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Discussion Starter #1
Greetings, this is my first post.

I've got a birthday coming up, and I'm looking into a grownup watch. For a number of reasons*, I've got my mind set on a vintage (pre-quartz) mechanical chronograph somewhere in the $500 range. I'm fine with a non-automatic and I'm fine with a watch that shows some wear, so long as it works (as well as a 50-80 year old mechanical does).

I'm not looking to start round out a collection, I don't think I'm investing, I'm not beholden to any specific brand. I deal with older cars regularly, so I've been on the other side of this question from newbies before. I know enough to know to ask before I have a tough learning experience.

Getting the "best" I can isn't so critical as avoiding picking up a costly mistake.

I'm starting with eBay because...well just because. Here's my saved search: LINK
Aesthetically, here's what I'm going for:
Vintage Delbana Chronograph Classic Dial Completely Restored | eBay
Landeron 148 Two Register Chronograph Elmont C 1940's 50'S | eBay
Vintage Cuervo Y Sobrinos Chronograph Classic Silver Dial Just Serviced | eBay
Vintage 1940's Alsta Up and Down Chronograph Manual Venus 170 Very Nice WOW | eBay
Vintage Thoresen Recipro Register Chronograph Telemeter Dial 17J Manual Watch | eBay
Vintage 1940's Lemania 15TL Steel Men's Chronograph Pilot Watch Auricoste 2040 | eBay
Overhauled All Original 1940's Bovet 17 Jewel Chronograph w Tropic Sport Strap | eBay

These two initially caught my eye...then did the typical eBay exponential price rise in the last hour:
Omega Chronograph Manual Wind Vintage C 1950 Tachymetre Gents Wrist Watch | eBay
Excellent Vintage Stainless Steel Breitling Premier Chronograph Model 760 | eBay

I have done a little homework, here are my current guiding principles:
  • If a mechanical piece lasted and was cared about enough to make it this far, it's probably a decent brand with decent quality. The lousy ones died off long ago, obsessing over "is ____ a good brand/movement?" probably isn't a concern
  • Avoid non-functional, incomplete or obviously "beat" looking units. I don't know enough to differentiate between a basket case and a "just needs ___ and it's great" example
  • Only buy from US sellers
  • If it hasn't been recently cleaned and serviced by a 100% feedback high-volume vintage watch seller, assume it'll need servicing in the near future
Questions:
  • What am I missing or mistaken on?
  • Is eBay too risky of a market?
  • Does it make more sense to spend less or more? e.g., are the $500 examples just overpriced $250 examples or crappy $750 examples?
Sorry for the long post, thanks in advance!



*I'm an engineer and have a hard time wrapping my mind around something costly that functions worse, but costs more (e.g. a mechanical watch Vs my $35 timex). That said, I love old mechanical things, and use a '64 Ford Falcon with manual steering/brakes/transmission is my daily driver. I love engineering history and old tools. In that context, a functional piece (chronograph, tachymeter) from an era when they were tools for pilots, drivers and engineers makes sense as a historical tool. To me, post-quartz mechanical pieces seem a bit gratuitous.
 

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I saw your response to Rolland in the other thread and jumped over to this one. I note sometimes big posts have a harder time getting responded to than shorter ones. I think this is fairly normal in forums. This post has a lot of meat to it and that makes it harder to give quick responses, which is what most responses are. Forums tend to be conversational and this post is a speech! LOL

Your analysis seems pretty astute. You see a lot more than most new members.

Focusing on vintage chonographs is still a broad focus, but it is a doable one. What I have found is research over time develops an appreciation and evaluation skills which are necessary for a serious collector. You have a good start! Persevere! :)

eBay is the wholesale market of watches. It rewards those that know what they are doing and punishes those who don't.

Ask about watches in smaller clumps than the list you present. It is a lot of work trying to comment on one or two listings than on nine.

Never buy a non-working watch unless you are pretty SURE you can make it work for an economical amount of effort.

Never spend more money than you can afford. That leads to dissatisfaction very quickly.

Develop a modicum of watchmaking skills. You should be able to switch bands, open cases, and regulate escapements as a minimum.

A 64 Falcon, eh? My high school car (well, actually not mine but my mother's) was a Futura Convertible. Oh I wished I still had that car :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks.

I "went long" because the usual response to "I'm new and looking for X" is the batch of a few questions I tried to answer there. I can process through a similar list of cars to get a feel for what someone likes and what they're obviously ignorant to and help point them in the right direction :).

The breadth of selection is what's so attractive with eBay. I can pick between 30 similarly priced, similarly featured watches whereas a local dealer might only have 1. Generally I come back and search here for information on any brand/model/movement that catches my eye. I'm soaking up quite a bit.

When there's a specific one I'm seriously considering, I'll create a thread for it.

Is there a basic tool set/kit and manual you could point me towards?

Thanks
 

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Hi and Welcome,

Eeeb has started the ball rolling.....

