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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I only ask this as a newbie in collecting, but I'd say for the last 4-5 watches I've looked at on the bay, all of them get bid out the wazoo. I mean we're talking everything from old Seikos to Hamiltons, Sicuras... you name it. There's no problem getting cheapie watches like Timexes and watches along those lines. But anything else it just seems to be insanely high. I was bidding on one watch and whoever was bidding against me was using "auto-bid". I probably got a little carried away- but it was a really cool watch- and was up to around $300 when it gave me yet another: " You have been outbid" message. At that point I said screw it and stopped. Again- probably a good thing. But seriously? I'm not poor or destitute, but from what I can tell you've seemingly got to have some deeeep pockets to be collecting these things. At least more than I care to spend. I guess you could call me bitter.
 

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No, you can buy some bargains on ebay, always set yourself a price of what you are willing to pay and stick to it. Try doing a bit of sniping yourself, if you cant beat them join them. seikos can be picked up really cheap, also roamer a great watch for cheap price. I know hamiltons you will pay a bit more for, but plenty of people on here pick up some right bargains. Another make you can pick up cheap are sekonda and a pretty good watch, I recently bought one for £30 and runs and looks great. I try to stick with the £35 ish, some people on here spend a few pounds or dollars, esp if picked up at flee market
 

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Absolutely not. I started collecting many years ago, and for the longest time, my 'collection' consisted of a Regina pocket watch from my grandfather, a Huguenin automatic, and some lower end watches, a Lucerne, and a Mercury with a little airplane on a mystery disc for a second hand. When I started getting more serious, I was able to find many watches at church rummage sales and flea markets. Leading up to the time I was to go away to watchmaking school about three or four years ago, I started collecting more seriously, thinking I would need a stock of watches to work on, with many different movement types. This has now resulted in a collection in excess of 250 watches, none of which cost me more than $200, except for one: an Omega Speedmaster which I wear often. Most of my watches I bought in running condition, for between $20 and $50. Antique stores sometimes have boxes of old watches that they are not actively selling, especially for places specializing in furniture. I have also bought watch 'lots', consisting of running and non running watches, and I keep my maximum bids on the 'Bay under $50. There are many auctions I do not win, where, as you say, the prices go right through the roof. I think this is ridiculous, as most of the watches I see need work, about 98%. Always factor in a good service by a competent watchmaker, and you will end up with some real gems. Longines will always be pricey, as will various higher end brands, like JLC, Rolex and VC. However, Omegas can be had at reasonable prices, as can Zeniths and IWC, as well as Baume and Mercier. It takes some time to locate them, and they will not always be on the 'Bay. I recently saw a beautiful, excellent condition Baume and Mercier Chronograph with Valjoux movt for $400. This is out of my budget, but I was sorely tempted. (it was in a pawn shop on Church st.)
Sometimes, when people know you are collecting vintage watches, they will give them to you. This is usually family and friends, but I have literally hundreds of movements that were given to me, along with many watches, including some old Rolex.
Do not despair, it just takes time and patience, and you have to haunt places like flea markets and I do mean 'Haunt'! Not a week goes by without my being at several flea markets or junk stores or what have you, and I keep meticulous notes as to places of interest and phone numbers of fellow collectors.
In general, I dislike most of what I see on eBay. My best finds were not from there.
 

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No... but it helps!


I am certainly far away from rich.... and have to buy and sell a few watches to help fund the collection.

As with anything you collect... it will depend on what you are looking (quality) to buy... if you look for high end watches... prepair to pay high end prices..

But, as Joe says... there are some good quality brands out there that you can get for a good price.... Tissot, Roamer, Seiko, Cyma, Eterna... to name a few! I have bought and sold many Sicura watches (incl many Jump hours)... never spending more then £50!

Dont give it... but dont get carried away (easier said than done!)....

The best way to get bargains are to search out the badly listed items - poor titles, poor pics and short descriptions... There is of course a massive risk in these watches and you do rely on a bit (sometimes a lot ) of luck.... Going through a bad spell of poor buys myself.... partly down to poor listings, partly down to poor judgement by me!!
 

