Where do I begin?

I am not a watch collector (at least not yet!). I am looking to purchase a vintage VC wristwatch, I can't afford the price of a new one and I like vintage watches anyway. My problem is I don't know where to begin. Where can I find a reputable watch seller either in person or on the internet (I live in the San Francisco Bay area)? I have purchased 3 pocket watches over the years on e-bay but they have only been a couple of hundred dollars each. With a used VC being in the range of a couple of thousand dollars I'm leery of buying from someone disreputable. I have looked at watches over the years and done a lot of reading on the internet so I am familiar with mechanical watches, however I wouldn't be able to tell fake from genuine unless it was very obvious. Can anyone give me suggestions or steer me in the right direction?

Thanks a bunch,
Debbie
07/26/2009 - 07:39
07/26/2009 - 12:23
07/27/2009 - 02:04
Re: Where do I begin?
07/26/2009 - 12:23
Hi Debbie, welcome to the Lounge! You ask a good and difficult question for many fans of vintage watches.  VC has a tremendous selection of vintage watches (I'm referring to the variations of dials, cases, lugs, movements, metals, etc. - not the volume).  Since VC has such a varied collection, the hardest part about veifying authenticity isn't the outright fake/replica watch, but the "Franken" watch - where all the component parts are authentic VC but were not originally assembled as a complete unit when it left VC's manufactuing. The people on our Lounge are probably some of the most experienced in understanding vintage VCs and many are willing to help answer any serious questions you have about VC watches (just don't put a scan up and say you recently inherited it from a long-lost uncle and want to know what its market value is)  .  When looking at any vintage VC, I strongly recommend getting the case and movement serial numbers (which are different) and sending an email to VC's Concierge (available throught the main VC website).  The Concierge will send this information to VC's Heritage departement in Geneva and confirm whether the case and movement were originally assembled as one watch as well as information of year of manufacture. Chances are most vintage VCs will need to be serviced, and though it can be expensive, I think its best to send it into VC for a full-service.  They are in the best position to identify anything that may be wrong with the watch and to fix/repair/replace anything in order to get it back to "as new" condition.  They will give you an estimate after inspecting the watch, so you can decided then whether its worth the service/restoration cost. As to reputable dealers, I know of a few that have authentic, vintage, watches - but none of the seem to really know enough about the condition and details of the watch for one to understand the details.  They are also fairly expensive.  The major auction houses are another option for vintage VCs, but they have additional premiums above the winning bid price which I don't like and their experts don't always catch everything in terms of the watches' conditions.  I'm sure if anybody can recommend dealers, our moderator Alex will insist it be done through Private Messaging. I love VC's vintage watches and am glad to see you have an interest in thems as well.  Please feel free to ask any questions, I've learned a tremendous amount over the past couple of years and continue to learn more and more through the kindness and knowledge of our fellow Loungers. Best Regards, Dan
Re: Re: Where do I begin?
07/27/2009 - 02:04
I join with Dan in welcoming you to the Lounge. Here are a few more points of advice: 1. Get familiar with what you want. You can see plenty of images on the websites of the major auction houses (including Antiquorum, a watch specialist), on eBay, and of course on this forum. The ones on this forum should be considered authorititative; the auctions houses generally get it right; and on eBay the rule is generally caveat emptor, but you can develop your eye looking at the offerings there. Eventually you will decide what you want, and it may well be something you did not see in the first watch shop you visited. 2. In the process of getting familiar with what you want, learn about the relative values of different watch models. Two very similar watches may have very different values, simply because one was made in fewer examples than the other (and is therefore rarer) or because one excites collectors' interest for some reason. You will also want to get a sense for which movements command premiums. The key is to avoid paying the price of a highly-desirable example while actually getting a run-of-the-mill one. 3. Unfortunately, Vacheron service can be sufficiently expensive to make an otherwise affordable watch unaffordable. It also takes an unbelievably long time. When I buy a vintage watch, I generally have it serviced locally. It can then be used without damage. (If not properly lubricated, a watch will grind itself to pieces.) Later, after living with it for a while, I make the decision whether to send it to the manufacturer for full service. I will note that in most cases when I sent the watch to the manufacturer I regretted it because they made changes I did not want and/or did not correctly complete the project and required several more months to correct it. It is easier to keep control of the process using a local watchmaker. Make sure you find a watch shop where you can talk directly to the person who will actually be working on your watch. You can probably get recommendations from Bay Area-based Loungers. 4. Assume that any watch you buy, even from a dealer, requires service. While there are exceptions, most dealers will not service a watch before selling it unless it is absolutely not running. 5. Enjoy!