FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I'm a little nervous about buying an expensive vintage watch over the Internet. How do I know that your watches are all absolutely genuine?
This is a sensible and natural concern, and one that we are asked about a lot. We try to simplify things and address this in the following way:
Firstly, we assure you that all of our watches are 100% genuine, authentic and completely original. As you will see, this is clearly stated in all of our listings. By this, we mean no after-market internal parts, or worse, no molestation of the movement! All the numbers on the movement are correct, the watch case is properly hallmarked and marked with the branding and references which match the date of the watch – the watch also has the correct dial for the model and year. We take all of this very seriously and we stand by it with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which covers every watch we sell. This states that: If a watch proves to be anything less than 100% genuine, not authentic, or not as described, Vintage Watch Centre Limited will provide a full refund at any time.* See further details below.
We also issue a Certificate of Authenticity with the sale of every watch, certifying that your watch has been fully inspected and is completely genuine.
We are happy to speak with you for as long as you wish and to discuss any aspects of any watch, chat with you about our service, and help you to become as comfortable and happy as possible before you proceed with your potential purchase!
If after receiving your watch you decide you would prefer to return it, within the first 14 days, this is also no problem. This applies to the UK and European Union countries only. For countries further afield please enquire.
As we are sure you would expect, we source our watches very carefully, buying nearly all our watches from a select group of trade suppliers whom we have known and trusted for many years. These ‘dealer’s dealers’ are very well established and also have strong reputations to protect. Additionally, of course, we rely on the decades of experience of our watchmakers and restoration team who inspect and confirm the authenticity of each and every watch we sell.
*Our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ is provided with every watch we sell. This states: “If your watch proves to be anything less than 100% genuine, authentic and original, we will provide you with a full refund at any time”. We do this, not only for your reassurance, but ours. This is because if we make a mistake we would prefer to be the first to know and have an opportunity to provide you with an immediate remedy. We take this very seriously, so when you buy a watch from us, you have 100% confidence, faith and reassurance.
We also try to provide you with some of the highest possible resolution photographs available on the internet. This is to give both expert and inexperienced buyers alike, the best possible view of each and every watch, from each and every angle! In fact, our photographs are so large that you will be able to see the watch in much more detail (including the movement) than you would otherwise see if the watch was bought over the counter on Bond Street London or the Burlington Arcade in London W1 – indeed, more so than if the watch was on your wrist or even under a high power magnifying glass.
To see the highest resolution photographs, click on any photograph to take you to the Product Description page, then click again on any picture to show the large photographs which you can scroll through easily by clicking on the right or left-hand arrows which appear halfway down the photo (on the left or right). Now, to see the largest sized photograph, click on the photo again to see a giant-sized hi-res photo. These are some of the largest from any vintage watch dealer on the internet!
Incidentally, a quick word about fake/copy watches. For a number of reasons it is more difficult and much less lucrative to recreate a vintage watch as opposed to a new, or nearly new one. Therefore, there are far fewer fake/copy vintage watches around when compared to their more contemporary counterparts. If a fake/copy vintage watch is produced, it is much more likely to be of a very particular, high-end watch.
For a little extra reassurance, all our watches are also listed (at slightly higher prices) on eBay, where the founder of Vintage Watch Centre Limited has traded in vintage watches and vintage toys since 1998 and has always maintained 100% positive feedback.
Please check our 16+ pages of 100% positive eBay feedback here.
How do I know if a vintage watch I want to purchase elsewhere is an original or a fake?
This is a simple question with a complicated answer. Our advice here lies with reputation. Prior to the popularisation of online shopping, one would purchase a watch from a retailer who was known for selling quality items – they would have a good reputation. Hypothetically speaking, if this jeweller unknowingly sold a fake it would prove disastrous for their reputation and undoubtedly damage the chances that people would buy from them again. Unfortunately, this simple, black and white approach to retail has been severely affected by internet shopping where customers are being more frequently challenged to sort the good from the bad.
We have found ourselves stunned at the lengths criminals will go to make a vintage watch appear as something that it is not; hiding lesser movements below a signed plate, adding prominent signatures to dials of a lesser watch, perhaps even replacing the crown to match.
Therefore, the only real advice we can give you is to know with whom you are dealing. Deal with established people who have reputations to uphold and who cannot simply disappear into thin air if a mistake is made. We would also advise you that if the price of a watch seems too good to be true, it probably is…
We on the other hand service all of our watches and completely disassemble the movement to clean and confirm the authenticity of the piece; we stand behind the authenticity of all the watches we sell. We strive to use new original parts whenever possible, but if we are unable to do this for whatever reason, rest assured, we will use good quality, second-hand original parts that have been salvaged from original movements of the same brand and calibre.
I feel reassured, but who are you?
‘Vintage Watch Centre’ is a partnership, based in Bayswater, London W2. The two partners have a considerable history with watches, each having over 25-years of experience in collecting, buying and selling vintage watches. Vintage Watch Centre therefore offers a combination of strong experience and the old-fashioned values for attention that one might experience in a luxury boutique, but with the added bonus of lower internet prices. Due to the fact that we have no permanent physical presence in the form of a shop front, our overheads are low and we can therefore afford to reflect this with our prices. To prove our point, we could steer you towards some fantastic London store based vintage watch dealers, however, you will likely find that their prices will exceed our own, costing double and sometimes treble what you see on our website in order to cover the cost of maintaining a physical presence on a high street.
Who are the partners?
Alan is the principal partner who has been collecting watches for decades. In 2010 he took the plunge and decided to convert his paying hobby into a full-time business. Brian, the second partner, assisted him with this, adding his expertise gained from decades of collecting and trading watches into the mix.
Martyn, another watch collector, joined us in 2012 and he was closely followed by Louise who handles our accounts. Working tirelessly behind the scenes, we have a team of 3 genius watchmakers who conduct the restoration and repair section of our operation alongside the UK’s foremost dial restorer and an experienced watch-case maker. Whilst they are technically working for us independently, we consider them our business partners due to the fact that we work so closely with them.
I’d like to see a particular watch before committing to purchase. How should I go about this?
If you would prefer to see a watch in the metal before committing to a purchase, this is easily achievable. The simplest way is to place an order; once your watch arrives, you have up to 14 days to return it if you decide that it is not for you. One could almost treat this experience as one’s own personal showroom viewing without the hassle of having to travel to your local boutique. As long as the watch is returned safely to us within 14 days (in the condition in which you received it) you will be provided with a full refund as soon as the watch has been checked back into stock. This is called our “14 day no quibble sale or return policy”.
If you reside within the UK, Royal Mail’s next day special delivery service is how we will deliver the watch to you; if you decide to return a watch to us, we would politely ask if you could use the same service. This will cost you approximately £11 including insurance.
Please note – we fit new, high-quality, mostly genuine crocodile alligator or lizard straps to each of our watches, so therefore, if the strap shows signs of wear we reserve the right to charge for a replacement strap at our cost price.
Please note – If you are situated outside of the European Union, our 14 days return policy does not apply.
I would prefer to visit you to view a watch before I pay for it. How can we arrange this?
If you would prefer to avoid posting a watch back and forth and instead come to us to see the watch, please make an appointment to meet with us at our customer reception lounge at Vintage Watch Centre Ltd, Kensington Pavilion, 96 Kensington High Street, London, W8 4SG.
We recommend booking an appointment on a Saturday morning/early afternoon, however, if you are unable to make it on this day, we could comfortably arrange an appointment on a Friday afternoon. Whilst these are the times that we have found work best, we may be able to arrange an appointment for another weekday afternoon, although this will require a longer notice period.
Please note: if coming to us directly and viewing the watch in our customer reception lounge results in a purchase, our 14 day no quibble sale or return policy does not apply – all other terms with regards to our 12-month warranty and Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee will remain the same.
Will you hold a watch for me while I get the money together to pay for it?
We are open to discuss this with you and negotiate an arrangement that satisfies both parties, however, if you require more than 24 hours we will request a 20% holding deposit. You may then take up to 8-months to pay the balance. We will not charge you any interest since the date of the sale is delayed to coincide with the date of your last payment.
Be advised that we will retain the watch in our safe until the full price of the watch has been payed for; while it is in our possession it cannot be bought from under you.
Which payment methods do you accept?
We accept cash on personal collection, however, we would recommend using PayPal, bank transfer, or using debit and credit cards in person (chip and pin).
