How to recognize vintage watches?

01 May 2014

How do I recognize vintage watches? That’s a good question, one that needs some clarification first before understanding the answer. If you’re not a watch collector or someone who is familiar with old watches, then you’ll first need to educate yourself how to distinguish between a vintage watch and an imitation vintage watch before you buy one. Otherwise, you can easily end up paying too much.


The main defining feature of a vintage watch is its age. An item must be at least 25 years old to be classified as vintage. However, antique watches are even older, roughly 100 years or more. There is a fine line determining when a vintage watch becomes an antique, but we’ll save that topic for another article. With that in mind, how can you tell an old watch from a newer replica? Pay close attention to the watch’s details, learn how to identify quality craftsmanship from modern day machinery cut parts, and then know how to identify the manufacturers who created the vintage watch you’re interested in.


Most antique and vintage watches will have some sign of wear in their appearance. Scratches on the faceplate, discoloration of the faceplate glass and worn or damaged wrist band are details you should look for which cannot be forged so easily. Signs of wear and tear are very good indications you may have found a vintage timepiece, however, if there are any plastic parts, chances are it’s not vintage. But, is it worth anything? Unless the watch was a particular popular brand in its time, the most common way to recognize if the vintage watch you’ve found is worth any money is easy.


How do I recognize vintage watches you ask? Well, decades ago, quality watches were usually made with precious metals, such as gold or sterling silver. Tiny letters on the band or on back of the timepiece may have markings to indicate the purity of the metal used. If you discover tiny letters scribed on the back or band that read “14k”, which means 14 karat gold was used. Antique and vintage American watches commonly used “14k,” while European watch makers of the same time period used either 18 karat or 24 karat.

An easy and effective way to recognize a vintage watch crafted with a precious metal is to use the magnet test. Simply find a magnet, and then place it on the metal band. If the metal is attracted to the magnet, most probably it is not a vintage watch, closer examination could reveal rust. Precious metals do not rust. Warning! Never place a magnet near or on the faceplate area! It could damage the internal parts of the timepiece.

Ken Ross Jewellers

Established in 1954, Ken Ross Jewellers is renowned for producing and maintaining fine jewelry and watches. And over the decades, many awards have been won. Ken Ross Jewellers specializes in supplying fine jewelry like diamonds and semi-precious stones, plus repairs for rings, wedding bands and watches. For a valuation of a diamond you have, repairs on a wedding ring or new precious diamond jewelry, contact:

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