Watch restoration is a hotly debated topic. The decision whether to restore an antique or vintage watch isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Depending on the condition of the watch, certain restoration work may actually reduce its value. The rare combination of original, unrestored and good condition are what give antique and vintage watches their high value.
One of the worst mistakes made by those finding a family heirloom lurking at the back of a drawer is to immediately get it restored. Visible signs of wear and tear don’t necessarily mean the watch needs to be given an overhaul. While it may look to the untrained eye like restoration is the best thing, to a collector, nothing screams value like the original. Unnecessary restoration work will most certainly have a detrimental effect on a watch’s price tag.
Just like vintage cars, unrestored antique or vintage watches often go for more at auction, than those that have undergone restoration. It’s not uncommon at vintage car auctions to see a rusty old car, that doesn’t run, fetch more than a similar model that has undergone restoration. The same rules apply to antique and vintage watches.
Why you may want to consider watch restoration
If you’re not a collector and you just want to wear and admire your family heirloom, then considering restoration may not be such an issue. Just be mindful that restoration may affect the value of your timepiece.
Restoration isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it is carried out with expertise, sensitivity and the utmost care. A working specimen is better than a broken one. Sourcing original replacement parts can make all the difference to the watch’s value.
If you have an antique or vintage watch that isn’t in good working condition you may wish to consider having your timepiece restored. Always seek advice from a reputable professional, such as W.E. Clark Watch Repairs before committing to any repair or restoration work. A good Master Watchmaker will talk you through the work required, the costs and how the work will affect the value of your timepiece before carrying out the work.
What does watch restoration involve?
Watch restoration typically involves basic maintenance of the movement, including the repair or replacement of damaged parts, crystal restoration or replacement, dial refinishing, casement and bracelet refinishing, water resistance testing and accuracy monitoring. Some or all of these processes will be required during watch restoration, depending on the condition of the watch.
Should I get the dial refinished on my antique or vintage watch?
Dial restoration is a tricky one to call. There does obviously come a time when a dial may need to be restored in order for the watch to be of useable condition. However, as argued above, the decision on whether or not to have a dial restored may come down to how the restoration work will affect the value of the watch. If you do decide to go ahead with dial restoration work it’s imperative you find a specialist dial restorer.
Who should I consult for watch restoration services?
Always seek watch restoration services from a reputable Master Watchmaker. If you are unclear about how restoration will affect the value of your antique or vintage watch, it is worth seeking the advice of an expert.
Ask your Master Watchmaker for an estimate before they begin any work and also check if they are able to source original replacement parts, as this will also have an impact on the value of your timepiece. Newly made replacement parts will devalue your timepiece, whereas sourced originals may help your watch to hold its value.
Where can I get my antique or vintage watch valued?
A reputable dealer, an experienced Master Watchmaker or a specialist auctioneer should be able to value your timepiece for you. If you suspect your watch is of considerable value, it’s worth getting more than one valuation for comparison.
What are some the world’s most highly valued antique and vintage watches?
Watches in their original form are highly sought-after collectors’ items. The most expensive antique watch ever sold at a Sotheby’s auction was a Patek Philippe 1895/1927 yellow gold minute repeater. The movement dates all the way back to 1895, while the case is from 1927. It sold for nearly US$3 million.
One of the most complicated mechanical pocket watches ever created was the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Super Complication. Commissioned by banker Henry Graves in 1927, this timepiece took 4 years to build. Sotheby’s experts predicted this beauty would sell for US$5 million, but in actual fact it sold for a staggering US$11 million.
To restore or not to restore?
Every case needs to be considered in its own merits. There are many factors affecting whether or not watch restoration is appropriate for you and your watch. Some embrace the wear and tear of a family heirloom as part of its history, while others would prefer their newly acquired vintage timepiece to look just as it had when it was new. If you are at all concerned about the value of the timepiece and how restoration will affect that, always seek specialist advice before committing your watch to any irreversible work.