Why buy from ClassicwatchZaf Basha owner of Classicwatch.com, LLC, pioneered the concept of buying and selling watches on the Internet. A collector/dealer since 1989 and selling watches on the internet since 1995, Zaf has sold over 20,000 watches to 7,500 different customers. Zaf prides himself on offering the very finest in pre-owned modern and vintage wristwatches. Zaf is well known in the trade and in fact is a world authority on Jaeger-LeCoultre authoring the book "Jaeger-LeCoultre - a guide for the collector". If you are purchasing a vintage timepiece for the first time, or are still relatively new to collecting vintage wristwatches, there are several key concepts you should understand before making an informed decision to buy. Of course, Zaf is always happy to answer any questions you may have about one of their timepieces, but it is also helpful to you, the collector, to understand a few general concepts before contacting him.
AccuracyVintage watches, like antique cars, are mechanical instruments that can wear down over time without proper maintenance. It is important to remember that back in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, wristwatches were not considered collectible at all. Rather, they were everyday objects prone to all sorts of mishaps. Although many vintage timepieces are found with pristine, surprisingly accurate movements, others have been damaged over the years by careless watchmakers as well as a lack of routine servicing. Without regular cleanings, the oils used to lubricate a watch's movement may harden and cause friction to occur between various parts of the mechanism. In these instances, when a major overhaul is required, restoring a vintage wristwatch can quickly become a costly endeavor.
That having been said, we would like to point out that while most vintage mechanical wristwatches (with proper maintenance) tend to be accurate to within 30 seconds per day, no vintage watch, no matter how carefully regulated, can rival the precise accuracy of contemporary quartz watches. Returning to our car analogy, the cars of yesteryear, although stunning in their design, cannot hope to match the speed, performance and efficiency of today's automobiles. Quite simply, today's technology is far superior.
On the other hand, modern automobiles, although efficient and practical, lack the style, uniqueness, value and indeed character associated with vintage automobiles. The same is true of vintage watches. While there is no such thing as absolute accuracy when it comes to vintage wristwatches, these magnificent timekeepers of yesteryear still perform admirably enough to be worn in everyday life.
In sum, we can't promise that our vintage watches will tell the time down to the exact second, but we do guarantee that once you experience the pleasure of wearing a finely crafted, uniquely designed vintage timepiece, you'll never go back to quartz again.
AdjustedIn the same way that an auto mechanic tunes up an automobile, a watchmaker 'adjusts' or regulates a fine mechanical wristwatch movement. Regulating a watch consists of observing its daily deviation in various positions and temperatures and adjusting them accordingly. Depending on the quality and desired accuracy of a watch, varying regulating procedures are used. The usual regulation of a good quality watch consists of testing in dial-up (lying) and crown-up (hanging) positions. The deviations between these positions are usually 30 seconds a day at most. In officially prescribed precision regulation, watches are tested and adjusted in at least five (5) positions and at two different temperatures.
A requirement of effective regulation is an exactly balanced balance, since center-of-gravity error would otherwise occur. In most cases, correction of mechanical watches is done by carefully adjusting the regulator, which changes the effective length of the hairspring. The art of regulating mechanical watches consists in principle of keeping the number of swings of the balance or hairspring as constant as possible despite disturbance from external influences such as temperature and position changes. When the frequency changes, errors result. Fine regulation (i.e., to five positions and two temperatures) is usually indicative of a high-quality timepiece.
Box & PapersVirtually all vintage timepieces, when originally sold, were accompanied by presentation boxes, warranties, owner's manuals ('papers') and other such accessories. Furthermore, most watches were sold with a leather band and buckle designed to compliment the timepiece. Needless to say, most people either discarded or lost these items over time - and today, a vintage watch with its original box and papers (and/or original buckle and band) commands a significant premium over similar examples missing these items. Unless otherwise noted, our watches do not come with original boxes, papers, accessories, bands or buckles.
Bumper vs. full rotor automaticMovements of the hand move a swinging weight (rotor or pendulum). An apparatus makes the winding drive always turn in the same direction to wind the mainspring. A sliding coupling (drag spring) prevents overwinding the mainspring. Bumper automatic movements tend to be older self-winding movements in which the rotor can only approximately 180 degrees, as there are springs or 'bumpers' which restrict the rotor's movement within the case. Full rotor automatic movements, on the other hand, were developed in the early 1950's and feature rotors mounted in such a way that they can revolve a full 360 degrees within the case. Such movements are generally more desirable and expensive, in addition to being requiring less movement in order to stay wound. Full rotor automatic movements were generally offered in more expensive wristwatches.
CaliberWith respect to a wristwatch movement, caliber designation refers to its manufacturer, reference number, size and complications (if any). The term 'ebauche' refers to the raw movement itself prior to finishing and adjusting; it is the heart of a watch. Even as far as the early 1920's, watch manufacturers did not make their own raw movements. Instead, they would buy the raw movements from ebauche producers in Switzerland. The components of a raw movement (plates, bridges, blocks, wheel trains, hands, etc) could be purchased in various grades of preparation - for example, with or without jewels. Because of the work and facilities involved, raw movements were (and still are) made by only a few specialized producers. However, the value and desirability of a vintage wristwatch movement is usually determined by how finely it is finished, not which ebauche it was based on.
