My passion for watches started with a vintage Rolex Submariner 5513 from 1966. I already had some knowledge of watches at the time, and I bought the timepiece from a local dealer. Although he was right that I wouldn’t lose money on this watch, I later found out that it wasn’t in great condition.
I quickly realized that my first vintage Rolex was a beater. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that I wanted a watch that was more true to its original state. Technically, it was in perfect running condition, but it had been polished too much for my liking. Thus, the case had lost its distinctive sharp lines, and I learned an important lesson.
Change of Interest
At first, I was over the moon with my first vintage Rolex, which was more than 40 years old at the time, but the more I learned, the more my views and interests shifted. Plus, I had the chance to hold more watches in my hands, which changed my perspective. It seemed like you could find a vintage Rolex on every street corner, but finding one in great condition was something else.
This all took place more than 15 years ago, and things have changed dramatically since. While condition is still an important issue, prices have gone through the roof. I paid well under €2,000 for my first Submariner. Nowadays, you’d have to fork over at least five times as much to buy a similar watch – and the better the condition, the higher the price.
At some point, I sold the 5513 and bought a modern Sub. In the back of my mind, however, I still wanted to go vintage again, if only for the watches’ beautiful simplicity. While the design of the Submariner has remained somewhat true to the original, it has certainly evolved. I bought a 16610 around 2007, and although I really liked it, all the extra details made me want a vintage watch again.
It’s All About the Details
While the modern Sub is an amazing watch, its glossy dial with big round hour markers that resemble drops of whiteout is so much busier than the vintage models with matte dials and small hour markers encased in a white gold frame. Add to that the rehaut engravings, including the serial number at 6 o’clock, and there is just too much going on for my liking.
So, I started searching for a nice vintage Submariner. At the time, I was active on various forums, and watches would regularly change hands within my network. However, I didn’t find a timepiece that I wanted to spend my money on. That is until I spotted a 1680 in amazing condition from a renowned seller. After a brief discussion about the price, we came to a quick deal, and within a few days, the watch had arrived.
It was as good as advertised. The case was in an amazing condition, even though it was probably polished. However, this was likely done by Rolex, given the incredible flat surfaces and sharp edges – something you’d expect from a manufacturer. With a beautiful gray-blue bezel, it was the best of both worlds. Finding a watch in such great condition was definitely worth the wait. After all these years, I still have it in my collection.
I’m aware of the fact that times have changed and prices have gone up significantly in the past decade. All I can say is if you’re on the market for a vintage watch, have some patience, and don’t lower your standards too much when it comes to quality – unless you want a beater, that is. In the end, watches belong on the wrist; however, you can only spend your money once, so I suggest you do your homework. Know your goals and compare watches and conditions to make the right decision.
Finally, make sure you have funds ready for the moment your perfect watch comes along. When I bought my Submariner 1680, I had the money set aside and waiting, but there have been moments when I was not searching for something and a stunner came along unexpectedly. Hence, I missed out on a few watches that I would have bought if I had had the chance. It’s all part of the game. Besides, there is more to life than just watches.