From tracing provenance to keeping watches in optimum condition, the Vintage Grail co-founder gives his two cents

Rarity and provenance are just some of the things that add immense value to vintage watches. If you are thinking of immersing yourself in serious collecting of such highly valued watches, we asked Paolo Martel to give you some pointers.

What qualifies as a vintage watch?

Normally, we term a vintage watch as any timepiece that was produced at least 30 years ago. Most often than not, the reference has been discontinued.

What are the edge and limitations of a vintage watch?

There will always be something magical when it comes to vintage—the patina on the dial, the history behind the timepiece, its unique characteristics and in some cases, who previously owned the watch. There is still this misconception that buying vintage timepieces can be a daunting task, from issues of servicing to high-quality counterfeits proliferating in the market. Before buying, it is very important to do your research on a timepiece and ensure that comes from a credible source: check if it has been tampered with, know who previously owned it, and the condition of the piece is paramount.

How big is the impact of “provenance” in determining the value of a vintage watch?

Eric Wind, a noted vintage watch specialist once said that “provenance is the difference between an US$80 watch and a $100,000 watch”. We have heard of many instances of people unknowingly owning a watch previously owned by a historical figure or famous personality. Whether it has a dial with a unique characteristic, a special insignia, or perhaps an engraved marking on the case back, always research first because your watch could turn out to be a real treasure. Many of the major watch brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe and Breguet hold extensive archives of their timepieces and may be able to provide you with the history of a timepiece.

What are the elements that add to a vintage watch’s worth?

The rarity of the model, the condition of the watch and the completeness of the set. Given the age, it’s most likely that a vintage timepiece may be without its original box and papers. Owning a full set—meaning the watch and its accompanying box, papers, and accessories—can add a significant premium. That said, the occurrence is rare so always be inquisitive if you are offered a complete set.

What are your tips in taking care of a vintage watch?

A vintage watch needs to be serviced to keep accurate time; do this every few years with a watchmaker you can trust. Change your watch straps as needed as humidity can affect its wear and tear particularly for those with leather straps. A fresh strap can also make your watch more attractive. Some forget that most vintage watches are no longer water resistant so take note before you decide to go for a swim. Enjoy your watch and try to wear it frequently. If you have a few timepieces, it would be good to rotate wearing them.

Any important reminders that collectors should be aware of when they keep a vintage watch on display in their house or secure it in a box/vault?

We recommend storing your watches separately from their box and accessories, ideally in a secure home safe with some silica gel. Paraphernalia like original warranty papers, brand tags and the like can decay or attract mould; therefore it’s most important to place them in zip lock bags and store them at room temperature to avoid damage.


This story was originally published in the February 2022 issue of Tatler Philippines. Download it on Magzter for free.

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