Dial RefinishingMany vintage wristwatches, at some point or another, have had their dials refinished. Dial refinishing refers to the process of restoring a watch dial to its original appearance. Over time, when exposed to sunlight or moisture, watch dials (which are made of silver or silver-plated brass) tend to fade and oxidize, causing the dial to become unattractive or even unreadable. Without going into a lengthy technical explanation of how dial refinishing works (essentially, it's a chemical process in which a watch dial's original finish is removed, then reapplied), the most important concept to understand is that not all refinished dials are created equal. Like any watch restoration process, dial refinishing is an art and a science, and there are not many companies left which can duplicate the look and quality of an original dial. At Classicwatch.com, our 25 years of experience allows us to determine when refinishing makes sense and when it does not. Moreover, we have access to the finest dial refinishers in the industry. Whenever a dial restoration is decided upon, we always take into account the original appearance of the dial, the correct size and font of the lettering, and so on.
Luminous MaterialIn many cases, and this applies to the vast majority of military timepieces, the luminous material on the dial and hands of a watch have been redone at some point in their lifetimes. The reason is twofold: With a half life of 1,600 years, early radium applications were found to be quite dangerous in terms of radioactivity when hundreds of dials were stockpiled at the factory or dial manufacturer. Thus, in the 1960s a large scale switch to tritium was made -- a much less dangerous material with a half life of 12.5 years. This shorter half life, while safer made it such that in many applications, the luminous material would no longer glow satisfactorily after 7-8 years. This is particularly important in military watches, stayed "in-spec" during their service life and as such, the luminous material, of at least the hands, was redone at service time. Military watchmakers focused on preserving the operation of their "tool watches" and frankly didn't care what collectors thought about the state of a watch's luminous material some 50-75 years later.
OriginalityEvery single watch offered for sale by Classicwatch.com is guaranteed to be genuine and in as close to its original condition, both mechanically and cosmetically, as possible. Obviously, when dealing with a fifty year old timepiece, there is no way to guarantee that every single component in the movement is completely original, but we will not sell any vintage timepieces which have been improperly tampered with or modified. From their own experience as collectors, we realize that certain watches lend themselves to restoration, while others are best left original. Classic watch will not sacrifice cosmetic appearance for the sake of originality, however. With this in mind, Classicwatch.com offers watches for both the discriminating collector seeking absolute originality, as well as watches that can be worn casually and have been restored to look like new.
SignedWhen we write in our descriptions that a watch is 'signed', we are describing a watch that has been stamped with the name or trademark of its manufacturer on its movement, case or dial. Triple signed watches are marked on their case, dial and movment and are sough after. It should be noted that while certain watches may not be triple signed, they are nonetheless original. Especially during the first half of the 20th Century, Swiss watch manufacturers were unable to import fully completed wristwatches and pocket watches into the United States, due to extremely high tariffs on solid gold cases. The solution was to export the movements and dials separately, and case them up in American-made gold cases. Today, we find many early watches, such as those by Vacheron & Constantin, housed in American 'contract cases'. Although these watches are not worth as much as triple-signed watches, they are no less beautiful and offer great values for the budget-minded collector.
Conversely, there are also watches that are not triple signed, but not necessarily original. During the Great Depression, as well as the early 1980's when gold was worth $850 per ounce, millions of solid gold watch cases were melted down. Years later, when vintage watches became a hot collectible, many of these orphaned movements and dials were placed in less expensive (and sometimes laughably inappropriate) cases by watch dealers and collectors.
In more nefarious instances, a dial from one watch would be matched up with a movement from another, then re-cased. Needless to say, such 'put together' watches are not very desirable and Classicwatch.com will not deal in them. Our customers should also be forewarned that many vintage timepieces being offered in Internet auctions have been improperly tampered with or modified. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
WaterproofThere are no absolutely waterproof watches. Vintage watches called "waterproof" were once able to withstand the water pressure of a one-meter depth for one hour. Divers' watches must be able withstand much higher water pressure at even greater depths. In the 1950's, a series of quick testing methods - employing a device in which the watch case is immersed in water - were developed for use by watch repair facilities.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for Classicwatch.com to guarantee that any vintage watch we sell (even sports watches originally intended for diving) is still waterproof. The fact of the matter is that the rubber gaskets which provide water-resistance must be replaced and the watch extensively re-tested before exposing the timepiece to water for any length of time. Because such a repair is generally cost prohibitive, we do not undertake such repairs. Nor do we recommend swimming, showering or diving with any vintage watch.
Although most vintage watches will not be harmed by casual moisture, they are by no means waterproof and should be cared for appropriately: it is best to avoid any type of moisture altogether. Finally, we are unable to modify vintage watches so as to guarantee that they will be waterproof or water-resistant and often ship with loose case-back hand tight in order with the movement to be examined more easily.
SummaryBe assured that every timepiece we sell has been, authenticated and if appropriate, correctly restored. Classicwatch.com also offers one of the most liberal return policies in the industry. If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, simply return the watch with 5 days for a full refund less shipping. Zaf has over 25 years experience in the field of buying and selling vintage wristwatches, and is members of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, as well as the International Watch & Jewelry Guild.