Vintage Men’s Timepieces – A Smart Purchase for Contemporary Women
Today, when “smart watches” double as keepers of memories and personal information, there is something authentic, intimate and rare about timepieces that are linked to the past. You might even say: timeless.
There is also a trend in women’s watches that prevailed at the 2016 Basel (major international watch show) and continues to hold it’s popularity at the SIHH (Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie) show in Geneva, which is being held as I write, from Jan 16-20, 2017. Women’s watches are getting bigger and bolder, echoing the design of men’s watches. Therefore it is perfecting timing to look to back for the watch you want to own now and wear well into the future.
My obsession with vintage watches began at an early age before I even knew what was old, new or elegant. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers had one or two “good watches” and gave me them to play with, in the same way my grandmothers let me play with their jewels. My maternal grandfather would strap his Hamilton tank on my small wrist and take me to the candy store or the corner malt shop — our bonding time. The feel of a worn, thin leather strap, the look of Arabic numerals, and the sound of the winder and ticking reminds me of holidays, ice-cream sodas and men who believed in family values and tradition. They wore American made watches — Hamilton, Illinois and Waltham. My dad was the first man in my family to have a collection of watches – Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Cartier. When he passed away while I was in my 30s, I inherited his two Cartier tanks, the classic Tank Louis Cartier (the watch he wore most) and a version from when the company split in the ‘70s – this one, produced in London, was longer, more curved and exaggerated, and made with a Jaeger-LeCoultre movement.
I met the guy with whom I became involved in a long-term relationship while wearing that watch. “There is something seriously sexy about a woman in a man’s vintage watch,” he said. And, here, my first words of advice — if you want to date men from whom you can borrow watches like you borrowed your high school boyfriend’s denim jacket, then find one who collects timepieces himself. On weekend mornings, I began wearing his 1950s Patek Philippe, which he left on the nightstand. He would smile as I threw on his one of his dress shirts or cashmere sweater to read the Sunday paper. He found this look alluring, as most men will, until the timepiece they want to wear on a given day is out of the house and on your own wrist. That’s when you know it is time to buy your own watch. Shortly after, I purchased a large faced Rolex from the ‘40s on a black crocodile strap.
While I like my jewelry delicate and feminine, I like my timepieces larger, more streamlined yet distinctive and with character. It’s what George Aloi, owner of Tempvs Fvgit (a vintage watch shop), defines as “quirky, exclusive — something familiar and unique at the same time.” As Aloi says, “These are the attributes that women are so attracted to in men’s vintage watches. While more and more women like the size and shapes of men’s modern watches (just look at all the female celebrities wearing them), they are more standardized today and don’t have as much personality as those from the past. The appeal of vintage is unparalleled, because you are the only one who will own that particular watch.”
Britt Bivens, owner of Ace of Swords, a fashion and jewelry trend and branding firm, echoes this sentiment: “I wear vintage men’s watches and love the classic styles, but I also go for something that stands out as anything but classic. One of my favorites is a particular automatic Seiko from the late 60s, which appealed to me with it graphic treatment. It’s not fussy or overdesigned. I like the idea of wearing something different, that no one else owns.”
As for me, time will tell what my next watch purchase will be, but it definitely won’t be able to tell me my body weight, resting metabolism or pop up with new apps. Nor will I need my reading glasses to see the numbers, like on vintage styles for women. I will continue to turn back the clock and buy men’s styles from the 30s through the 60s.
How To Wear It:
-Like any other piece of jewelry, you should wear your vintage timepieces any way you feel most comfortable, confident and that works for you.
-I personally prefer to wear my watches solo on my left wrist and my bracelets on my right wrist, but you can be like the other women pictured here, who wear antique and modern bracelets on the same wrist as their watch
-If you do wear bracelets on the same wrist, make sure none compete with the watch. Anything that has a shape in the center of the cuff or bangle or a huge motif will overpower the watch. Instead, opt for flatter cuffs, chain links in different sizes, and ultra thin or diamond line bracelets, which all work to offset your watch.
-What’s really cool about a man’s vintage watch is that it is complementary to your almost your entire wardrobe, whether it be a white shirt or T-shirt and jeans, cashmere sweater, an LBD, a business suit, summer dress — all can work with almost any style vintage watch you choose. And, it will look sexy.
-When you go cocktail or black tie, you might want to opt for taking your watch off and peeking into your clutch at your iPhone should you get bored and want to know the time
What To Look For (the basics):
- Make sure it is in good working condition as parts and service for vintage watches can be pricey.
- Get at least six months to a year guarantee on the watch.
- If you are not technical, then don’t go in for a watch that is. Go for the simpler mechanical manual or automatics.
- The more complicated your life is, the more streamlined your watch needs to be. The more complications in a vintage timepiece, the more you might need it repaired.
- If you are going to start out with one good vintage timepiece and that is your only watch, then get an inexpensive sport watch to keep time when playing sports, running, or working out at the gym.
- Check on prices by browsing online and in shops. And, look at the prices that the watches you admire went for at auction.
- If you are just beginning to collect vintage timepieces, then I wouldn’t advise purchasing at auction. It’s different than buying jewelry. Even if the condition report sounds great, it could need an expensive part in six months and you won’t have the luxury of a guarantee or be able to return it if something does go wrong.
- If you have purchased and added a few vintage men’s watches to your collection and you are alternating, take out those that you are not wearing and wind them each month. Also, keep them in a cool, dry place.
- Ask if the dial was redone. If it was, it depreciates the value of the watch. That is not to say you shouldn’t purchase it, just make sure it is worthy of its price tag.
Where to Shop
Tempvs Fvgit, New York, NY. I’ve known George Aloi since I started collecting watches and he waxes poetic on the subject — his knowledge runs deep and his cases run out as quickly as he can get some of the big Swiss manufacturers in. He always has a unique and classic selection of Rolex from the 30s through 80s.
Aaron Faber Gallery, New York, NY. The co-author of Five Decades of Style and Design, with Stewart Unger, Edward Faber is the owner of this case to wall display of American and Swiss made vintage watches at a diverse range of prices. Beware, it’s very hard to leave; you’ll keep finding another watch to try on. In addition, I have known Ed for as long as I have known George and have acquired watches and knowledge from both of them. For those who are also obsessed with jewelry, there is a wide selection of antique jewelry and also modern studio jewelry, which is curated by Patrica Faber. aaronfaber.com
Wanna Buy A Watch, Los Angeles, CA. Before I ever stepped into the shop, I fell in love with the name of the store. Great assortment online and in the shop, which also has some of the best advertising and marketing. It also sells antique and vintage jewelry. wannabuyawatch.com
Tourneau. In addition to the huge selection of modern watches, the store is also well known for it extensive collection of vintage-watches. tourneau.com.
Antiquorum Auctioneers, New York, NY. The auction house holds approximately ten auctions a year in Geneva, New York, and Hong Kong, with previews held in major cities such as Paris, Milan, London, Munich, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Moscow. Its international staff is unparalleled in expertise and knowledge and continues to search out the most rare timepieces. antiquorum.com
This article in part first appeared in Indesign.jewelry