As already pointed out... you seem to have a good handle on what you are doing... even posting here before bidding on a watch is a step ahead of most new members!

to comment/respond to your thoughts and questions... my comments would be:


  • If a mechanical piece lasted and was cared about enough to make it this far, it's probably a decent brand with decent quality. The lousy ones died off long ago, obsessing over "is ____ a good brand/movement?" probably isn't a concern.
You may find there are still some lousy ones out there.... but your cautious approach should keep you ahead of the game. I would say the 2 you missed Omega/Breitling was not the worst thing to happen.

Firstly, you are paying a premium for the name... generally, for the era you are looking at, you can find lesser known brands with exactly the same movements as you would find in a Breitling. Also, the Omega you missed out on had a very poor redial and the Breitling had no movement pics - a movement shot is needed, unless you are happy to risk your money!



  • Avoid non-functional, incomplete or obviously "beat" looking units. I don't know enough to differentiate between a basket case and a "just needs ___ and it's great" example
Probably wise. If you dont have a good relationship (knowing what he will work on, what his skill is, what parts he has or is likely to get hold of...) with a watch guy, its probably best to stick to complete watches as you say.



  • Only buy from US sellers
Being from the UK, my field of play is slightly different.... Sad truth is, you can buy duds from anywhere... but as I say, your cautious approach will help you out.



  • If it hasn't been recently cleaned and serviced by a 100% feedback high-volume vintage watch seller, assume it'll need servicing in the near future

I think you should always assume it needs a service - unless a service receipt/guarantee is provided.


  • What am I missing or mistaken on?
I think you are pretty much there... more and more research (to spot fakes/redials/frankens.. etc) is always needed. But I would suggest posting individual threads on 1 or 2 watches at a time, asking for input. I would look for a non 'mainstream' brand. Generally, you will get the same quality watch at a fraction of the price.



  • Is eBay too risky of a market?
Not if you know what to look for, do your research and ask questions if needed.



  • Does it make more sense to spend less or more? e.g., are the $500 examples just overpriced $250 examples or crappy $750 examples?
Impossible to really answer without examples. I know some views are to buy the best you can afford. Which is sound advice! However, you need the knowledge to know if what you are spending presents good value for money. I Have bought great quality Landeron/Valjoux non branded Chronographs for around £100. The addition of Breitling (for example) on the dial may have meant I spent 4X 5X... ?X the amount, for basically the same watch. That is something you need to decide - how important is the 'name'

Good luck and hopefully others will give their opinions to.



Never buy a non-working watch unless you are pretty SURE you can make it work for an economical amount of effort.
Thats where I have been going wrong.... ;-)
 

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Hi
All good advice above
I clicked the first link. - Fully Restored - that includes a re-worked dial.
My advice (to add) do not by Frankens, Marriage watches or re-worked dials.
Try to stick with 100% original timepieces

Good Luck
Feel free to ask advice PRIOR to buying - no one will steal your options.
A
 

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Look at Gallet: they were arguably the best most toolish chronographs during the 40s and 50s. When my father joined Monsanto as a research chemist in 1961 they gave him this Gallet. It was a lab essential:

 

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Look at Gallet: they were arguably the best most toolish chronographs during the 40s and 50s. When my father joined Monsanto as a research chemist in 1961 they gave him this Gallet. It was a lab essential:

True. But for $500?
I dont think so. More like $2000+
 

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True. But for $500?
I dont think so. More like $2000+
In that condition, yes $2000 :). Here's my father's actual watch ~$900. There certainly are lesser priced Gallet chronos.

 

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When did he buy it for $900? May I ask.
Its a re-worked dial, but $900 is still good
 

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When did he buy it for $900? May I ask.
Its a re-worked dial, but $900 is still good
$900 is about what my father's Gallet is worth now. Monsanto gave it to him in 1961 for lab work. Why do you say it's a re-worked dial? The only time it's been serviced was in 1976, which was by Gallet, which replaced the movement for free. I can't imagine they would have re-worked the dial.
 

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$900 is about what my father's Gallet is worth now. Monsanto gave it to him in 1961 for lab work. Why do you say it's a re-worked dial? The only time it's been serviced was in 1976, which was by Gallet, which replaced the movement for free. I can't imagine they would have re-worked the dial.
I think this watch would sell to day for more than $900.
The lume surely looks re-painted to me and not well either (in my opinion)

Regards
 

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Hi there,

I guess, meanwhile you can't moan about missing replies. But I promised to be back, and here I am.

My site contains an advice page for newbies:
Ranfft Watches, Second Timepiece
But it is guided by a certain political correctness, i.e. soft rinsed, because I don't know who reads it. Here I shoud be less cautious.

I don't think I'm investing, I'm not beholden to any specific brand.
A good base for the start. Watches are a lousy investment, and as others already ponted out, the brand is not actually important for this kind of watches. If you stay away from brands for which resonable premiums are paid, you have a very good chance not to catch a fake, or more politely a mariage.

I'm starting with eBay because...well just because.
If you do your homework well (and it appears you do) you can buy everywhere, even from India, South America, and Ukraine. I.e. after doing good homework, you'll be able to separate the junk from such sources from the (unfortunately rare) gems.

