December 18, 2013


Vintage Rolex watches are hotter than ever. More and more collectors find themselves drawn to the more subdued luster of that older steel. For some, no doubt, it is a nostalgia thing. Forty-something’s grew up reading National Geographic ads for Rolex models that are now considered vintage. They grew up watching –and still watch—classic movies and TV shows where the heroes often wore some model of now-vintage Rolex. The younger set watches the same stuff on Hulu and Netflix today. Bill Cosby and Robert Culp wore Rolex GMT-Masters on the classic 1960s TV show, I Spy.  Tom Selleck wore the same watch on the popular 1980s TV show, Magnum, P.I.

It has become fashionable in recent years to collect and to be seen wearing vintage Rolex. Celebrities too, are seemingly going for vintage in a big way. Singer John Mayer is a vintage Rolex Daytona junkie and is said to have a world-class collection. He even writes for an online watch collector site occasionally. Actor Orlando Bloom is also said to be a major collector of vintage Rolexes. One concern for collectors is whether to buy restored or non-restored, completely original watches. Rolex expert Jeffrey Hess expert estimates 80-perecnt of Rolexes made before the 1980s have had one or more parts replaced as part of a Rolex repair or service at some time in their past. The completely original watches are more desirable and valuable, but a good restored piece can make a great every day wearer, too.

An article in the UK’s online Guardian newspaper reported that more and more people were now turning to the older watches, “their dull patina considered a sign of class.” For many celebrities who can literally afford any watch in the world, the attraction of owning something made of unobtanium is real. When you can have anything you want, you tend to want something you can’t: hence the appeal of items no longer in production.

Vintage watches are increasingly seen as stylish pieces of history you can wear on your wrist. They also combine the appeal of historical curio with the masculine aura associated with the celluloid heroes of yore. Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner in the early James Bond films and Paul Newman and Steve McQueen are so associated with vintage Rolex that collectors have named specific models after them. It’s not just for the guys, either. With the increasing popularity of the “I’m wearing my boyfriend’s watch” look, more ladies are wearing men’s watches than ever before. Jennifer Anniston collects and wears vintage Rolex and Patek Philippe.

Finally, there is one more thing vintage has going for it. You can buy a Picasso or Vermeer if sufficiently well-heeled and hang it on your office or living room wall, but you can’t take it into that high-powered meeting where the watch on your wrist can go. This helps make the vintage watch one of the most appealing collectibles of all. It goes everywhere you do, and as such is a very personal possession. For more and more watch lovers, when it comes time to have a R
olex service, the watch being serviced is likely to be a vintage one.


Man About Manila said...

Great article! If you do have your watch serviced at the Rolex Service Center let them know that the dial and hands are not to be touched. In the past they would return parts that were replaced but not anymore. When collecting vintage Rolex you have to be wary of fakes as people convert Swiss sub homages to vintage Submariners and they do look quite convincing.


Thanks man. Yes, I always tell them not to touch the dial and hands.