Starting Your Vintage Watch Collection
For those of you who don’t know him, Eric Wind is a rockstar in every sense of the word. Not only can he shred a drum set, but he’s also considered one of the foremost experts on vintage watches in the world. His passion for vintage watches has transformed a once-forgotten hobby into a profitable and flourishing business.
Now solely focused on his own online shop, Wind Vintage, Eric spends his days scouring the world for the finest examples of dead stock watches. His customers know that Eric’s acute eye for the smallest details and search for a watch with character, ensures them a piece that’s both beautiful and mechanically sound. I was extremely lucky to meet Eric and talk about life and what his advice is to starting a vintage watch collection.
First off thank you for meeting with me. For the sake of our readers, could you briefly tell them the story about how you got started in vintage watches?
I was always interested in watches. It started first with my grandfather’s watch, which was a vintage Hamilton I inherited after he passed. He received it from my grandmother for their wedding in 1947. It was the first mechanical watch I have ever seen, which was mind blowing that a watch didn’t run on a battery. Once I started to learn more about watches, I stumbled upon Hodinkee and eventually started writing for them. After that, I started buying more vintage watches and selling them on the website and it just grew from there.
Starting from your early years of watch collecting, could you give our readers a few tips to get started collecting?
The most common mistake new collectors make (myself included), is buying for a particular reference or a rare example. I always tell people to buy a watch for the condition first. Regardless of what’s popular, your tastes will change over time. Imagine buying or receiving a really high-end piece of art and not knowing anything about it or the artist. Educate yourself, study the nuances of that piece and make an informed and educated purchase.
What should you look for or avoid before buying a vintage watch?
Evaluate the whole watch. The dial is certainly the most important. Inspect closely if it’s original and in good condition. Next, the case. My personal preference is for an untouched or unpolished case. I feel like it makes the watch more honest, original and tells a story. I die a little inside when I see a vintage watch that’s been over polished. Crystals can oftentimes be replaced or polished (if acrylic). This is to the discretion of the buyer. Lastly, check if the watch has any type of waterproofing. I make sure the watches I sell have some sort of water resistance, if possible. I’ve had clients who have lost money because they flew somewhere and during the flight their watches developed condensation inside the crystal. It’s fairly easy to put rubber gaskets and it’s worth the extra money to protect your watches.
For the casual observer, it seems like vintage watch collecting is an expensive hobby. Watches like the Paul Newman Daytona, that sold for $17.75M, can cause a little hesitation to get started. Do you need to have money to get into vintage watches?
Not necessarily. I love less expensive watches as much as the expensive ones. I’ve actually helped curate a bunch of watches under $1000 dollars recently, being sold at Rowing Blazers here in NYC. The one thing I do caution new collectors about buying watches under $1000 dollars is the expectations of maintenance. You should expect that maintenance on a watch will be somewhere in the $300-450 dollar range depending on your watch repairman. This is on the low end so if you’re thinking about a saving up for a vintage Rolex or Omega, expect that number to jump to almost $1000 dollars for service.
Could you give our readers 3 watches ($500-$2000) that beginners can look to buy when starting their collection?
Yes, I think the Vulcain Cricket is a great watch under $1000 dollars. I own a few of them. Great construction, solid case, some presidential history and a cool complication. Omega, which is a great prestige brand, has the Seamasters from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. They come in both hand-wound or automatic, easy to maintain, classic sizing and found for under $2000 dollars. Lastly, Enicar is a brand I’ve been a fan of recently. Really well-made and have a bunch of variations from divers, chronographs and even dress watches. They sell anywhere from $250 to $2000 dollars for the entry models and up from there.
What’s the current state of your personal collection? Are you searching for something particular or are you only looking for your clients?
My collection is always evolving. I have a pretty wide-ranging collection of watches. I obviously love brands like Rolex and Omega, but I’ve collected the best examples of a lot of different brands. The metric for me has always been, if this was my one watch, would I still be happy? Secondly, will I ever see something like it in the market or better? There’s a charisma to a watch, it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. That’s how I typically go about buying and selling watches.
What is your most treasured watch, regardless of its price? Do you still wear it today?
I like watches with different stories. I visited the Fortis factory a couple years ago and while I was there, bought a vintage model. It always reminds me of visiting the factory before they went through bankruptcy. Most recently I purchased a Seiko 6139 Pogue from a gentleman who wore it during his time in the Vietnam War. He was a pilot and all of his fellow pilots had purchased the same blue Seiko Pogue. We spoke over the phone and he told me some incredible stories of his time in service. When he shipped it to me it came with his ration card, the original bracelet and box. It’s moments like those that I treasure the most.
You’re a student of vintage watches. Do you have any great books or references that could help young collectors learn more about watches?
There definitely are some great books. The Watch by Gene Stone which was revised recently by Stephen Pulvirent. There’s a new book from my friend at Hodinkee called, Watches: A Guide by Hodinkee. If you prefer reading from a tablet, I recommend John Goldberger’s, Patek Steel or Vintage Rolex Book. Books can get expensive so you can download those versions for about half the price of the physical book.
What’s your opinion on high-end watch collecting? Is it more about purchasing watches as investments or a display of wealth? Are the people you are selling to enjoying the watch for their beauty or locking them away for financial gain?
The biggest trend of the last 10 years has been the information being readily available. 2011 was the first time a Rolex hit one million dollars at auction and as you’ve seen over the last few years that number has jumped with the sale of the Paul Newman at $17.8 million. That side of the market has caused the value of some of the older GMTs and Submariners to climb in price. On the flip side, the positive is that buyers have a better understanding of the importance of condition. Some of my buyers only buy one vintage piece and they’re happy. Others buy 20 or more watches over the course of a 5-10 year period. I generally work with clients who love vintage watches, have studied them and are looking for something specific.
You are undoubtedly one the premier suppliers of one-of-a-kind vintage watches. Has the rise in popularity and profitability of selling watches left you feeling jaded or concerned about the future of the business?
There’s a new dealer popping up every week, just about. I’m actually close with a lot of the dealers here in New York City. We’re all pretty close and I frequently buy watches from them and resell them. I also make sure to send people to them who are looking for watches between $500 – $2000 dollars. Once I even brought Fred Savage to a local meet-up and a bunch of them freaked out. To answer your question, no. I think we all have the same understanding and the same passion for watches and if we can help each other out, we’re glad to do so.
Lastly, what kind of effect do you think the media (movies, pop culture and now social media) have on the availability of watch models like the Rolex Submariner, Explorer (1016), Daytonas, Patek Philip Nautilus and the AP Royal Oak?
Personally, I worry about the overhyping of any vintage watch because eventually the market corrects itself. Particularly with Heuer a few years back, which at one point went up almost 500%. Working at Christie’s, there are only so many people that can spend $200k on a watch and when the market readjust, they’re fine with losing the money. I’ve seen dealers buy up a particular model in hopes to hype the market up and sell it at higher prices, but that’s not something I condone. The media certainly can move the market, but it usually always corrects itself once the supply outweighs the demand.
Eric, thank you so much for taking time to speak to our readers. It’s been a pleasure to meet with you and talking about how you started collecting watches. I hope our readers will have a better idea of just how fantastic collecting watches can be.
Anytime. If your readers have any other questions, be sure to reach out to me at Wind Vintage.
Thanks for reading.
Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style