If you wish to pay by chip and pin but not in person, we will provide you with a PayPal invoice by email. Your payment will then be redirected through PayPal to us, after which, we will release your watch. This process usually takes a few moments and you will be provided with proof of your purchase as well as ‘belt and braces’ Paypal and Credit Card Company Protection.
For reasons a little too complicated to go into here, our bank has advised not to accept Credit or Debit Card payments over the telephone and not to accept any form of paper cheques other than a ‘Banker’s Draft’. For Bank Transfers (Wire) and Bankers Drafts, Photographic ID may be requested. Please allow 2 days for funds to be cleared and for administration and security checks to be carried out.
Need a little extra time to pay for your watch?
If you have fallen in love with a watch you see here on our website but it has come along at the wrong time for you financially, then perhaps our ‘Layaway’ facility is for you! We will take a 20% deposit and provide you with a sales invoice for the watch at full price. We will then mark the watch as sold so that it cannot be bought from under you while you settle the balance. You will now have up to 8-months to pay for the watch in 10% monthly instalments. We do not charge interest as no loan is taken out!
Why are the prices of your watches cheaper here than on Chrono24 or eBay?
We advertise nearly all of our watches on Chrono24 and eBay. These platforms typically charge 10% service fee from the final sale which forces us to put the price up slightly. By buying directly from us, you can expect to save around 10% on your watch which usually equates to a saving of between £100 and £500!
You may also save around 3% by paying us by bank transfer or cheque, instead of by PayPal, Visa, Mastercard or Amex etc. Please call or send an email to email@example.com if you wish to pay by Bank Transfer; remember to request this discount and we will be pleased to assist.
What are your favourite watches?
It is the elegance of the 1950’s Rolex models, the Precision and the Oyster Perpetual dress watches, that has always captivated us the most. Moving away from the sports models for which Rolex are most known for, the Submariner and the Daytona, the dress watches from this period provide a level of sophistication that challenge even the most esteemed Swiss watch houses. The Oyster Perpetual in particular, with clean cut design lines that have gone largely unchanged since the 1960’s, is proving to be one of the most timeless designs of all time.
My heart is set on one of your watches, but my mind is telling me to resist! I really would like to buy, but I'm having trouble taking the plunge... Help! Please could you give me some good, sound reasons for spending such a large amount of money on a vintage watch?
We know exactly how you feel, we’ve been there many times before. Here are some of the benefits of owning a vintage watch that we have experienced, and also some reasons that you should consider one for yourself!
- A vintage watch will turn heads; less people own a vintage watch when compared to a modern one, and as such, you can expect to stand out from the crowd!
- A vintage watch is better value for money than a modern one.
- A vintage watch has already been through its depreciation curve and it will not plunge in value as soon as you buy it, in fact, it will continue to appreciate in value from the moment you take it home.
- You should consider a vintage watch because of the “simplicity and truth of a well-made thing”.
- Be honest with yourself, you’ve always promised yourself a vintage watch…
- A vintage watch makes the perfect heirloom piece.
- A vintage watch makes for the perfect anniversary or birthday present.
- Life is short and we should enjoy the wondrous beauties the world has to offer – a vintage watch for example.
There are many more good reasons besides these! In fact, our customers give us great reasons all the time!
I've fallen for one of your watches, but I need to get this past my partner, any ideas?
The reality is that watches are luxury goods so the ‘need’ to buy them rarely occurs. That means for many, they naturally fall very low (some say too low) on life’s list of priorities, and most definitely do not out-rank things like kids, mortgages and school fees. Unless your partner shares your passion, I’d gamble and say they don’t think that your wrist darlings are as important as we otherwise might hope. So, the perennially thorny question is: “How do I buy this watch with my partner’s blessing?”
Having thoroughly researched this (see here), it seems there are probably are eight strategies which will get you closer to your dream watch. Word to the wise before reading on, you know your spouse better than we do, so pick the best method that works for you.
1. “It’s an investment, darling” – Telling your partner that a watch purchase will be an ‘investment’ is one of the more popular methods amongst collectors. After all, where better to park your money than a vintage Rolex? Sure, blue chip stocks pay dividends, but they can’t tell the time! Success Rate – Moderate.
2. Passion over price – Our second method, ‘passion over price’, means knowing the watch inside and out. You’ve memorised reference numbers and movements, dials, hands, straps – everything. Basically, you know this watch better than the watchmakers who made it. The goal here is to blow your partner off their feet. Not only that, but you’ll also have a watertight case when quizzed on the price. You’ve really put the effort into researching this piece, so clearly you deserve it. Success Rate – Moderate.
3. Cost per wear – This one is simple and self-explanatory. The real beauty of this method is that you can fudge the numbers as most high quality timepieces are made to last several lifetimes. Do I think it’s unreasonable to assume 50 years of wear? No, no I don’t. After all, who’s to say you won’t live to 125? Calculating your CPW also helps you justify the price you’re paying, in case you’re having second thoughts. Warning: Calculations may come into question if you own multiple watches. Success Rate – Moderate.
4. The Secret’ method (live and breathe the watch) – ‘The Secret’ method relies heavily on the power of positive thinking. Visualise the watch on your wrist, imagine the great wrist shots you will take. Picture the endless strap combinations you could play around with. Vocalise all of this. The strategy here is to talk about your grail non-stop, and we mean non-stop – eventually boring your partner to the point of submission (I can personally vouch for this method). Often it goes beyond mere talking; have pictures and reviews at the ready and litter your phone and computer screen backgrounds. This method takes commitment, and a lot of it. Success Rate – Moderate.
5. One in, one out – This is a very popular model among collectors, who, in order to fund their purchase, must sell a piece from their current collection. Naturally, there’s the potential for some overlap between purchasing and selling, but no one’s perfect. When executed properly, this is one of the best methods we can offer, and it is perfect for all you ‘flippers’ out there. Feel free to play around with different inventory methods, whichever you like. Success Rate – High (until they realise a Patek is more expensive than a Seiko).
6. Couples’ watches – Yes, the most successful (and safe) method we can offer also happens to be the most expensive. We’re not saying go out and buy matching Rolex Day-Dates (although that would be super cute) but it won’t hurt the cause by bringing your partner in on the hobby. In all seriousness, this is the most equitable way to make your purchase. Whether it be matching watches or something else, the only loser with this method is your bank balance. You’ll be happy, your partner will be happy. You’ll have great couples wrist shots for Instagram — and what serious watch collector wouldn’t want their spouse rocking something respectable on their wrist? The strategic play is to buy a unisex watch you like with an adjustable clasp, for example, the Rolex Submariner, or something that comes on a fabric, or leather strap. For obvious reasons, Success Rate – Very High.
7. Celebrate that moment – A celebratory piece is purchased to mark a very special occasion. This could be an engagement (preferably yours), an anniversary (any anniversary), a push present (totally a thing), a graduation, or even marking something as momentous as a five year no claims bonus with your insurance company (something that clearly calls for a well deserved Lange). This is a terrific way to attach some priceless sentimental value to your purchase, reinforcing just how special the piece is. After all, how could you sell that Tudor you bought and engraved with your baby’s birthday? Or the Patek you bought the day your son was born, (which you will never really own anyway)? Success Rate – High.
8. Go rogue – Big Ups to you if you have full discretion over your watch purchases, but for the majority who don’t, our final and most risky option is to simply go rogue. Yes, sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness (once non-refundable deposits have been paid) than to ask for permission. If you do go rogue, you’ll need to rustle the funds together. Whether it be making small ATM withdrawals to remain under the radar, syphoning off funds from a second account, or organising a payment plan with a dealer (for example). I’ve even heard *rumours* of photoshopping a zero or two off the purchase receipts. *This might work if you collect a relatively comparable watch (e.g. Speedmasters), but don’t be surprised if you get caught trying to pass that brand-new H. Moser piece off as “something you’ve had for years”. Success Rate – Very Low.*
* Vintage Watch Centre London Ltd does not endorse this method. Thank you Time and Tide Watches, for their selfless dedication in researching this subject.
We need to talk, when may I call you?
We will always be delighted to hear from you, 7 days a week, at any sociable hour (GMT). Please contact us with any queries that you may have about our watches, or our service.
Please call 0207 727 7095 or 07515 949 250 and speak with Alan, Brian, Louise or Martyn.
How much do you charge for delivery?
Our delivery is free as we consider this as part of our service!