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I can attest that bargains are to be had on ebay, and you don't need to be rich.

But you do need to know the market and that means countless hours browsing watches. You'll get
a feel for 'true' market values and you'll know when you have a bargain or have paid to much.

The last watch I bought from ebay, 2 weeks ago... a 1940's Regina, centre secs with copper and black dial
in nice condition, nobody else bid and I won it for 99p. The previous watch to that which I also acquired from
ebay for £170 is a LeCoultre bumper automatic, which was a lot of money for me but not a lot if a watch at this price is
only bought once in a while.
That being said, there are also pitfalls when buying 'old' watches from ebay and as well as knowing the market, it pays
to know watches.
 

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Depends on what you want to collect, and what you define as "Rich" really. If your intent is to collect grand complications and old tourbillions, then yes, definately you need to be rich. If you want to collect a history of dollar watches that don't work, then no. In between is a vast array of types, niches etc. I just recently decided to start collecting T. Eaton's pocket watches, and I've managed to amass nearly a dozen for around $100 each. Dunno if you call that "rich" or not. The first year or so that I was collecting, I never paid more then $30, and managed to get a decent collection of Bulova, Waltham and Benrus watches (nothing too high end, but good watches). Of course, the real cost in collecting is often the service/repair.
 

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The best way to get bargains are to search out the badly listed items - poor titles, poor pics and short descriptions...
These are my favorite listings! I collect vintage Hamiltons, and love finding those "not an expert" listings. You have to have a good idea of what you're looking for and how much you're willing to spend to get it. With ladies' Hamiltons, most sellers are clueless about what's they've got; the watches are either wildly overpriced or practically given away, with not much in between. I particularly enjoyed finding a 1950s-era watch, 10K gold fill, not working and with a badly spotted dial, starting bid of $90. I'd pay maybe $10 for that watch if it were in good working order and had a clean dial and no brassing on the case.

The most I've paid for a vintage watch is around $60, and that was for a 1923 model in good condition and excellent running order. Below is my Hamilton K-419, circa 1960, for which I spent less than $20:



So no, you don't have to be rich. You do have to educate yourself. Reading this forum is a good start!
 

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Don't know what you're trying to buy, but Ebay is a pretty accurate reflection of the marketplace and frankly if anything tends to be on the lower side of market prices reflecting the risk in buying watches based solely on photos and a seller description.

If you are getting outbid significantly, most likely your undervaluing what you're trying to buy. Have you been looking at the "Completed Listings" before determining how much to bid? Also, have you tried using a sniping service to place your bid at the last moment instead of manually bidding? Manual bidding tends to run the price of items up. Snipe bidding, where you set your max bid price through a service which places your bid at the last moment eliminates the competitive emotion between bidders which tends to jack prices for items up.

You don't have to be rich to collect watches. OTOH, if you're thinking that you want to collect Grand Seikos, some Hamilton 770 and 982M movement watches or Sicura divers for less than $100 a watch, it isn't going to happen.
 

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Happily you don't have to be rich. I seldom spend more the $30 on a vintage watch. For this I get good jeweled lever movements typically 15-17 jewels, OK dials and pretty good cases.

Service costs were are pinch point for my collecting - since prices in the western US are pretty high. I solved this by doing my own cleaning and basic service work. This had some tool up costs but I passed 'break-even' on the second cleaning - and that would be without considering what I could sell the tools for if I found out that I didn't enjoy this aspect of the hobby.

Here is a picture of a little Gruen 17j Verithin that I paid $10 for. Cleaning and oiling was all it really needed...

Wrist.jpg

To repeat some of what has already been said. A lot of money is not required. Brand selection is the key to limiting expense. Knowledge of the market and obvious movement problems protects you from overpaying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Some interesting responses. I've had 'some' luck at yard sales and flea markets. Only problem is that this is the Bay Area of San Francisco and there seems to be A LOT of people who collect watches here. Every time I go to the flea markets around here the "good stuff" is almost always gone. If I look at any watches at all there will usually be a big horde of elderly men that are either already there or they'll see me and come running if they see I'm looking. Usually there are only 3 types of watches left: Absolute crap, cartoonishly "blingy" new watches, or watches where the seller is asking an enormous amount of money. I've had better luck at weird places- like church sales and small obscure shops. To date the most I've spent has been $35.

