Buyers who have been exploring the luxury watch market will be familiar with two recurring terms: vintage watches and used watches. While there is no fixed definition of “vintage,” most will agree that it carries more appealing connotations than “used watches.”

Is a used watch less desirable? It is not! Defining “used watches” and “vintage watches” is critical to demonstrate the point.

MidTown Watch offers the following guidance; general buyers seek used watches in order to obtain the quality of a used luxury watch for a fraction of the new model price. Collectors, in contrast, seek vintage watches on the basis of special interest factors.

Vintage watches should be considered those that are sought and collected on the basis of their age - which may confer special status by virtue of rarity, unique features no longer offered in current models, or particular characteristics that mark them as products of their times and, therefore, inspire historical interest.

Watches that fit these descriptions include timepieces that are very old and may require special parts, unusual timepieces that may feature period equipment such as archaic mineral crystals, or watches that may have special historical connections such as World War Two pilots’ watches. 

In essence, these watches are vintage collectibles because their function as luxury timepieces is of secondary interest to their user - the collector. This user is more likely to be willing to wait for parts when the watch is serviced; older watches may require parts or tools that are not common. 

The collector knows the limits of vintage watches. For example, older timepieces may have little water resistance even if they were built as dive watches – decades can dry rubber seals. 

By comparison, it is advisable for shoppers of used watches to consider models that are still current in their manufacturers’ catalogs. These watches are likely to be so similar to new models that casual observers will be unable to distinguish them from models purchased new.

Of even greater advantage is the easy access to parts and service that used watch ownership affords the savvy buyer. Models produced recently represent easy assignments for watchmakers who must perform service on the timepieces. Ready access to tools, parts, and know-how means a quick turn-around and rapid return of the watch to its owner.
The greatest advantage of purchasing high-grade used watches is the savings. A late-model used watch can offer virtually all benefits of original ownership without the new watch price premium.