For delivery within the UK mainland we use Royal Mail’s special deliver, next day (signed for) service including full insurance. For overseas deliveries we use FedEx as we have found that they offer the fastest and most reliable service internationally.
When may I expect my delivery to arrive?
Orders will be shipped within 3 days of the order being placed.
For UK mainland deliveries, Royal Mail’s next day delivery service (before 1PM) is our first port of call and we have found this to be 100% reliable over the many years we have used it.
Upon an order being placed, we usually take some time to give the watch a few final checks before it ships. However, if you would like to skip this process and receive your watch slightly sooner, we will endeavour to get your watch to you as soon as possible
We use FedEx for any deliveries placed outside of the UK. Deliveries to North America and Europe will usually arrive next day, whereas deliveries to Asia and Australia will take between 2-3 days.
I like the watch but I would prefer a different strap to the one it is photographed with.
This is no problem at all. Let us know what sort of strap you are looking for and give us a few extra days to source and fit it to your watch! We can usually achieve this free of charge.
We are partnered with ‘Watch Obsession’ who can be found at www.watchobsession.co.uk – they stock a wide variety of high quality Hirsch straps, made in Austria, that we can source for you free of charge! Therefore, we strongly recommend that you take a look at their range and let us know if you would like to see any of their straps on your new vintage watch!
Do you buy watches or offer a part-exchange or a buy back service?
Please enquire if you have any of the brands that we stock and we will be happy to negotiate an arrangement with you if your watch aligns itself with the style of watches we sell. We are also willing to offer you a good price for any watches we have previously sold to you as well as part exchange a watch we have previously sold to you against a new purchase.
Do you make proper checks regarding the provenance of the watches listed here?
Maintaining our fantastic reputation is a priority, and as such, we will endeavour to uncover the full history of each and every watch we sell. The vast majority of our watches are sourced from reputable dealers with whom we have built a trusting relationship with over many years. On the off chance we buy a watch elsewhere, we will ensure that all the appropriate checks are made to confirm that a watch has a proper history; if we have any reservations about a watch, we simply wont buy it.
Do you offer a guarantee on all your watches?
All of our watches are offered with a full 12 month warranty and a 14 days ‘no quibble’ sale or return policy.
Are there any savings available if I go without the 12 months warranty and / or the presentation box etc?
There are price reductions available if one fulfils the following criteria:
Choosing to forfeit our 12 month’s warranty will result in a saving of £100 on watches up to £3 500, for watches over £3 500 a saving of £150 will be offered!
By opting to receive your watch without a presentation box, one may benefit from a saving of between £10 and £200 depending on the box.
For specific details related to a particular watch, please enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any other savings available?
Choosing to pay via bank transfer rather than by card or PayPal will allow for a saving of 3% in transaction charges.
We also offer a £50 price reduction as a gesture of goodwill for a quick sale.
For specific details related to a particular watch, please enquire via email@example.com
What about Insurance?
All of our watches are sent with full insurance cover. We strongly recommend that you do the same if you are returning or sending a watch to us.
I live outside of the UK, can you send my item as a ‘gift’ or ‘declare a lower value’ for customs purposes?
We will always provide the correct order value on the customs declaration and insure the item for its full value. Customs charges at the point of import are the sole responsibility of the buyer, please ensure that you check locally as we will not be able to provide you with detailed advice on this.
How should I store my vintage watches?
First and foremost, we recommend that you regularly wear your watch as that is what it is designed for. However, if you are required to store the watch for a prolonged period of time please ensure that it is stored in a dark and dry location; they will also benefit from a full wind at least once a month that will aid in maintaining the lubrication of the movement.
Using a storage box/roll that is lined with a soft velvet lining will protect your watch from scratches (please see our accessories section) and we also recommend that you get your watch serviced by a quality watchmaker every 3-5 years. This service should include cleaning, lubricating, regulating and a gasket inspection.
Does a restored watch dial affect a watches value?
To Restore or Not to Restore a Watch Dial?
First of all, it is not well known that watch manufacturers such as Rolex, Omega, JLC and indeed most other brands would often replace the dial when servicing the watch. This became a common occurrence when a dial would display signs of ageing; luminous markers would fade, as would the dial itself, sometimes even becoming stained and pitted. Early dials would be more susceptible to this due to more primitive manufacturing techniques, as well as the fact that smoking cigarettes was far more common and popular in the mid-twentieth century – the smoke itself would have been very harmful to a watch. Indeed, many vintage watches with supposedly unrestored dials will most likely have been a replacement from when the watch was serviced – watch houses still practice restoring dials during a service to this day.
This fact aside, some collectors will prefer a vintage watch with an unrestored dial that may show signs of heavy wear to retain the original character of a watch. These collectors will often suggest that the ageing of a dial forms a large part of the value of a vintage watch, but whilst this may ring true for a small demographic, it is certainly not a true reflection of the market today. As restoration techniques have improved to a level that often stumps experts over whether or not the dial is indeed restored or not, the only real tell that a dial has been restored nowadays is if a vintage dial is not damaged, the dial itself will not look tampered with and will appear almost factory fresh.
Niche markets such as the military watch market will undoubtedly prefer an unrestored watch, however, with the watches we deal in, vintage pieces that are designed to look desirable and aesthetically beautiful upon a wrist, we have found that the majority of the market will prefer a restored watch. This high demand for restored watches naturally commands a higher price, here, the restored dial works to benefit a watches value rather than impede upon it.
At the end of the day it’s very much down to personal taste and preferences.
Tell me some more about watch dials
A watch dial can deteriorate for any number of reasons. A prime cause of this is due to light exposure; the rate of deterioration tends to correlate to the intensity/duration of light exposure, as well as the humidity and temperature of the watches surroundings. Whilst of course we would all prefer an untouched watch that has been locked away its whole life, these watches are exceedingly rare as they are in fact locked away and kept off the market. We find this somewhat unfortunate, perhaps even poetically melancholy, after all, such miracles of micro-engineering were built to be enjoyed!
A vintage watch that has been enjoyed however (carefully used of course), will demonstrate some level of deterioration. This could materialise as gentle fading at one end of the spectrum, to being completely illegible at the other. Crazing, pitting, fading, local staining and scratching are all forms of deterioration, or in some cases, damage, that could affect a watch.
A typical collectors tolerance for a deteriorated watch will be higher than that of the ‘main buyers market’. In fact, around 90% of buyers will prefer their watch to look aesthetic and with severe traces of deterioration or damage amended (according to ‘main market’ dealers).
Please note that the watches we restore will not appear overly bright and new, but will be restored with the original manufacturing date of your piece in mind and as such, it will remain coherent with the rest of the watch.
Should I restore the dial of my vintage watch?
In short, there is no correct answer. Certain people will want an original dial, even if it shows significant signs of wear and sometimes even damage, in favour of retaining some of the watches original character. Original dials in mint condition can often fetch much higher prices than the same watch that has been refinished – however, mint condition original dials are hard to come by.
Our approach is perhaps more pragmatic and whilst we love a chocolate brown patina on an original dial, when the deterioration of a watch begins to ruin the aesthetic beauty and wearability of a watch, we would certainly suggest that a dial restoration is in order. Unfortunately, not all dial refinishers will be to a high quality, often leaving a dial looking heavy with an uneven and plastic look.
Needless to say, our restorations are conducted by celebrated watchmakers who have decades of experience in the industry and who produce a quality of work that is nothing less than sublime.
Have your watches been checked over and properly serviced?
Of course. All of our watches are fully inspected, cleaned, serviced and calibrated by celebrated watchmakers with decades of experience under their belt; we offer 12 months’ warranty as standard on all of our watches as a testament to the quality of our inspection and servicing procedure.
A large portion of our watches are not only serviced and inspected, but also fully restored. This restoration consists of a case and dial restoration, as well as a full mechanical overhaul: The structural integrity of the case is inspected, and if necessary, it is then reinforced invisibly with steel that is added to the inside of the case. The case is then lightly polished to restore the highlights and colour to the watch, making it seem almost new again! The dial will then be expertly refinished by stripping the dial of its old paint and lacquer, only to be repainted and finished with a fresh coat. This gives the dial a factory fresh appearance that often lasts longer than the original dial itself.
Vintage watch case and dial restoration at this level is so good it often defies belief. For more information please see Servicing / Repairs / Restoration at the very bottom left hand side of the home page.
So far all of my watches have been battery powered. Please could you explain 'Automatic' and 'Manual' or Hand Wound Watches to me?
