In 1904 Cartier created the first men's wristwatch for pilot Albert Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece he could read without taking his hands off the yoke. A century later, men lust after vintage watches not as objects of practicality (we have cell phones for that), but as wearable history. Going vintage can seem daunting at first – all the jargon and the ever-present worry of being ripped off – but if you go in knowing just what to expect, you'll come out with the watch you've always wanted.
Where to buy vintage watches.
Half the thrill of buying a vintage watch is finding a deal. Here's how.
The best: Dedicated watch dealers include Robert Maron Important Wristwatches (L.A. area), Matthew Bain Inc. (Miami Beach), and Aaron Faber Gallery (New York City).
Pros:Dealers have knowledgeable staffs and established networks for tracking down that rare Omega you've always wanted. And they will usually accept watch trade-ins.
Cons:Not many deals to be had. You'll almost always end up paying the retail price, which is inevitably more than what the same watch would sell for at an auction or on an online forum.
The best: Well-established operations include Antiquorum, Sotheby's, and Patrizzi & Co.
Pros: You've got the best chance of finding a rare watch at a low price at auction, as long as demand isn't high. And you'll get some time to handle the watch.
Cons: Going to auctions can be a time suck. You'll get to handle the watch only for a short while, and there's no guarantee you'll win the one you want.
The best: Bustling watch-nerd forums include Chrono24.com, Vintagerolexforum.com, and Watchuseek.com.
Pros: If you take the time to be part of the forum community, you'll know who you're buying from. Prices are generally lowest – though avoid scam-filled eBay.
Cons:You won't get to hold the watch at all before buying. Also, while most offer a refund if you're unhappy, there's not much recourse if you get screwed.
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