Anyone know of a good guide to old watches?

Years back in Moscow I nearly bought an Audemars gold half hunter. Been kicking myself ever since that I didn’t as a friend who knows about these things pointed out that it must have been old, from before the firm merged with Piguet.


So, not that I’m going to get into this full time or anything, just something to do while trawling the occasional car boot sale here, no more. Why not have a wander around in the summer sunshine with a donut or two, eh? But what to look for while wandering?

But, obviously, this requires a little boning up on things. Anyone know of a good guide to old watch brands therefore? As I have near zero actual knowledge, other than having seen the ads for today’s expensive brands just like everyone else? Online, book form, whatever people know about.

Any ideas?

19 thoughts on “Anyone know of a good guide to old watches?”

  1. The Meissen Bison

    As I have near zero actual knowledge,

    That would be a sufficient basis for the Fat Controller to consider himself an horologist.

  2. Friend bought a fake rolex. cheap as chips.
    Took it to rolex for repair, expecting it to go under a crusher.
    Turned out to be real. The clue is that real rolex second hands go bit by bit but fake ones just go round and round.
    (Don’t take this for gospel, just what I’ve been told.)

  3. The web is your friend. seems to indicate that the two founders got together at the start, though they might have branded some watches as Piguet and other as Audemars. Maurice Baring writes, in his memoir “A Puppet Show of Memory,” that, when he was a young man, his father gave him one of his very fine watches, “the Demidoff Piguet.”

    The firm was started by the two in 1875 and Baring was born in 1874 (and so was an exact contemporary of Winston Churchill’s). The gift would likely have been ca. 1900, yet the brand was simply “Piguet.”

    Admittedly, and expert in these watches would be an even better friend….

  4. Start with the Complete Price Guide To Watches by Engle and Gilbert. It is published annually and covers a lot of vintage watches from a lot of different manufacturers. The only drawback is that it contains line drawings of watches, rather than photos. Not a fatal drawback, but a drawback nonetheless.

  5. I happen to collect watches, and I have vintage pieces from some of the prestige Swiss brands (VC, AP, JLC, IWC and Zenith). Here’s what I’d suggest:

    The first thing to do is decide what you are going to hunt for. There are less than a a dozen brands that appreciate. Period. So no matter how nice the vintage Mido or Hamilton sitting in the car boot looks, you aren’t going to make money on the watch unless it is solid gold and the seller doesn’t know it.

    The second thing to do is find and cultivate a relationship with a watchmaker who works on vintage watches. The first thing you’re going to have to do is have your car boot find examined/cleaned/repaired. You want to have it done by someone who knows what they are doing. Side benefit: Once they see you as a repeat customer, you will be able to pick their brain about what brands to buy and which to avoid, and why (for example, parts availability).

    Here’s a non-comprehensive list of brands that appreciate: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet (these three are the Holy Trinity of Swiss watch brands), Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, and IWC. Unfortunately, all get faked with some regularity. There used to be a cottage industry of fake high-end vintage pocket watches and watches coming out of Russia, the Ukraine and Eastern Bloc countries and ending up on eBay. You could pick up a “100 year old” VC pocket watch with remarkably clean (ie, recent) engraving on the movement for $500 or so…

  6. I’ve got a very nice Le Coultre pre-merger calibre. Unfortunately it has been bastardised in to a relatively awful “marriage watch” case. Sighs …

    The pocket watch is an Omega observatory grade mechanism in the original (gold plate) case.

  7. @big, @pcar

    FWIW I’m wearing a £40 fake Rolex right now. The second hand is going round and round without 1-second jumps.

  8. Rolex briefly made the OysterQuartz, with second jumps (because of the quartz rather than mechanical movement).

  9. It does jump, just more often. Between 5 and 8 times a second for a typical modern Swiss movement, depending on the frequency of the balance wheel.

    Whereas quartz movements count the (far higher frequency) quartz oscillations and advance after one second’s worth of oscillations for whatever frequency it is.

  10. Join the various watch forums. Go to boot fair early. If you think you’ve found a bargain take photo and get opinions from forum.

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