Luxury vintage watches will seldom come equipped without a mechanical movement. Instead of drawing power from a battery as a quartz watch would, a mechanical watch is powered through a controlled release of elastic potential energy in a coil of metal, or ‘mainspring’, that is gained from the user winding the watch, or in the case of an automatic watch, being wound by a weight inside the case. Manual wind movements will require winding and setting everyday in order to keep time, automatic movements will keep time if they are worn every day, but may need to be hand wound and set if they have sat dormant for several days.
What may I reasonably expect, in terms of accuracy, from my vintage wrist watch?
Please see the table below:-
Type of watch and seconds gain/loss per day: Worst Typical Best
Vintage mechanical Swiss watch in good repair +/-60 +/-15 +/-5
Modern mechanical watch non-certified +/-10 +/-5 +/-2
Modern mechanical watch chronometer certified +6/-4 +/-3 +/-1
Modern quartz watch non-certified (normal) +/-2 +/-1 +/-0.1
Modern quartz watch chronometer certified (rare) +/-0.02 +/-0.02 +/-0.0
What is the difference between a chronograph and a chronometer?
In short, a chronometer is a certified accurate timepiece whereas a chronograph is a timepiece with stopwatch functionality – a watch may be a chronometer and a chronograph simultaneously if it satisfies both criteria.
A chronograph will commonly feature sub-dials that measure minutes and hours, which when used alongside specialised scales on the watch dial may allow the user to measure speed and distance – some chronographs can even time two events simultaneously.
A chronometer will not necessarily feature these sub-dials. ‘Chronometer’ is a term to define a watch that has met certain high standards of accuracy set by an official watch institute in Switzerland, known as C.O.S.C. Only a watch that has been certified by C.O.S.C may adopt the title ‘chronometer’, but in order to achieve this, a movement must undergo rigorous testing that includes being able to stay within -4 to +6 seconds of variation per day during the COSC measurement at various temperatures and positions.
What is a 'bumper' automatic movement?
A ‘bumper’ automatic is a type of automatic watch movement where the rotor is prevented from freely rotating its usual 360-degrees by two bumpers that inhibit the rotor to a 180-degree range of motion, providing a slight but distinct ‘bumping’ feeling as the rotor rebounds off the bumpers when the wearer makes certain arm gesticulations.
Does a higher number of jewels in a watch indicate increased value and better quality?
A jewel is a small sphere of synthetic minerals, usually a very inexpensive form of synthetic ruby. They are not valuable and therefore add no real monetary value to a watch.
However, the purpose of a jewel is to reduce friction within a movement and is therefore vital in ensuring a watch movement remains well regulated and beating reliably. Traditionally, 17 jewels are the minimum requirement for a watch movement, but a watch featuring more complications may require more. Although, it must be noted that more jewels does not necessarily imply a ‘better’ movement than one with less.
What is the difference between a waterproof and a water resistant watch?
‘Waterproof’ is a term that denotes total immunity to water damage; according to the Federal Trade Commission, no watch is 100% waterproof, and as such, no watch manufacturer in the U.S. may advertise a watch as waterproof. Instead, the FTC requires watches to be labelled as ‘water resistant’ if they are somewhat resilient against water.
However, this FTC requirement was not always so, and before the late ’60s, watch manufacturers used to advertise their timepieces as waterproof. Labelling a watch as ‘waterproof’ proved to be misleading, and gave the impression that a watch was entirely capable at dealing with water, when in reality, this resistance to water would deteriorate beyond a certain threshold.
The age of a watch is also a factor and a watch that may have been resistant to water when it was new, may become susceptible to water damage when it is older as the seals in the watch casing have had time to degrade. ‘Water resistant’ was an updated term that indicated to what extent a watch was able to deal with water. The methods and technologies behind a ‘water resistant’ watch are the same as those in a ‘water proof’ watch, the only difference between the two is what the term was considered appropriate to describe it by at the time it was made.
How do I open my watch case in order to see the movement?
The best advice we can give is not to open the watch case yourself unless you know what you’re doing. However, if you so wanted to, you will need a case knife and adequate lighting. If the case back seems unusually tight, we recommend that one ceases to continue otherwise a slip of the hand and inevitable damage to the watch are likely to follow – take the watch to a watchmaker instead.
A case back will generally have one of two ways to get it open; a screw back case or a snap back case. A screw back case will usually feature radial grooves around its circumference, others will have locating holes instead that must be operated with a specialised tool in order to open the case back. However, most case backs will be from the snap back variety; These will have a slight lip at a point around the edge of the case back that will allow for a case knife to slide under it – this will usually be located at the opposite side to the crown. Once the blade is slotted securely under the lip, one must gently rock the knife back and forth with a subtle wrist action to pop the back off.
Once the case back is removed we recommend taking lots of close up pictures of the movement to avoid having to remove it again any time soon and risk damaging the watch!
What do the markings on the watch movement and watch case signify?
Ultimately, it depends on the watch manufacturer, the placement and meaning of the markings will inevitably vary between brands, however, a watch movement will usually have engraved upon it a calibre number and a serial number. The calibre number was originally a reference to the size of the watch movement, but it later became a movement design reference number. The movement serial number is a unique series of digits given to each movement which can be used to identify what year a movement was made.
A watch case will usually feature a brand name engraving and occasionally a case serial number. Although, bear in mind that a case serial number will rarely provide information regarding the date of a watch – except of course on a Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
Please could you tell me more about Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, Longines, Omega, IWC, and Zenith?
A Brief History of Rolex
The story of Rolex and Hans Wilsdorf, its founder, are inextricably intertwined. Rolex, like the modern day Apple Computer, revolves around the passion of one man who drove the company to greatness. Even after the passing of Hans Wilsdorf at Rolex, and Steve Jobs at Apple, both companies continue to be strong in their respective industries because of the drive, passion, marketing prowess and a relentless pursuit of detail and perfection. Like Apple computers, Rolex’s history goes back to its initial founder, Hans Wilsdorf. Most of the depictions of Rolex’s history goes back to the founder because the company’s roots, design and marketing ethos and purpose are rooted in the founder’s life experiences. The story of Rolex is no different.
The start of Rolex goes back to the birth of Hans Eberhard Wilhelm Wilsdorf who was born in Kulmbach, Bavaria, Germany on March 22, 1881. The son of a hardware store owner (Ironmonger), Wilsdorf was destined to continue the family business, however, both his parents died within months of each other when Wilsdorf was 12. Wilsdorf’s mother was a descendent of the Maisel brewing dynasty, so there were expectations that Wilsdorf would continue one of the family businesses, but that was not to be. Wilsdorf and his siblings were left in the care of his aunt and uncle who went on to sell the family hardware business and placed the proceeds into the Wilsdorf Trust until the heirs were of age. The Wilsdorf Trust, started as the result of a tragedy, was the basis for the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation started later in Wilsdorf’s life.
From his parents’ passing until the age of 18, Wilsdorf attended a boarding school in Coburg where he excelled at mathematics and languages, particularly English. Aged 18, soon after his boarding school experience had come to a close, Wilsdorf developed an inkling for Geneva, Switzerland through a boarding school friend. Wilsdorf worked at a pearl distribution company learning a great deal about world trade and the jewellery industry. After a stint in the pearl industry, Wilsdorf left and joined watch exporters Cuno Korten. Having no watch experience, Wilsdorf worked as a correspondent/translator, being asked to write letters, predominantly in English. It was at Cuno Korten that Wilsdorf decided that he would like to pursue a career in the watch industry. Cuno Korten purchased most of its components from manufacturers in France, Germany and Switzerland. Wilsdorf commissioned three watchmakers to fabricate three pocket watches that were soon certified chronometers at the Neuchatel Observatory – those watches sold quickly for a profit, which impressed Wilsdorf’s bosses.
After a short compulsory Army stint, at the age of 22, Wilsdorf decided to move to London in 1903 to work in the English watch industry at an unknown watch company whilst he planned to start his own watch company, although, on his trip to London, thieves had stolen Wilsdorf’s inheritance totalling 33,000 German gold marks. At age 24, Wilsdorf met Alfred James Davis and partnered with him to build their own watch-making company. Davis had the money to invest and Wilsdorf had the watchmaking knowledge from his experiences at Cuno Korten; the partnership was further strengthened by Davis who married Wilsdorf’s younger sister. Wilsdorf also acquired British citizenship after a battle with the city of Geneva about the confiscation of a plot of land on Lac Leman.
