What To Know When Buying
A Vintage Watch

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Unless the watch was recently serviced, make a point to take it to a repair shop for cleaning, oiling, and adjustment. Expect to fork over at least $100. Fixing and servicing watches isn’t always cheap, but a good watch shouldn’t require service very often.

Movement: Repairs can vary wildly, with some fixes costing up to $1,000. If that’s the case, decide if you want to fix the watch or if it’s time to start your search over again.

Crystal: The crystal isn’t really a crystal; it’s the clear piece of glass, acrylic, or synthetic sapphire that covers the dial. If it’s gnarly and scratched, it can make a watch look, well, gnarly and scratched. But they’re a cheap fix. Replacement glass or acrylic crystals can generally be buffed or replaced for $100 or less. Synthetic sapphire are more durable, but also cost more.

Case: Inexpensive watches typically have cases that age poorly. Look for rust, discoloring in the case, or a rough, uneven texture. A lot of the old-time cases had polished coatings, or were plated with a metal that hid a cheaper metal underneath. If the case is solid metal, scratches can often be polished out. Deeper dents and blemishes might be too expensive (or impossible) to properly fix.

Dial: It should be free of discoloration, oxidation, and cracks. If it’s not, it’s fixable. Repairing watch hands can range from $50 to a few hundred bucks.

Strap: It it’s lousy or you hate it, replace it.

Ariel Adams writes about watches at ablogtoread.com,