How to buy antique watches and clocks

While demand for iconic wristwatches is booming, now could also be a great time to look at the current clock market where prices are highly affordable. However, whether you’re starting a watch collection or seeking a grandfather clock for the home there are certain key things you need to watch out for to avoid an untimely mistake.

An antique longcase or grandfather clockBad marriages

Marriages are when the dial and/or movement are “married” to a non-original case. These are relatively easy to detect. In longcase or ‘grandfather’ clocks, a  brass or silvered dial rather than a white dial is generally preferable; as well as a good quality original case, be it oak, mahogany or walnut.

Sets and match

With French sets from the likes of Sèvres porcelain or champlevé enamel, make sure the set started out life together – the clock and side ornaments (urns or candelabra, usually) will share design motifs such as the finials, decorative patterns and feet.

Moving story 

Be aware that buying a clock at auction is generally akin to buying a car – both have moving parts and may or may not go. Repairing a clock will inevitably have a further cost implication.

A vintage Seiko Chronograph watchOne to watch

Vintage Seikos from the 1970s are an area that have been previously overlooked and are starting to increase in value.

Limited appeal

Limited edition examples produced by watch-makers are good investments, as well as watches that have been specially adapted for a particular occasion, such as the Rolex Submariner that was adapted for the French diving company, COMEX

The Cartier Tank antique watchCheck list

The key elements to check are whether the watch has been recently serviced, whether it’s in good condition and if all pieces of the watch have been individually authenticated by an expert. For instance, a Rolex watch can be easily modified and its value truly affected.

Copies & counterfeits

It’s estimated that 40m fakes are made each year; compared with 30m genuine Swiss watches. As seen, you are more likely to find the fake than the genuine in many marketplaces.

Tank buster

The Cartier Tank is a design classic, and despite sympathetic changes to its design over the decades, Tank models retain several recognisable features. All models have rectangular faces and sapphire edged crowns, and most have Roman numerals on the dial.

Plain speaking 

In a genuine Rolex, the case back is usually plain metal and has no engravings, and the date will stand out. The watches are made from either stainless steel, 18k gold, or platinum. If you see a Rolex with faded gold or metal showing below the gold, it is a fake.

Stop watch

In general, it is a good idea to buy models whose production has stopped.

April 2017 issue of Antique Collecting magazineThere is much more about the current market for vintage wristwatches and antique clocks in the new horological issue of Antique Collecting – find out how to subscribe here.

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