Wilsdorf utilised money borrowed from his siblings to match Davis’ investment so that they would each owned 50% of the company. As equal partners, they complimented each others’ skills and backgrounds. Wilsdorf knew about watches and Davis knew about financing and international trade. This was the start of Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd, utilizing ebauches from Jean Aegler based in Bienne. Wilsdorf learned of the Aegler while working at Cuno Korten. remaining focused, Wilsdorf and Davis only produced two watches; a pocket watch and a purse watch for men and women respectfully. In addition to these watches, Wilsdorf learned of the utility of wristwatches in the Boer War and decided to specialise in what was then a non-existent market. At the time, wristwatches were small in size and in number, not known to be very accurate, and worn primarily by women. Gentlemen were quoted to say that they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wrist-watch.” Additionally, the watch industry at the time thought that a wristwatch could not withstand the rigours of human activity. This all changed with the Boer War as the intense heat prevented soldiers from wearing jackets and thus soldiers found themselves strapping small pocket watches on their wrists.
Wristwatches appeared to be more than just a passing fad and became very popular. In 1912, Wilsdorf returned to Bienne and negotiated with Aegler for a consistent supply of watch movements. This was the largest contract ever signed for watch movements at the time. At the same time, trademark and logo styles were an industry trend and the name Wilsdorf & Davis did not have the same ‘sound’ as Kodak and Coke. Wilsdorf & Davis thought of a company name that does not mean anything in particular, is easy to pronounce in multiple languages, is hard to misspell, and thus settled on the name Rolex. Just as how the name Apple does not have any direct connection to computers, Rolex had no direct link to watchmaking.
Dispelling the myth that wristwatches are not accurate, Rolex sent its first movement to the School of Horology in Bienne in 1910, one of the early time- keeping institutes. Rolex was awarded the world’s first wristwatch chronometer rating. With this rating, Rolex overcame the first challenge of making a wristwatch that could keep accurate time. The other two challenges were in keeping wristwatches watertight and for it to be autowinding. Further proving the accuracy of well-built wristwatch movements, Rolex was awarded the ‘Class A’ Certificate of Precision from the Kew Observatory in England, the first certificate awarded to a wristwatch. The testing involves 45 days in five positions and three temperatures. Prior to Rolex, these certificates were only awarded to marine chronometers. Realising the value of timing certificates, Wilsdorf insisted that all Rolex timepieces would undergo similar testing and asserted that no Rolex watch should be sold without its “Official Timing Certificate.” For Aegler, Rolex would not accept any movements unless they passed Rolex’s seven-day battery of tests. Accepting no less than a timing certificate, Rolex set the timing standard for the rest of the watch industry.
With a consistent supply of watch movements from Aegler and a registered brand name (in Switzerland in 1908 and England in 1912) that anyone can pronounce, along with a product that was in high demand – but that none of the traditional watchmakers wanted to make, the company was on a sure footing. The start of World War I further stimulated wristwatch demand but brought anti-German trade restrictions to England. Due to the high tariffs on watch and jewellery components coming into England, Wilsdorf and Davis decided to move much of the production back to Bienne, utilising the partnership they forged with Hermann Aegler. In 1919, Rolex purchased a percentage of the Aegler company and began to call itself Aegler S.A. Rolex Watch Company. Soon after that, Wilsdorf bought out Davis’s share of the company and moved the office to Geneva where he registered “Montres Rolex S.A.” on the 17th of January. Wilsdorf settled in Geneva in order to let the factory in Biel be entirely devoted to manufacturing watch movements, whereas, Geneva would focus upon creating case models that fit cosmopolitan tastes. The movements were manufactured in Biel/Bienne, but the watches are assembled in Geneva.
On the 2nd of May, 1925, Rolex trademarked the famous crown or coronet in Geneva, Switzerland. After an expensive advertising campaign in 1926 to raise brand awareness, “Rolex” began to appear on every dial exclusively and the Rolex name quickly became synonymous with quality and distinction.
In 1925, Rolex addressed the weak spot in all watch cases, the winding stem and its predilection for leaking water and dust. Wilsdorf heard of a patent filed by Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret for a new winding stem and button/crown. He bought the patent and registered the world’s first waterproof case, the Oyster, on July 29th, 1926 in Switzerland, and again in London on February 28th, 1927. The term Oyster came to Wilsdorf whilst trying to open an oyster at a dinner party. Opening Rolex watches today requires special tool, very similar to those one would use when opening an Oyster. With a sealed crown, combined with a watertight synthetic crystal that was also introduced at the time, alongside a threaded bezel and case-back introduced by Aaron Dennison, founder of Waltham Watch Company, Wilsdorf now had the three main watch deficiencies addressed, the crown, the case and the timing accuracy.
Despite patent protection, Wilsdorf had to defend its patent from imitators and in 1934, Wilsdorf filed against Schmitz Brothers in Grenchen, Germany. After 2½ years of litigation, the Swiss court agreed that on July 8th, 1937, the Schmitz Brothers owed compensatory damages to Rolex. Although Wilsdorf had not invented the waterproof watch, he was the first to make the idea practical and fabricate using modern industrial manufacturing methods.
With a human-proof watch, Wilsdorf showed his marketing prowess by launching yet another massive advertising campaign to promote the Oyster waterproof watch. Unlike other watches at that time, the Oyster was designed to withstand day-to-day elements. On October 21st, 1927, Wilsdorf launched an advertising campaign depicting Mercedes Gleitze, a 26-year old London typist, who became the first women to swim the English Channel. In her vindication swim, two weeks after her first successful attempt, Gleitze was the first to achieve such a feat whilst wearing a watch, and a Rolex nonetheless. After her first successful swim, Wilsdorf saw an opportunity to promote the toughness of his watches by having her wear one on a chain around her neck during her second swimming attempt. Wilsdorf realised that advertising alone would not associate quality and reliability in the consumers mind, it had to be proven. The Mercedes Gleitze swim was one of the first instances of using athletes and explorers as first-person testimonials for a watch’s durability and reliability. The advertisement in England’s Daily Mail newspaper on the 24th of November, 1927, boasted of the “greatest triumph in watchmaking”, along with Gleitze’s testimonial quote stating that her Rolex Oyster “proved itself a reliable and accurate timekeeping companion even though it was subjected to complete immersion for hours in seawater at a temperature of no more than 58 and often as low as 51 [10-14 degrees Celsius.]”
Wilsdorf realised that although the case was sealed, watch wearers would forget to wind their watch, or would perhaps leave the crown unscrewed leaving the movement vulnerable to dust and water. Wilsdorf’s next technical challenge was to come up with a method for automatic winding. Earlier in the decade, John Harwood introduced the first self-winding wristwatch based on a weight swinging from a central point on top of the case, similar to a playground swing; the mainspring would be wound by the weight contacting a wheel that would then tighten the mainspring. The design was based on a pedometer design from 1770 by Abraham Louis Perrelet and the weight was restricted through the use of bumpers. The technical drawback was that the bumpers proved destructive and were not an efficient use of centrifugal force. Nonetheless, the design showed the utility of having a fully sealed watch that did not require unscrewing the crown to ensure its daily function.
Wilsdorf was set on using his existing movement with a modification for auto winding. In 1931, Wilsdorf used an existing Aegler movement and a winding mass placed upon a centre axis that could rotate freely in both directions and thus maintain a “perpetual” motion. Demonstrating how ingenuity stays in the family, Herman Aegler’s brother-in-law, and the technical lead at Rolex, is credited with the centre-staff rotating weight design that is now commonplace in all automatic watch movements worldwide, even after the patent expired in 1948. In addition to having a watertight case, the mainspring is now consistently wound providing a full tank of power that in turn improves the watch’s mean timing accuracy. A full and consistent power reserve allows for consistent timing, which underlies Rolex’s records for accuracy throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. By 1934, Rolex was the first watch company to receive class certificates from all four of the main observatories (Kew, Geneva, Neuchatel and Besancon).
1931 brought disaster and opportunity. Rolex business flourished, but the British pound was drastically devalued on September 21st as a result of the world economic crisis and the Great Depression. The devaluation caused Rolex prices to rise, decreasing exports by 60%. If Rolex were to survive, it would have to sell outside of the British Empire. Subsequently, Wilsdorf established subsidiaries in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Milan as well as exploring business opportunities in the Far East. The expansion was successful and the production of Rolex Oysters increased from 2,500 to approximately 30,000 watches a year.
