on the collector's
Vintage Watch

From Second Hand Vintage Rolex to Watches in Their Original State...
An Evolution of The Watch Investment


Numerous articles circulate on the web distributing thousands of information on the different dials, inserts, bracelets etc., that can be found on a Rolex collection. Some of these articles too often have the effect of creating confusion among a new generation of collectors (and among more seasoned collectors in many cases). 

In reality, the history of vintage timepieces has never been presented or confirmed by the Geneva watchmaker (most often due to lack of information) and a “parallel truth” has been rewritten by collectors/dealers and is now more or less accepted, considering the reactions of collectors on social networks, in amateur meetings, and in my private discussions.

I do not wish to question any information here, but to clarify the context of this market and to put certain things into perspective, by underlining a fundamental point: The past has already shown that when information disseminated by different vectors does not emanate from the source (the Rolex factory itself), no one is safe from the fact that one day or another, the factory will drop some “truths”. We would then potentially witness a situation where the value of a piece preciously preserved at the bottom of a chest would considerably decrease, to the dismay of amateurs and collectors who are well “informed”.

How then to apprehend this market which has become, it would seem, so complicated? The first thing to do is to observe its evolution over the last few years, let’s say twenty years or so to be broad enough. And, for once, rather than looking at this evolution from the point of view of rising values, let’s look at it from the point of view of the evolution of the parts?

The number of collectors since 1995 has continued to grow, from the true enthusiast of vintage Rolex watches to today’s majority of investors wishing to recycle a home savings plan that has proven its uselessness for years. But the evolution of the vintage enthusiast public, whatever the reasons for its infatuation, has brought another not insignificant factor. Watches that had had only one owner, careful and conscious of their value (a consideration that today seems to have practically disappeared) have seen their owners change three to four times, or even more, in the last twenty years. The result is strongly felt if one looks at the state of the watches currently on the market, which are nevertheless, at the same time, constantly increasing in value.

It is more and more frequent to see watches with cases “ravaged” by a bracelet or a metal bracelet worn on the same wrist, so-called tropical dials following a water leak during a dive at sea by an owner imagining that his diving 5513 from 1968 has kept all its diving qualities, examples are numerous….To find a perfect collector’s watch today, you have to put a price on it that chills more than one when you find it.

The purpose of this article is not to question the existing but to put things in their place and bring an objective point of view on the type of product to go towards. A question arises: is it better to buy a brand new watch with “all original”, rearranged from the handles to the bezel, rebuilt with the “right” parts, or a watch “in its juice”? There are many problems with this question, but the one we will highlight here is: what do we mean by a totally original watch? Is it a watch that has not moved since it was purchased or a watch with attachments more or less corresponding to its production date according to the agreements in force between experts, collectors and players in this market? This question is not innocent because the market today offers more watches that have been updated than watches that have not moved since they were put on the market. If this was true a few years ago for rare pieces such as the military Submariner 5517 or the GMT 6542, it is true today for the lesser 1675 or 5513.

As an example, a rare watch arrived on the market several years ago, a GMT-Master equipped with an all-blue insert. Discussions between informed collectors and experts were going on about its origin: South American military market, French, special order from the UAE army, a whole lot of speculation without anyone being able to give a reliable answer certified by Rolex. Still is it that from a watch almost impossible to find, the “Blueberry” (it takes a qualifier for collectors) has become a star in Google images and does not seem so rare as it used to be. You can already translate this as “star of counterfeit inserts”.

Most of the information found today concerns details about the various pieces and one often forgets to talk about the main thing, namely the watch and its history. This is what I propose to do in a series of mini articles presenting a particular piece, in order to share some of the knowledge gleaned over the years on our favorite watches, mostly simple stories.