Monday, October 2, 2023

Exploring the World of Vintage Watches: Timeless Treasures With Stories to Tell


If you’re someone who takes pride in their accessories, there are few things as alluring as a vintage timepiece.

Whether you’re a collector or you’re drawn to one particular piece, just know that vintage watches offer more than classic design. The mechanics have been carefully crafted, often owing to engineering that’s decades old. 

There’s a growing trend for collecting and restoring vintage watches. Whether this is in light of rising trends in purchasing vintage, preloved items is unclear, but the fact that people are appreciating beautiful designs from decades gone by can only be a good thing. 

The evolution of vintage watches

Secondhand buying and selling platforms make getting your hands on a vintage watch far more likely. However, it does take a keen eye to spot those truly special pieces online as well as at vintage shops and markets. 

David Beckham for Rolex
David Beckham for Rolex | Courtesy

Certain brands such as Rolex have been prominent in the world of vintage watches, attracting buyers and collectors from all over the world. And while financial factors can be very appealing when it comes to collecting rare watches, it tends to be admiration for the beauty and design of the item that overrides this.

Origins and early timekeeping devices

But what does the history of timekeeping look like? As far back as 1500BC, there wasn’t a need to accurately keep track of time, which meant that the sundial had its place in society, allowing people to use local solar time and the shadow cast. However, as time went on, this need for exact measurement of time became a necessity for the modern world. 

That’s where the mechanical clock revolution came into play in around the 1300s. Using weights and springs, they would chime as the hour passed — but they didn’t yet have faces until the pendulum clock was invented in 1656. 

The emergence of wristwatches

In the 19th century, the industrial revolution brought about mass production techniques, leading to the availability of watches for the middle class. The invention of the self-winding mechanism by Abraham-Louis Perrelet and the introduction of interchangeable parts by Aaron Lufkin Dennison further revolutionized watchmaking.

The 20th century witnessed several landmark developments in watch technology. The introduction of wristwatches during World War I, primarily for military purposes, popularized their use among both men and women. The 1950s and 1960s marked the emergence of electric watches, powered by batteries, and the subsequent introduction of quartz watches in the 1970s, which utilized quartz crystals for precise timekeeping.

Bucherer goes to Sotheby's
Courtesy Bucherer

In recent decades, watches have evolved beyond their functional purpose to become fashion statements and status symbols. Luxury brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Omega have gained worldwide recognition for their craftsmanship and design. Moreover, the advent of smartwatches in the 21st century has integrated technology into timepieces, enabling features such as fitness tracking, messaging, and mobile connectivity.

Today, watches encompass a wide range of styles, materials, and functionalities, catering to diverse preferences. Despite the advancements in digital timekeeping, traditional mechanical watches continue to captivate enthusiasts with their intricate mechanisms and timeless appeal.

Caring for vintage watches: preservation and maintenance

But how do you care for a vintage wristwatch? Careful handling is required and particularly as repairs can be very expensive. They aren’t like modern watches, where parts can be easily replaced. Instead, they will need to be hand-crafted. Some simple care tips include:

  • Avoiding contact with water
  • Not overwinding it
  • Cleaning it clean to avoid scratches
  • Careful storage
  • Consulting a professional if you experience issues
  • Regular servicing
  • Keeping any related documents

Related on Ethos:


Stella McCartney Brings a Sustainable Materials Market to Paris Fashion Week

Stella McCartney is putting the spotlight on sustainable fashion with the launch of the Stella Sustainable Market at Paris Fashion Week.

How to Convert a Shed Into an Office, Home Gym, or Guest Room

Looking to get the most out of your unused spaces? If you’re one of the fortunate people to have an outbuilding or shed on your property, then why not turn it into a functional space for you to use every single day instead? 

How to Spend a Day in Cambridge: Embracing History, Nature, and Culture

Looking for a day trip that feels as rich as a weeklong vacation? Put Cambridge on your list and explore its history, culture, and nature offerings.

New Efforts From Positive Luxury, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Intersect Luxury and Sustainability

In moves aimed at redefining the sustainability metrics in the luxury market, the U.K.-based Positive Luxury has unveiled its ESG+ 2.0 Progress Assessment Platform as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation pushes circular design.

10 Ethical Fashion Certifications and Labels for the Conscious Consumer

From Fairtrade to B Corp, these ethical certifications and labels are bringing sustainability and transparency to the fashion industry.