In 1944, Wilsdorf’s wife, May, passed away, closely followed by his long-time business partner and friend, Hermann Aegler. This left Wilsdorf as Rolex’s sole owner. With no heirs and living in the aftermath of his father’s death, Wilsdorf created the Hans Wilsdorf foundation in 1945. The trust was underwritten to provide strict direction on how the company was to be run after Wilsdorf’s death, ensuring that the company would never merge with another company, be sold or publicly traded. Rolex still runs under the direction of the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation and he specified precise direction on the distribution of dividends, this meant that the majority of the money was donated to charity in honour of his late wife. Additionally, dividends were to fund a watchmaking school, a fine arts academy, and a business and social science faculty at various universities. The Wilsdorf Foundation proceeds also fund the Swiss watch research lab in Neuchatel as well as help to build a language library for the blind and an exhibition pavilion in Lucerne for animal protection. The Rolex Awards today are currently underwritten by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
In 1945, Rolex continued to innovate by introducing the date window to mark the firms 40th birthday. The DateJust caliber 740. was the world’s first automatic date mechanism in a wristwatch. Named the DateJust because, well, Date is obvious, but “Just” stands for “just in time,” advancing precisely at midnight without delay. The date window was located on the right edge at 3 o’clock because most wearers have their watch on their left arm therefore allowing for the date window to easily peak out from under a shirt sleeve. The DateJust also possessed a central seconds hand, moving from the subsidiary seconds hand that was the style at the time. Also, in 1948, after 15 years of the original patent protection on the automatic winding rotor came to an end. Only after 1948, were other brands able to manufacture automatic watches.
The 1950s were a decade of post-war growth and achievement for Rolex. On May 29th, 1953, experimental Rolex Explorers rose to 29,035 ft above sea level on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. In the same year, a specially designed Deep Sea Special was attached to the exterior of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe which reached a depth of 10,335 ft, proving the concept that watches can be as pressure-proof as submarines. Also in 1953, Rolex introduced the Turn-O-Graph at the Basel watch show, the predecessor of the Submariner. Following this, in 1954, Rolex released the Submariner with a water resistance of up to 100 meters as well as the Milgauss and the GMT Master pilots watch. Finally, the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date, the only watch that showed both the day and the date simultaneously was released. Closing out the decade in 1959 was the introduction of the Submariner 5512; water resistant to 200 meters along with the introduction of crown guards that are prevalent on all Rolex sports watches. During the early 1950s, Rolex incorporated the venerable Cyclops window to the date aperture after Wilsdorf’s near-sighted second wife could not read the date on her watch. Also during the 1950s, Rolex had planted subsidiaries in Bombay, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Havana, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo and Toronto.
It is also important to note that that Rolex’s Public Relations Director, was pivotal in Rolex’s direction for making true tool watches. Rene-Paul Jeanneret was one of the most important executives at Rolex during the 1950s and into the 1960s. Jeanneret was the driving force behind the concept of a watch being designed for individual sports or professions. The notion of a watch for divers, explorers and also for businessmen came from Jeanneret. When Pan-American airlines approached Rolex for a watch that could track 24-hour GMT time, the timing standard for airline pilots and navigators, it was Jeanneret who pursued the concept of the 24-hour hand on a watch and a rotating bezel that would allow timing in another time zone.
By taking an existing Turn-O-Graph, fitting it with a 24-hour hand and using the same bezel technology, but with a bright plastic insert, Rolex were able to introduce the GMT at Basel in 1954. As it was a derivative of the Turn-O-Graph, it did not have crown guards and was significantly smaller than the Submariner which was also introduced the same year. The GMT was the first sports watch to possess a Cyclops, taken from the Turn-O-Graph model.
1960 was both a high and a low for Rolex. Rolex continued its technological evolutions by introducing the first Cosmograph chronograph model which featured a tachymetric timing ring on a metal bezel. Also, in 1960, Rolex beat its own existing world record for submersion by attaching a Deep Sea Special to the Trieste bathyscaphe exterior while it descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench at 35,798 feet, a depth greater than Mount Everest is tall.
Shortly after the success of the Deep Sea Special, 1960 also saw the passing of Rolex’s founder Hans Wilsdorf on the 6th of July, leaving Rolex to appointees as stated in the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. Starting in 1963, Andre J. Heiniger led Rolex throughout the second half of the century until 1992 when his son Patrick took control of the reins. The 1960s saw more evolutions of the existing DateJusts, Air Kings and the sports/tool watch line. In 1967, Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller, the first watch created with a helium gas escape valve for saturation divers. Standard Submariner watch crystals were popping off during helium decompression for saturation divers so in coordination with Comex, a French saturation diving company, Rolex designed a Sea-Dweller model that was heavier than the standard diving Submariner and possessed a helium valve that would not only release small helium molecules that would enter the watch during saturation compression, but remain pressure-proof when underwater. Also in 1967, Rolex introduced the Submariner 1680 complete with a date window cut into the dial like on the Turn-O-Graph and DateJust models.
From the 1970s through to the present day, Rolex continues on and in the words of Patrick Heiniger, “Rolex is evolutionary not revolutionary.” Even with competition from legitimate and illegitimate imitators, Rolex continues to produce new watches and new technologies such as the Paracrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers, and the use of ceramics. Although still very secretive, it is estimated that Rolex produces approximately 2,000 watches a day and has been consistently ranked in the top 100 global companies.
Historical Timeline and Listing of Technical Achievement
1905 Founding of “Wilsdorf & Davis.” A distribution company of watch cases and other horological items headquartered in London.
1908 Hans Wilsdorf registers the Rolex trademark located at La Chaux-de Fonds, later moving to Bienne.
1910 Rolex obtains the first Official Swiss Chronometer certificate.
1914 Rolex obtains a ‘Class A’ certificate, Kew Observatory in English as the first wristwatch to outperform a pocket watch.
1919 Hans Wilsdorf moves the company office to 18 Rue du Marche, Geneva, and establishes the manufacturing company, Montres Rolex S.A.
1926 Rolex patents the screw-down crown, and creates the Oyster case with a screw-down case-back and bezel.
1927 Mercedes Gleitze swims across the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster. The swim lasted 15 and ¼ hours.
1928 Rolex obtains a First Class Certificate from the Geneva Astronomical Observatory, the first ever awarded for a 6 ¾” wristwatch.
1931 Rolex invents and patents the “Perpetual Automatic Rotary Winding Mechanism”.
1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell breaks the world automobile speed record (300 MPH) wearing a Rolex wristwatch.
1939 Rolex introduces the first chronograph with 30-minute and 12-hour totalisers.
1945 Rolex introduces the DateJust, the first automatic and waterproof wristwatch chronometer.
1947 Rolex introduces the waterproof chronograph with 12-hour totaliser and triple date.
1947 Chuck Yeager breaks the “Sound Barrier” in a Bell X-1 wearing a Rolex Oyster, the same one he had worn throughout his deployment in WWII.
1950 Rolex introduces the Turn-O-Graph, the first Rolex with a rotating bezel and the precursor to the Submariner.
1953 Rolex introduces the Submariner, the first automatic diver’s wristwatch water-resistant to 100 meters.
1953 On May 29th, Rolex rose to 29,035 ft above sea level on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
1954 Rolex introduces the Submariner Ref. 6200, water-resistant to 200 meters.
1954 Rolex introduces the GMT-Master, an automatic chronometer with a 24-hour hand for aircraft pilots.
1956 Rolex introduces the Day-Date model, the first wristwatch to spell the day of the week as well as the numerical date.
1957 Rolex patents a new Microstella regulated balance in Beryllium
1959 Rolex introduces the Submariner Ref 5512 water resistant to 200 meters.
1960 Rolex straps a specially designed Deep Sea to the bathyscaphe Trieste which descended 10,916 meters to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, being the first watch to reach such a depth.
1960 Hans Wilsdorf passes away on July 6th leaving Rolex to appointees as stated in the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
1963 Rolex launches the first Oyster Cosmograph series ref. 6239
1963 Andre J. Heiniger leads Rolex to 1992, when his son Patrick takes over.
1964 Rolex patents a pressure-proof screw-down push button for chronographs.
1967 Rolex, in conjunction with Comex, a French diving company, releases the Sea Dweller guaranteed water-resistant to a depth of 610 meters.
1967 Pete Knight breaks Mach 6.72 (4,534 MPH) in an X-15 aircraft wearing a GMT-Master; a record that still stands today.
