Collecting Antique Watches For The Novice

In a world where virtually everyone relies on their smartphones and technology, are wristwatches on their way to obsolescence? According to a recent article, they may be. After all, who needs a watch when you can simply look at your phone, computer screen, or simply ask Alexa, "what time is it?"

Not to mention, two full generations have now been raised on digital timepieces rather than analog timepieces. Just as some people are now unable to read cursive writing, some people struggle to read a traditional clock face. Additionally, for the first time in history, Apple digital smartwatches outsold Swiss timepieces during the 2017 holiday season.

What does this mean for the antique jewelry sector? It could mean buying and selling antique wristwatches might be a good investment for the future. Here is what the novice antique wristwatch collector should look for.

Who Made The Wristwatch?

Like almost all things antique, who manufactured the piece of jewelry or wristwatch is a huge indicator as to value. Rolex is probably the most well-known watch manufacturer in the world. This Swiss-based watchmaker and its parent company, Fondation Hans Wilsdorf, has been in business since 1905, initially operating under the moniker Wilsdorf and Davis.

While most wristwatches have their name clearly marked on the timepiece face, some require removing the back to determine the manufacturer. Additionally, fashion designers and jewelry makers may have a wristwatch line, but the manufacturer is likely outsourced rather than creating it in-house. A watch may same the designer name on its face but list a different manufacturer on the back of its case or inside the piece itself. The savvy wristwatch investor will research each new manufacturer they come across and educate themselves before buying a piece.

What Condition Is The Wristwatch In?

Just as with virtually every other collectible, what condition the item is in will largely determine its value. Generally, the better shape a wristwatch is in, the higher the value will be assessed. Of course, this can vary, particularly if a piece has a provenance. A provenance is basically the verifiable history of who owned a piece and during what time period. For example, if one of American writer Mark Twain's — a watch investor himself — watches were to go on the auction block, a few scratches on the face would matter far less and may even increase the value. The rarity of a piece may also be more forgiving when it comes to condition.

Who Is Selling The Wristwatch?

Purchasing a watch via one of the popular online auction sites isn't a good idea for the novice watch collector. Instead, you should only deal with a professional who specializes in antique jewelry services.