Vintage watches are unique, well-crafted, and a great way to start or expand a men’s watch collection. If you’re reading this, you know that watches have a special allure; they’re like wearing art (and science) on your wrist. A watch can telegraph your personality, your individual style, and even your interests. Vintage watches go one better, as they can infer that you’re curious about history. While this sounds like a lot of responsibility tossed onto a bunch of vintage watches, when you think about it, when you’re purchasing a vintage watch or a couple of vintage watches, it’s as if you’re purchasing a snapshot from a different era.
A vintage watch that is wrapped on your wrist now, could have been worn by a WWII pilot or 60s era boat captain. There’s a lot of romance wrapped up in vintage watches, which is why we love them.
Vintage Watch Brands
You can find working vintage watches from the early 1900s and ones from the 70s. Many popular (and pricey) watch brands have a long history, and you can often find one of their vintage watches for a great price. For example, a new watch from a luxury watch brand like Omega Seamaster could set you back around $51k, but a vintage working Seamaster can be had for under a thousand. Why? There are two reasons for the lower prices. Many of the older models don’t have a lot of complications that we now expect in a watch. While there’s the occasional chronometer or date window, many vintage watches are either simple two or three-hand watches. The second reason is style. Older watches may be chunkier or thinner than the ones that we’re used to wearing. It could be that the font on the dials may, to the modern eye, seem to be a tad old-fashioned or (if you’re looking at some watches from the 60s or the 90s) funky looking or odd.
The older models of Omegas, Hamilton, Seiko, and other high-end watch brands could be undervalued simply because of their looks. You could snag a couple of vintage watches from a high-end brand and pay less than if you purchased a brand new one from that same brand. Whoever said “less is more” never met a watch.
Another nice thing about purchasing vintage watches is finding ones from brands long gone. Parsing that out, it means that you really do own a limited edition item. Look for brands like Gruen, Illinois, Waltham, Elgin, Benrus, and Vulcain to snag one of them. Speaking of Gruen watches, did you know that James Bond wore the Gruen Precision 510 in Dr. No? We tracked down that watch and it’s on sale as we speak.
How to Buy Vintage Watches
As with any high ticket item, you should research the seller and the site before purchase. There are some sites like 1st Dibs that have a sterling reputation. But, if you come across a site you’ve never heard of, check online reviews and find out how long they’ve been in business. When it comes to buying a vintage watch on Etsy or eBay, the first thing you should do is check the ratings and the reviews. Make sure that all reviews/ratings are from a verified buyer and read the seller’s policies. It’s easy to label something as “vintage,” and even easier to make a watch look old, so please do your due diligence before you hit the “buy it now” button.
Scroll through to find the best vintage watches to buy right now.
Seiko 5 Vintage 1970s Stainless Steel Automatic Watch
We’ve covered Seiko before; they’re durable and can withstand extreme temperatures. They’re known for being precise, reliable and high quality. The Seiko 5 debuted in the 60s, and this automatic model is from the 70s. It shows a few signs of aging, and the crystal has some scratches. This vintage watch has a day and date complication and gold trim on the dial. It’s sporty and sleek.
Tissot Stainless Steel Automatic Watch
This 1940s watch from Tissot has a distinctly Art-Deco look, owing to the thick numerals, pointed hands and elegantly minimalist face. The watch has a subdial at the 6 o’clock position. It’s automatic as well, making it more convenient than manual wind watches.
Bulova Accutron Watch
The Bulova Accutron is a simple watch with a storied history, worn by NASA and the US Military. This 80s-era watch nods to that history, thanks to the rugged design with a pronounced bezel. The rugged case is offset by the dressy Roman numerals and black leather strap, making this a truly versatile timepiece. It’s powered by quartz.
Elgin 1919 General Pershing Sterling Silver Trench Style Watch
The Elgin National Watch Company was based in Elgin, Illinois. They were one of the top American watch companies from 1864 to 1968. This vintage watch has a sterling silver case, vintage suede band and there’s a seconds sub-dial under the 6. It’s really unique.
Hamilton 1950s Nordens Watch
Hamilton watches come in a variety of styles, everything from field to chronograph to sporty and dress watches. One of their modern dress watches, a Jazzmaster, goes for $895, so this dress watch is a bargain. This vintage Hamilton men’s watch is a MCM masterpiece. The Hamilton Norden was made in the 50s and is a sleek three-hand watch with a 10K gold filled case and matching link bracelet. Both the dial and the bracelet show some wear, but that adds to its charm.
Rado Circa‘80s Diastar Day Date Watch
Rado is a Swiss watch company that frequently designs “space-age” or “futuristic” style watches. They’re also known for their high-tech ceramic technology. This 80s era watch combines that period’s big color, hot pink, with shiny gray for a not subtle looking watch. It’s got a wide scratch-resistant ceramic bezel and an angular day/date complication that hangs right under the six. It’s 80s pop meets George Jensen.
SPACEMAN Hommage to American Astronauts Mechanical Watch Circa 1974
There was a time when America was so enthralled with the space race and astronauts in general that companies went bonkers creating anything that looked like it could either land a spaceship or was, itself, a spaceship. This watch heralds back to that time and looks like you’ve strapped a UFO on your wrist. The watch has a cutout wristband, black face with bright orange hands and was designed by Christian Lamarquand. Made in France, this mechanical vintage watch has a date window at the four-hour mark.
Cadet 1930s Art Deco Watch With Original Box
Old or dead stock refers to items that are unworn and originated from a store’s stock. They were never worn or bought, they just sat either in a stockroom or in a retail case. While one can find dead stock pieces from the 60s and beyond, finding an item that was never purchased from the 30s is rare. This Art Deco watch still sports its original band and is a manual winding watch. You’ll not only get a brand-new-looking old watch, but you’ll also get its original case too.
Junghans Vintage 1970s Gold Plated Quartz Watch
Junghans is a German watch company that makes affordable luxury timepieces. Some of their new chronographs are made in very small batches. This three-hand watch dates back to the 70s and has a smart-looking dial. Battery operated, it has a day and date complication and comes with its original strap.
Lonstar Deluxe Vintage 1970s Mechanical Watch
A vintage watch that looks modern pretty much sums up this Lonstar Deluxe men’s watch. Made in the 70s, the band matches the navy face, and the case is stainless steel. While this Swiss brand is no longer creating new watches, you can wear its design history when you’re out and about.
Buying a brand new Omega right now is not really feasible for most of us. However, with a little bit of luck (and a good eye), you can still rock Bond’s latest watch thanks to this elegant (and affordable) Seamaster from the ’60s. This vintage watch is trim and slim, with a cream face and a silver-colored, gold-filled band. The day-date complication gives it just enough tech to be relevant, without being gaudy.
Hamilton Vintage Watch
This simple and stylish watch from Hamilton has clear, easy-to-read numerals. The stainless steel case and black leather strap make this a highly wearable watch for just about any occasion. The manual watch has a 17-jewel movement and is hand-wound, rather than automatic.
Citizen Chronograph 8110 Automatic Watch
While most of the watches on our list are simple dress watches, it is possible to find great vintage sport watches for less than a grand. This Citizen watch has a month and date window as well as chronograph subdials. It’s an automatic watch from the 70s. While it does have some wear on it, that just makes it well-loved, which is what a great vintage watch should be.
Seiko 6106-7107 Diver
This watch from Seiko is sure to turn heads, thanks to its oversized case and vibrant orange face. The watch has a 42mm diameter, an automatic movement and a rotating bezel. The watch has some signs of wear and may need to be cleaned and serviced, but it’s a great value for a classic timepiece.