1969 Rolex releases a Submariner with a date that is water resistant to 200 meters.
1970 Rolex starts using synthetic sapphire crystals with the introduction of the all gold OysterQuartz beta ref 5100. Rolex started rolling out sapphire crystals throughout the ’70s and ’80s. By 1989, all Rolex watches were fitted with sapphire crystals.
A Brief History of Jaeger LeCoultre
Today, the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is one of the most famous watches ever produced, but the company actually got its start producing ebauches (unbranded movements) for other companies. A little-known fact about Jaeger-LeCoultre is that in addition to producing movements for its own watches, the company has also produced movements for famous watch houses such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and IWC. As a matter of fact, in the early part of the 20th Century, Jaeger-LeCoultre even supplied ebauches to the great firm of Patek Philippe. Then, as now, Jaeger-LeCoultre was considered one of the finest watchmakers in Switzerland.
The year was 1833 when thirty-year-old Antoine LeCoultre, son of Vallee de Joux watchmaker Jacques LeCoultre, opened a small factory in the town of Le Sentier. Amazingly enough, the current Jaeger-LeCoultre factory is only a few feet away from the site of the original factory. In any event, LeCoultre soon proved himself to be a gifted watchmaker, but an even more brilliant inventor. In 1844, LeCoultre revolutionised the watch industry with the invention of the millionometer, an instrument with which measurements of up to one thousandths of a millimeter could be made accurately. As a result, precisely finished components could be manufactured, resulting in greatly improved accuracy in timekeeping. Likewise, the metric system became the universal measuring standard in watchmaking, while other systems were rendered obsolete.
LeCoultre’s motto: “we must base our experience on science” – this was particularly true when it came to manufacturing precision movements and tools. The artistry came later at the hands of a master watchmaker who assembled, decorated and regulated the movements. In short, LeCoultre became the leading supplier of movements, parts and tools to the watchmaking industry in Switzerland.
LeCoultre movements were so highly regarded, in fact, that until 1910, the company provided Patek Philippe with most of its raw movements. It was only in later years that Patek Philippe built its own movements from scratch. In the meantime, other companies had come to rely exclusively on LeCoultre’s products from which they would create finished watches. LeCoultre’s success was so great in fact, that between the years of 1900 and 1919, 40,000 raw movements were produced.
In 1925, the grandson of the firm’s founder, David LeCoultre, merged his company with that of Edmond Jaeger, the exclusive supplier of watch movements to Cartier. This is when the modern company known as Jaeger-LeCoultre first came into existence. Incredibly enough, up to this point, Jaeger-LeCoultre had not sold any watches under its own name. The merger, however, prompted further technical innovations, not the least of which was a case made from stainless steel, as well as the creation of the smallest mechanical movement in the world which weighed less than one gram.
The year 1931 saw the introduction of the Reverso, a wristwatch that could be turned 180 degrees within the case, thereby protecting the crystal and dial. It was a fantastic creation and one that was enthusiastically received by the public. Unfortunately, the worldwide economic crisis and World War II conspired to prevent the Reverso from achieving its full potential. Changing fashions coupled with the advent of waterproof watches might have forever doomed the watch to obscurity, had it not been for an Italian dealer who visited the factory in the 1960s and noticed a number of unused Reverso cases sitting in a watchmakers’ drawer. The Italian dealer bought the cases and fitted them with movements. The finished watches were an instant sell-out and the rest is history. Today, the Reverso is by far Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most popular model.
Another interesting story concerns David LeCoultre’s bid for Patek Philippe. In 1932, Patek Philippe was in major financial straits and looking for a white knight. LeCoultre, whose company manufactured movements for Patek, wanted to acquire a majority interest. He came close to finalising a deal but the Stern brothers, whose company supplied the dials used in Patek Philippe watches, ultimately acquired the company. Although Patek Philippe has certainly prospered under the Stern family’s management, it is nonetheless interesting to contemplate what effect a Patek Philippe/Jaeger-LeCoultre merger may have had on the Swiss watch industry.
Needless to say the company has continued to thrive, introducing such innovations as the Memovox, Futurematic, Atmos Clock and strikingly original movements such as the world’s thinnest automatic with a thickness of just 2.35 mm – just to name a few. The thin automatic movement in particular, was an incredible success, as both Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet featured it in wristwatches advertised as being the world’s slimmest self-winding timepieces. During the 1970s and early ’80s, Jaeger-LeCoultre produced a 36 jewel, self-winding calibre for Patek Philippe. Once again, both companies had come full circle.
On a final note, it is worth noting that Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the few companies in Switzerland that still produces its own movements, cases, dials, hands, and bracelets. Virtually every single component in a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch is hand-finished, produced in-house, and this, in turn, results in strict quality control. As a result, Jaeger-LeCoultre watches are recognised as being among the very finest hand-crafted watches available and evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Jaeger-LeCoultre regularly produces such masterpieces as the Reverso Tourbillon and Reverso Minute Repeater. There is also the Master Control series of watches which boasts 1,000 hours of testing and assembly at the patient hands of a master watchmaker.
In any event, if you are contemplating the purchase of a Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatch, you’ve made an excellent choice. It’s a highly prestigious and well-respected brand with a long and wonderful history, as well as a proven track record.
A Brief History of Omega
Today, seven out of ten people throughout the world are familiar with the Omega watch brand – a truly amazing rate of awareness to which few other watch brands can lay claim. The reason behind this success is said to be the reliably fine quality of every Omega watch. From its modest beginnings in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1848, the assembly workshop which was created by 23-year-old Louis Brandt gradually gained renown. Louis Brandt assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen.
After Louis Brandt’s death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and Cesar took over control of the business. In 1880, the two brothers rented a floor in a Bienne building to set up a modern watch production unit. Among the names they chose for their watches, were “Helvetia”, “Jura”, “Celtic”, “Gurzelen”, and “Patria”. With the introduction of the “Labrador” lever movement in 1885, the watches achieved an accuracy of +/- 30 seconds a day. The company’s banker, Henri Rieckel, suggested the name “Omega” for the new watch. The overwhelming success of the “Omega” name led to it being adopted as the sole name for all the watches of the company from 1903.
Louis-Paul and César Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland’s largest watch companies – with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people – in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom was Paul-Emile Brandt. The Omega name made its sports debut at the international ballooning contest for the Gordon Bennet cup in 1909. Britain’s Royal Flying Corps decided to choose Omega watches in 1917 as their official timekeepers for its combat units, as did the American army in 1918. Omega had their first victory at the observatory timing competitions in Neuchâtel in 1919 with their chronometers winning the competition. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of OMEGA and Tissot then to their merger in 1930 within the group SSIH. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland’s number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world.
In 1957, the “Omega Speedmaster” was created. After rigorous evaluation and testing, NASA decided to use the “Speedmaster Professional” chronograph wristwatch in 1965 as it’s official timekeeper. In 1967, the one-millionth chronometer was certified. On the 21st of July, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. As he made the famous steps quoting “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, he was wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph. In 1972, Omega received their two-millionth chronometer certificate.
Following the severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, SSIH was bailed out by the banks in 1981. In 1985, the holding company was taken over by a group of private investors. Immediately renamed SMH, Societe suisse de microelectronique et d’horlogerie, the new group achieved rapid growth and success to become today’s top watch producer in the world. Named ‘Swatch Group’ in 1998, it now includes Blancpain and Breguet. Dynamic and flourishing, OMEGA remains one of its most prestigious flagship brands.
