The Difference Between Vintage and Antique Watches

The Difference Between Vintage and Antique Watches
What’s the difference between a vintage and an antique watch?
Antique watches are at least 100 years-old. Vintage watches are at least 20 years-old. Any watch under 20 years is likely to be classified as simply “old”—neither modern nor quite yet vintage.
How do I know how old my antique watch is?
To determine the age of your watch, you will need to open your watch and find the serial number on the watch’s movement. This crucial figure will indicate the manufacture date. (Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the number stamped outside on the watch case which is largely used only for identification purposes.) You can cross reference the movement’s serial number with the manufacturer’s database (most of which are listed online) to determine the year your watch was produced.
If your watch does not have a serial number, it becomes harder to trace its history—but not impossible! Antique and vintage watches require a highly trained eye to determine its age and authenticity. Therefore, we recommend reaching out to an auction house like Christie’s or Sotheby’s. Their team of experts can generally tell you via e-mail and photos if your watch is of exceptional value and worth bringing in for a more thorough review.
Which is worth more: a vintage or antique watch?
This is going to be an annoying response but: it depends. There is no hard-and-fast rule to say the older a watch, the more valuable it is.
Some vintage watches fetch jaw-dropping sums at the auction houses because they’re highly sought after by collectors who covet their prestige, history or unique qualities. To wit, the 1925 Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch fetched a whopping $24 million USD at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014.
However, other vintage timepieces are not considered “exceptional” by market standards and are not worth nearly as much. Ultimately, your watch is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
Is my watch worth less if it’s damaged?
The condition of a vintage or antique watch can actually increase if it’s gently damaged. Watch collectors oftentimes prefer a watch that has a little wear-and-tear, believing it to have more character and imbued with history. Clear signs of age like a black-turned-brown Tropical Dial or a Crazed Dial with cracked lacquer can be a boon to your watch’s resale value; for more on these desirable signs of damage, read our post “How to Start a Vintage Watch Collection” here.
However, your watch may be worth significantly less if it was damaged and then repaired. Collectors largely shy away from a vintage or antique watch that was restored and far prefer a watch that has all its original parts, even if it’s imperfect.