you’re ready to sell your watch, receive a free, no-obligation quote today.

Carefully consider condition

Before securing a new addition to your collection, you’ll want to get your hands on it to check it still functions. It’s normal for vintage pieces to appear rough around the edges, but ensuring your model still ticks and the crown still has its control function is a must.

Contrary to popular amateur assumptions, however, a good collector's item does not have to be flawless- far from it. Most enthusiasts would relish an unpolished original dial as opposed to an overly renovated and immaculate timepiece. Authenticity has become a favoured quality over perfection in recent years. Intensive polishing is thought to threaten original features on vintage models, and with that comes a threat to all a watch’s most charming aspects, so don’t be deterred by a few scratches.

Panache Luxury Watches

If you’re itching to dive deeper into the world of luxury watches, Panache is a long-trusted voice in the business. Our team is home to Birmingham’s iconic Jewellery Quarter, where we ensure selling your pre-owned watch is a safe, stress-free endeavour.

In the meantime, we have written guides to the 10 most famous watches of all time and 5 reasons to invest in a luxury watch. We’re here to answer questions from the beginners to the complex. Perhaps you’re curious as to how watch collecting is a smart financial move, or simply starting with what hand to wear a watch. Our team of friendly professionals is at your assistance.

So contact Panache today to begin your venture as a luxury watch seller.

Sell Your Watch.

Selling your pre-owned watch has never been easier. Simply fill in our online valuation form to receive your free, no-obligation quote today.

Sell My Watch