A Brief History of Longines
The Longines story began in 1832 when Auguste Agassiz moved to the tiny Swiss town of Saint-Imier and started to work for Raiguel Jeune, a trader in watch parts. In 1847, Auguste Agassiz became the sole owner in the business. In 1852, his nephew, Ernest Francillon, joined the company, finally taking over from his uncle in 1862. In 1867, the company produced its first movement (L20A). Moreover, Ernest Francillon was awarded a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris for his novel timepiece, its lever movements being wound and set by the crown. By 1874, the company had already sent out its first circular, warning customers against counterfeit movements. On July 19th, 1880, Ernest Francillon registered the original Longines brand and its symbol, the winged hourglass. Since then, the brand has gone on to take ten Grand Prix and 28 Gold Medals that have never been equalled by any other watch manufacturer. At the beginning of the 20th century, Longines was amongst the first brands to produce mechanical wristwatches, an innovation that initiated a significant reorganisation of watch production systems during the 1920s and the 1930s. As early as 1910, Longines watches began to lose their round silhouette, exploring new rectangular and square-shaped models. Around the same time, in 1912, Longines entered the world of gymnastics at the Swiss Federal Gymnastics Meeting in Basel. Here, the Swiss company introduced automatic timing and the use of an electromechanical system with start and finish tapes. The 1920s and 1930s were dedicated to elegance, as was shown in the first Longines advertising campaign in 1927 and its production of watches decorated with diamonds, sapphires and precious stones. In this same year, there was also the release of the first non-stop transatlantic flight made by Charles A. Lindbergh which was timed by a Longines watch. Just one year before, in 1926, the company had taken part in the first International Horse Show in Geneva. This marked the start of a long, and still very much alive relationship between equestrian sports and the Longines brand. In the 1940s, the calibre L22A was created and in the 1950s, Longines launched the communication campaign “Science and elegance”, as well as becoming the official timekeeper for the Winter Olympic Games in Oslo. During the 1970s, despite the contemporary quartz revolution, Longines searched for inspiration in its past, producing a series of very important models: Flore Marine (1970), Longines Kleopatra (1975), Longines Volubilis (1978). In 1972, Paris-based French designer, Serge Manzon, designed a series of solid silver watches, especially for Longines. In 1982, two years after the creation of Caliber L960, Longines celebrated its 150th anniversary with a collection of ultra-slim watches called Longines Agassiz, in honour of the company’s founder. In 1982, Longines’ partnership with the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team began. In 1984, Longines launched its ‘Conquest’ line fitted with the VHP (Very High Precision) movement developed by Longines. The 1990s were characterised by the steel and ultra-slim watches of La Grande Classique collection, and by the Dolce Vita collection. These years also marked the launch of the advertising campaign ‘Elegance is an Attitude’, featuring legendary stars of the silver screen such as Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.
A Brief History of IWC
An interesting fact you may or may not know about International Watch Company (IWC), is that it is possibly the only major Swiss watch company whose founder was an American! During the 1860s, three manufacturers dominated the American watch industry: Elgin, Howard and Waltham. Combined, these firms produced upwards of 100,000 pocket watches. However, times were changing in the industry as pocket watches went from being a status symbol that only the wealthiest individuals could afford, to an everyday item available to the middle class. As a result, production methods had to be improved, for example, most parts for watches were still being made by hand. Costs were also high because the pool of available qualified watchmakers was relatively small. In Boston, Massachusetts, Florentine Ariosto Jones, who had worked in the American watch industry for a number of years, keenly observed the failure of Aaron Lufkin Dennison, a leader in the watch business whose efforts to move production to Switzerland to benefit from lower wages and Swiss watchmaking know-how, failed miserably. Undaunted, Jones took over the failed enterprise and soon set up his own company in Switzerland. His plan was to assemble watches in Switzerland and import them into the United States – hence the name International Watch Company.
Fortuitously, Jones made the acquaintance of one Johann Heinrich Moser, a watchmaker whose hometown of Schaffhausen was conveniently located near the Rhine. Following Moser’s advice, a dam was built in order to harness the power of the mighty river and generate hydro-power which would drive the machines used in manufacturing facilities throughout Schaffhausen. A watch factory was built in Schaffhausen to take advantage of the cheap hydro-power and production commenced in 1868. Despite the company’s unique business plan, the enterprise was doomed from the start. For one thing, Jones had trouble selling the watches in America due to a high tariff on imported finished watches. An even worse problem; Jones was undercapitalised and encountered technical problems with the machines. By 1875, he was scrambling to find new investors, amid allegations by disgruntled stockholders that the company was on the verge of collapse. Inevitably, the company filed for bankruptcy and Jones was forced to relinquish control of his company.
A Swiss consortium acquired IWC’s shares and put another American, Frederick Seeland, at its helm. Although the company’s fortunes improved somewhat, the improvement was not deemed sufficient enough. As a result, the company was put up for sale again. This time, one of IWC’s stockholders, Johannes Raschenbach-Vogel, bought the company at auction for 280,000 francs. Technical achievements and increased sales soon followed with the production of the first pocket watches with digital time indication, as well as development of the famous Calibre 52 movement, which at the time was quite revolutionary in its concept and construction.
Although the company experienced significant growth, following World War One, IWC’s fortunes again hit rock bottom under the proprietorship of Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach. Fortunately, a major modernisation effort paid off when the advent of World War II resulted in increased military demand. Therefore, it was during World War II that IWC created the first oversize anti-magnetic pilot’s watch, followed by the famous Mark X that featured IWC’s new in-house movement, Calibre 83. In 1944, IWC had a close call when the Allies mistakenly bombed Schaffhausen, but as luck would have it, the factory narrowly escaped destruction.
In the aftermath of the war, International Watch Company lived up to its name and became a company of international scope. Exports to the United States increased and the brand became best known for its speciality watches, such as the Mark XI and Ingenieur – the first automatic IWC with a soft-iron inner case that protected the movement against magnetic fields – as well as for its elegant dress watches. Needless to say, vintage IWC’s from the 1940s and ’50s are highly collectable today and in great demand as they are somewhat under-priced compared to other high-end watch brands of that era.
In closing, the company’s philosophy is best summed up by IWC’s current CEO, Michael Sarp, who recently stated, “We shall produce watches of the highest quality with unique technical and design characteristics and thus continue to experience the pleasures of innovation.” If you should have an opportunity to examine an IWC, you will quickly realise that Mr Sarp speaks the truth.
A Brief History of Zenith
Zenith are somewhat unique because of the rich history that is behind every single watch that is created within the marketplace. It was founded in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot, a man that has become almost mythical in terms of the reverence he is paid by everyone that is involved in the industry. Usually, a figure from an opposing company is downplayed by members of the competition, especially if that figure was responsible for the creation of an entire node within the framework of the opposing companies. In the case of Georges however, he had such a major contribution to the overall industry that it is impossible for anyone to insult him.
What exactly was his contribution? He was the first person to come up with the idea of a company dedicated to watchmaking. His idea involved bringing a number of different artisans under one roof to create timepieces with one brand and at the age of just twenty-two, he became an industry giant. Calling his company a word that indicates the highest point in the universe, the company has continually reinvented the idea of timepieces. By 1875, Georges had nearly one thousand employees who were producing both clocks and watches. By 1896, the world had noticed the calibre of his work and the company began to regularly receive awards for it. In 1920, Zenith reached a significant milestone – they had produced two million timepieces, a milestone like that propelled the brand to begin opening offices in every part of the world. By 1969, the company had another huge breakthrough; when they offered the El Primero to the market, they had the very first automatic integrate chronograph. It remains the fastest automatic model in the world as well as the most precise. These days, the company has nearly two thousand awards, hundreds of branches across the world and some of the most famous styling. Despite the fact that they changed ownership in the late nineties to the LVMH Group, they continue to be one of the most exciting companies on the market today.
If there is one thing that the men’s and women’s watches created by this company are known for, it would have to be the artistic flair that is added to every single watch. In fact, the company itself makes no bones about hiding that flair and they are boldly willing to make wild artistic decisions that over the course of history have resulted in new watch fashions coming out onto the market and completely changing the landscape in regards to what is considered the norm in watch fashions of the time. In fact, their website plainly states that their goal is to be known for this flair and they delight in their success at it. Each new model is carefully examined by analysts and critics alike hoping to push forward the boundaries of artistic license.
When this artistic side of the company is taken into account and really examined closely, one finds a number of other things they are known for that stem from the artistic flair that they put into a number of their different products. An example of this would be their novelty products which are usually good for a large amount of admiration from the industry when they are released. This is not to say that every men’s watch released onto the market will be a novelty item, but rather it is to say that in general, when the company decides to release novelty items they are received well enough that people eagerly look forward to the next novelty release.
Another thing that Zenith watches are known for is their overall durability. There are many high-end watchmakers in this particular industry that make products that are beautiful to behold and keep time exceptionally well when they are removed from the box. However, all too often, those very same products have a very short shelf-life, causing people endless grief when their product breaks down just outside of the warranty date and they have to go and purchase another product in order to replace the one that they just lost. With most men’s watches that are also high-end products, this is not really a problem as the customers are willing to purchase new products every couple of years, but the fact that this company creates durable products anyway is something that has always gained them a lot of goodwill.
Above watch manufacturer information courtesy of CHS – Certification Horologerie Suisse.