This question gets asked a lot as many people try and equate the process of buying a vintage watch with that of buying a used car.
One careful Vicar owner who only used it on Sundays.
I’m afraid life is never simple with vintage watches and unlike used vehicles they don’t come with a mandatory record of previous owners. It’s probably just as well as I’ve seen some great watches change owners 5 times over the course of a few hours in a trading room or fair. The thing is good watches change hands and are traded like currency. Some watches will have literally hundreds of owners in it’s lifetime, and are maybe never even worn, some just have one owner. Neither scenario tends to correlate with condition.
What about Service History?
Vintage watches also don’t come with service history. In 14 years of trading thousands of watches I’ve never seen documents showing more than say one or two services over a 40 year period. Regular servicing is only required if a watch is being worn regularly, it’s pointless servicing a watch and then storing it for 10 years as it will need to be serviced again when worn. Conversely if a watch is worn constantly for 40 years without servicing the major components will wear out. Some of the worst watches we see are those constantly disassembled and reassembled by semi blind watchmakers leaving scratched and worn dials and damaged/missing screws/ bent pinions etc. and some of the best are those that haven’t ever been serviced in their lifetime.
Condition, condition, condition.
In short each watch must be assessed on the condition it presents in. Buying from a knowledgeable dealer helps as does ensuring the dealer offers a return for refund policy if the watch doesn’t suit and a warranty. All our Omegas are fully serviced which means complete disassembly, clean, inspection, parts replaced if required, (which is rare on Omegas as they are incredibly hard wearing), reassembly and oiling.
Buying the wrong watch can prove to be expensive, and we regularly take into our workshop, horrors purchased from our favourite auction site which need a great deal of work to get them to perform correctly.