The problem with me is that I don't know how to fix these. But I can see how useful that would be. I collect old tube powered radios and can rebuild these from the ground up. Parts are easy to find and cost chicken feed. Most people don't have a clue how to do it. So I intentionally look for non-working radios because those are dirt-cheap. Its a rather cheap hobby. Unfortunately I have no knowledge about watches. Not to say I don't want to learn but I'm not sure if I am serious about watches enough to fork over the money for the tools.
 

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I would say no, but that also depends on the type of collection more specifically the brands you go for, like some have stated prepare to pay a premium for a good high-end collectible. I tend to look for restorations, or some that will run but need service, I always factor it cost of service with all VINTAGE WATCHES irrespective of claims of being serviced prior to sales. I find with this approach I tend to do ok and not overspend. At the moment I am saving towards a grail or 2 , so it'll be a little while. I'm not rich , don't think I'll be anytime soon. Happy collecting all !!
 

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Not at all. Though it does largely depend of course on what one wants to collect. If you want to collect Pateks, then you need deep pockets. If, like me, you prefer well made but lesser-known or forgotten brands, then you can pick them up for very little. For instance I bought this Rodania Sport for £0.99:

 

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I am not into vintage watches at all,but i was looking at some vintage Tissot's on the bay,and i was very surprised the asking,and bidding prices were..A lot higher than i would be willing to pay..Must be a big demand for vintage Tissots.
 

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If you're collecting on the cheap, you either need to learn to service watches, or you need to find a good inexpensive watchmaker. An inexpensive watch will likely need service and prices for service can range from reasonable (eg. $45 to service a simple manual wind no date movement) to unreasonable (eg $200 to service a simple manual wind no date movement).

If you're thinking about learning check out the TimeZone Watch School . This will give you an idea of what you have to learn and what tools you'll need. Cost is very reasonable.
 

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I, like many, like to pretend that watch collecting is cheap. But mostly, that is down to creative accounting and denial. When I add up all the cheap watches, the parts, tools, the servicing and actually the less cheap and downright expensive ones you end up buying because you get drawn in to the whole scene, I would hardly say it is a cheap hobby.

To some extent, people who buy a couple of pataks, or VC - or people who own several hundred watches - have probably spent much the same amount. Its either death by a thousand cuts, or, in a couple of wacks.

But, you don't have to be rich. You mostly have to be patient and fiscally irresponsible (my wife agrees with me on the irresponsible part of that statement).

Expensive hobbies are horses and cars.

Cheap hobbies include knitting and Taphophilia.

Watches - somewhere in between.
 

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Cheap hobbies include knitting and Taphophilia.
I nearly squirted juice out my noise when I read that. I always enjoyed finding my name on the marker too.

Reminds me, that I just bought a Gruen 420ss for less than $20, with initials on the case back that are a match to my grandfather's (RGW). Next summer maybe I'll picnic at his plot. Anyway, the watch even looks like something he would have owned. See here for an earlier opinion on the 420SS, though my new purchase isn't a Pan Am. Can't say I disagree with the sentiment on the movement.
 

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As with a good number of hobbies, it can turn expensive quite quick. Interested in vintage Patek or Vacheron? That's a world I'll never know. No, it certainly does not have to be pricey. You probably need to put in the time to research what interests you, so you go in with good info. There are other venues besides the 'bay. I've purchased (and sold) a couple watches on forums- good places to keep an eye on. Hint: use Elitedealseeker.com.

There has been a growing interest in vintage, worldwide. The declining US dollar and increasing foreign currency I think has something to do with it. In a lot of Asian countries, watches are becoming a status symbol. I saw a lot of this going on while I was in SE Asia earlier this year.
For my collecting, I'm really only interested in Gallet watches, which pretty much nobody has heard of - which is good for me! I have witnessed the price of these climbing steadily over the last few years, though.
Happy hunting!
 
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