The dial is fairly/well done, but I suspect the back signature is much younger than the watch. You mainly buy the seller, and therefore should watch his other items. This one offers lots of watches cobbled together from several watches, sometimes with fancy dials and case/movement signatures. If you don't want to do elaborated research, whether such fancy work is by accident near the original, simply stay away from such sellers.

Nice watch in good condition. The seller is obviously not the typcal parts painter/gluer, and Elmont is actually a brand of Kingston. No real doubts except the price being a bit at the upper limit for a Landeron.

Again, better stay away from the seller - to much fancy junk in the collection.

Don't ever buy a watch without movement pic, except you need only the visible parts. Here you get cases and dials in reasonable condition, so $50 each should be enough. If you don't believe it, read here:
Ranfft Watches, Troubles

If you don't mind the spot on the dial, and the price growing even higher, a good choice

Sorry, either the high bidder is a complete fool, or it were the seller and his friend who pushed the item. A good deal for ebay anyway.

Dial:


Movement pic replaced by boring bla-blah. I'd not consider to buy from such seller.

I have done a little homework, here are my current guiding principles:
If a mechanical piece lasted and was cared about enough to make it this far, it's probably a decent brand with decent quality. The lousy ones died off long ago, obsessing over "is ____ a good brand/movement?" probably isn't a concern
Good care makes watches run centuries. So if a watch from the 40s or 50s looks bad, it was treated badly. This is less a matter of brand and quality, but mor of the previous owner(s).

Avoid non-functional, incomplete or obviously "beat" looking units. I don't know enough to differentiate between a basket case and a "just needs ___ and it's great" example
Yessss. Seller have good reasons not to repair or service a watch. It is more economical to find a fool to pay for this work.

Only buy from US sellers
You can buy gems and trash from all over the world. By average you have less trouble with domestic deals; but keep your eyes open, disregarding the origin.

If it hasn't been recently cleaned and serviced by a 100% feedback high-volume vintage watch seller, assume it'll need servicing in the near future
Simply don't pay attention to any service history, as long as it is not accompanied by according proofs and/or guarantees. Most services are only oil showers (if even that).

Is eBay too risky of a market?Does it make more sense to spend less or more? e.g., are the $500 examples just overpriced $250 examples or crappy $750 examples?
ebay is neither good nor bad - it is simply present, and it's up to you to find an attractive deal.

Finally my post became even longer, a good reason not to join threads like this. But hopefully I'll win a diligence award.

Regards, Roland Ranfft
 

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Given what you say about not wanting to start a collection etc, I'd suggest you ignore online sales and search for a good watchmaker in your area who sells watches. The only way you'll be able to know if a given watch is "worth" it or not is if you know enough about watches, and if you aren't looking to learn that level of detail, then you need to talk to someone who does. As you already noted, you'll likely need to have anything you buy serviced anyway, so you may be able to skip a few steps by starting with a watchmaker and seeing if they have watches for sale. It's also important to find out what they're willing to work on. You can find vintage Japanese and Russian chrono's for somewhat less then swiss ones, but not all watchmakers will be willing to work on them. Japanese chronos in particular have tempting prices but are a bit of a risk, because if they fail, they're often very difficult to find parts for. Russian chronos are a usually decent, if you can find one that hasn't been gaudily re-imagined as a cold-war military relic, but I believe they tend to have the same parts problems.

On a side note, I'll point out that in today's "green" environment, a new mechanical watch does serve a valid engineering purpose since they don't require the kinds of toxic elements required for electronic watches.
 

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Hi there,

Finally my post became even longer, a good reason not to join threads like this. But hopefully I'll win a diligence award.

Regards, Roland Ranfft
ABSOLUTELY!
 

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...
On a side note, I'll point out that in today's "green" environment, a new mechanical watch does serve a valid engineering purpose since they don't require the kinds of toxic elements required for electronic watches.
If you factor in all the toxicity required to make metal watches this may not be true. It certainly is unproven.
 

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<shrug> At worst it's no worse then the toxicity required to build a quartz, and it's a one-time thing. Quartz require a regular investment of new toxic materials (aka batteries) and tend to be more "disposable", so the "greenness" of mechanical movements only increases over time.
 

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Hi Eeeb,

If you factor in all the toxicity required to make metal watches this may not be true. It certainly is unproven.
Indeed, even in Germany, the motherland of green terror, nobody cares for watches. And this is a reliable proof that they are no measurable pollution source. If they were, we would have since long established a profitable wasting business for them.

Regards, Roland Ranfft
 

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<shrug> At worst it's no worse then the toxicity required to build a quartz, and it's a one-time thing. Quartz require a regular investment of new toxic materials (aka batteries) and tend to be more "disposable", so the "greenness" of mechanical movements only increases over time.
Ah, but the care and feeding of watchmakers to maintain the watch is considerable non-greenness...
 

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That may explain why they're such an endangered species. We should implement conservation efforts and encourage young women to help preserve the species by seeking out watchmakers who need assistance...
 

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But if there were more of them it would only make the non-greenness worse!
 
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