A vintage watch is an intimidating acquisition. It’s far from a necessity, it’s often a pricey item, and it requires an incredible amount of research and due diligence on the part of the new owner just to keep from getting screwed during the purchase. However, buying one can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, which is probably why most vintage watch buyers talk about “catching the bug” after making their first purchase. Some even make a career out of vintage watches.
This was certainly the case for James Lamdin, Hamilton Powell and Eric Wind, who have all gone on to found their own vintage and pre-owned watch shops, Analog/Shift, Crown & Caliber and Wind Vintage, respectively. I asked them about their first vintage watch acquisitions, how they cemented their love for classic timekeeping and what crucial lessons they learned from the experience.
James Lamdin, Analog/Shift
The watch: Seiko 6105-8110, Circa 1976
How and why I got it: I bought this for myself probably fifteen years ago on eBay. I had been deep-diving into the world of vintage watches and at the time and was obsessed with finding an original 1960s or ’70s DOXA Sub 300, but there weren’t many to be found, even in the dark corners of the internet. After finally meeting someone who knew about DOXA, he encouraged me to consider a 6105 as a short-term alternative. I had no interest in anything but a DOXA but decided to take a swing and bought this one for probably $275 from a seller in Singapore.
Why it’s significant to me: It wasn’t what I had originally wanted, but it gave me a great start into the world of vintage. I was already tumbling headfirst down the rabbit-hole of wristwatch enthusiasm, but this purchase fully cemented my love for vintage in that even though it wasn’t what I had started off looking for, it was something I fell in love with instantly and realized that I had it bad.
As such, it also became one of my first “quality” purchases in any area outside of cars and kickstarted an appreciation for well-crafted things in all categories. It also represented my first “serious” purchase since my grandfather’s passing. And since so much of my interest in watches and the stories they tell came from him, it was a bit of a milestone in building my collection of objects imbued with story and emotion.
What it taught me: Sometime after the purchase, I came to learn that the watch had been entirely and poorly relumed. The crown was also an aftermarket replacement, which fell off in the NY subway somewhere and cost me over $500 to replace with the genuine article. I learned about the weakness of junk spring bars, the importance of service history or a warranty (this had none to speak of), and the subsequent importance of having a watchmaker who treats you fairly. It also taught me how absolutely delightful this hobby is, and ultimately inspired me to move into this industry myself years later.
Hamilton Powell, Crown & Caliber
The watch: Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer by Heuer, Circa 1950s
How and why I got it: I bought this watch with the help of a good friend, Jeff Stein, who is a vintage Heuer expert. He knew I loved the outdoors, and wanted a watch that was originally intended for the outdoors. So with his assistance, he helped me locate the watch.
Why it’s significant to me: I still have it and wear it quite often. My personal opinion is that if you own a watch, it shouldn’t be stored in a safe. Wear it and enjoy it. If you feel like you should store it in a safe, its time to sell it and move on. Before I owned this, I never had the vintage bug. I only owned modern timepieces. I now own several vintage watches, and I can say that by doing so it makes one appreciate modern watches even more because you develop an understanding of the original intended purpose of the watch. Vintage watches were tool watches — they were made to serve a purpose. Dive watches were meant to dive. Pilot watches were meant for pilots. By understanding the genesis of a purposeful watch, it makes one enjoy modern watches much more.
What it taught me: As I said, it connects the past with the present. That’s a huge plus. However, I am a father of three and lead an active lifestyle. It’s hard not to feel guilty wearing a vintage watch and bump it on things all day and not freak out if you just cracked the bezel, or depreciated it by 30% because you chipped the lume. With the vintage market on fire, it makes it hard to justify the day-to-day wear and not freak out about breaking it.
Eric Wind, Wind Vintage
The watch: Hamilton Neil, Circa 1947
How and why I got it: I inherited it from my grandfather. My mother gave it to me before my senior year in college, and it was my first mechanical watch. My mom knew I appreciated antiques and nice things, so she saw it as a very personal memento to give me since my grandfather wore it daily from when he got it for his wedding from my grandmother in 1947.
Why it’s significant to me: It started the obsession that would lead to vintage watches becoming my profession. I loved seeing the mechanical movement. Winding the watch and seeing the movement come to life was a revelation — something much more permanent and personal than battery-powered watches I had previously owned. It is not a watch I would ever sell; I plan to give it to my son Charlie one day.
What it taught me: I knew I had to be a bit more careful with it than other watches given that it was not water resistant at all, so I was pretty careful when wearing it and remain careful wearing vintage watches today. It also taught me about the importance of finding the right strap. It is a pretty small and thin watch, so most strap options were just too thick. I hunted for a while to find a strap thin enough to complement the watch. I think finding the right strap can make or break how much someone likes and enjoys a watch, so I spend a lot of time finding straps that are the right color, texture, and thickness for watches I am selling.