Vintage vs. Modern

Vintage Vs. Modern

As you may have noticed, my collection of watches is split between modern and vintage pieces. Why? The are many reasons, cost, style, practicality, and general coolness sums up why I have both types.

Why modern?

With a modern watch, you get a watch with features that are lacking in a vintage piece. A big difference is the amount of water resistance of modern watches. Even dress watches now have a 5ATM/50M water resistance, with 100 and 200M being very common on very inexpensive watches. It’s nice to know that if you are caught in a rainstorm, or a flood for that matter, you don’t have to worry about your watch. Another nice thing is the robustness of modern watches. Modern automatics generally have more shock protection and robust components than many vintage pieces. Quartz watches, even more so. Luminous or electronic luminescent material is another feature you will only get with a modern watch, unless you get the watch re-lumed. Modern glow in the dark material are light years ahead of what used to available.

Another aspect is the some people prefer modern styling (read BIG watches). Most watches are at least 38mm, with up to 54mm not uncommon. Vintage watches are usually 34mm for men’s and just plain tiny for women’s. Finally, modern materials have an advantage over vintage pieces. Most watches are all stainless steel, with base metal watches only on the very bottom end of the market. An all stainless steel vintage model is a rare fine.

Why vintage?

Style , movements, and price. Many modern pieces try to emulate styles of the past, and often cost a lot of money. You can pick up the inspiration for a fraction of new. A nice 70’s funky watch costs less than $10. With movements, the build quality and finish of even mid priced pieces is excellent, exceeding modern, machine made movements. When all there was was mechanical movements, the manufactures got really good at making them small and accurate. Hand wound only movements are particularly thin, rivaling or exceeding the thinness of quartz movements. Even the cheap Timex automatic movements were remarkably thin and very robust.

If you want a complicated watch, like a mechanical chronograph, look into vintage. A Seiko 12 hour 1/5 of a second, day and date, automatic watch can be had for less than $200, where a new Seiko with the same features will cost you over $2,500. Same goes for Swiss movements. If you want a modern, all metal, automatic movement, you are looking at $ 300 or more, whereas in vintage it will be less than $50. My most expensive vintage pieces set me back $20. Try to get a modern, Swiss made mechanical for that price. Even a Swatch automatic will set you back at least $100 and some of the components are plastic.

What should you buy?

If you want a watch you can wear every day and not worry about it, buy modern, heck, even a quartz. If you want affordable style and classic looks, go for the vintage. If you a budding watch collector, the thrill and challenge of finding working mechanical pieces is a big part of collecting. A word of warning, avoid vintage quartz, if possible. Starting from the mid 70’s to the mid 90’s, there was a lot of junk made, particularly in the 80’s. The cell (battery) may be hard to find, or if it was not replaced in time, may have leaked and destroyed the quartz module.

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