How much is my vintage watch worth? What can I do to further increase sale price?

How much is my vintage watch worth? What can I do to further increase sale price?

Whether you inherit the watch from your great grandmother or find it at a flea market, there are some key do’s and don’ts for handling your vintage timepiece to ensure it retains its value. We queried watch enthusiasts and gleaned some great tips on how to take care of that special collector’s piece.

Niamh Jordan

Niamh Jordan

Niamh Jordan, Founder of Which Watch Next, a blog dedicated to all things to do with watches and the watch industry.

Don’t Polish the Watch to Increase the Price

Vintage watches can sell for as little as a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars. The sale price of a vintage watch depends on who made the watch, the model of that watch, the condition of the watch, and also the scarcity and popularity of the watch today.

If you own a vintage watch, the number one thing to do is avoid polishing your vintage watch. Or at the very least do not over-polish it.

There has been a big trend in recent years for many vintage watch collectors seeking out unpolished vintage watches. However, unpolished vintage watches are extremely rare. If you ever find one or find a vintage watch that looks untouched, the best thing to do is to keep it that way.

Make sure it never gets a polish, and keep it stored and in great condition. This will be sure to increase the price of your vintage watch over the years.

If you send it on to be serviced, be careful who you send it to. Make sure to state that you do not want a polish included in the watch service.

Philipp Zeiske

Philipp Zeiske

Philipp Zeiske, CEO of Zeitholz.

Keep It in the Best Condition for Higher Selling Price

Getting a good price for your vintage watch comes down to the make, condition, and market demand. For example, a well-kept Rolex watch could fetch you anywhere from $15,000 to upwards of $50,000.

If you feel that your vintage watch isn’t in its peak condition, there’s a certain amount of restoration that can get you to get a better price. However, the keyword here is subtlety. Don’t forget that the rustic and aged appeal of vintage watches is what makes them so desirable — you don’t want to overdo anything. Similarly replacing too many parts can backfire and bring down the value of the watch.

Depending on the condition of your watch, you can do the following:

  • Polish, refinish and shine the existing case and band
  • Clean out and lubricate the movements
  • Adjust inaccuracies in time-keeping
  • Missing or broken crowns should be replaced
  • Use ultrasonic cleaning to remove dirt from the watch hands but refrain from polishing them

Above all else, ensure that you’re keeping your vintage watch in the very best condition when it’s not in use.

James Harford-Tyrer

James Harford-Tyrer

James Harford-Tyrer is the Founder and CEO of Cudoni, a market-leading luxury fashion resale marketplace that has raised $9M in venture capital to date.

Have It Checked Out by an Expert Watchmaker

Vintage watches can sell for a very wide range of prices, depending on the brand, the year it was made and the condition it is in. For example, a Rolex Explorer II can fetch twice its original price, which could be as much as $40,000. A vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre military pocket watch, on the other hand, might go for just $2,000. When you’re buying or selling a vintage watch, it’s important to understand the characteristics of the piece to determine its value.

Take excellent care of your piece. Store it properly in its original box and take it to either a general watchmaker or a brand-specific expert to have it inspected, cleaned, repaired, and restored if need be. That said, sometimes leaving it in its original condition can make it more appealing to collectors who might prefer that watch unpolished and without any added elements that aren’t true to the watch’s design.

Keep all of its paperwork so you can prove its authenticity and if you don’t have that paperwork, take it to someone who can give it a proper valuation. Then, choose the right platform to sell your watch on.

Sometimes wear and tear can increase the value of a watch. For example, some vintage watches might have their feature dials finished with low-quality paint. That paint might fade and discolor over time, but that change can drive up the price of the watch, even though it isn’t technically in its original condition. So, it’s important to thoroughly understand the brand, model, and provenance of a watch to determine if you’re getting what you’re paying for. Again, another reason to go with a trusted seller.

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