How to Buy Your First (or Second) Nice Watch – With Help from H.Q. Milton

Guys don’t wear jewelry outside of a class ring or a wedding ring.  We don’t carry purses.  We have limited options for nice pieces of flare as compared to the fairer sex.  A good pair of shoes or a nice blazer is about as deep as it goes, other than the one shining North Star that adorns our wrist: a nice watch.  A nice watch is investment purchase, it’s something that will be worn for years to come, and eventually be handed down to the next generation.  No man should feel bad about wearing one.  Your insurance agent will agree.

I made my purchase a year ago: a Panerai PAM112.  I love this watch.  It was a tough check to write, but was completely worth it.  It’s a beautiful piece that I wear almost every day (much to the chagrin of my other watches).  I’m not one of those guys that wipes it down with a diaper every night; instead, I wear it.  I chose the Panerai because it met all of the characteristics that I was looking for: it is unique, as in you don’t see to many of these, it is sturdy, so that I can wear it and not worry about the delicacy of the piece, and it fits my personality.

I’m at the point now where I’m in the market for my second nice watch.  I’ve written about this in the past, looking at some IWCs or another Panerai, but at this point, it doesn’t feel like either of those are what I’d like to add to the war chest.  After watching Hodinkee and other sites over the last six months, I’ve decided that I’d like to get something vintage.  Not only will this be a more affordable, but it will have some built in character, as well as a story.

One of the best corners on the Internet for vintage watches is H.Q. Milton.  Founder Scott Kaplan and Partner Jacek Kozubek run the San Francisco-based shop, and they have an online presence as well.  Beware: it’s like watching SFW watch porn.  You can’t look away.  They are experts in vintage watches, and only sell watches that they would wear themselves.

Given my predicament, they were nice enough to sit down and give some advice on making that once (or multiple) in a lifetime purchase, as well as provide some images of their outstanding stock:

How should a guy shop for a nice watch?  The two big options are to shop locally for a new watch from an authorized dealer. If you go out side the AD circuit, then the second best place is to shop online.  Granted there could be local gray market shops, but they exist on the fact that people don’t do their homework and sometimes pay high retail prices.  Do your homework!  Watch forums like www.timzone.com and www.vintagerolexforum.com are two great places to start.

What should a guy look for in a nice watch?  A guy should look for something that suits his needs. If you are a dapper guy, then there are many super fun dress watches.  If you want a sport look, there are also a lot of watches to suite your needs.  Don’t buy a piece because you see it on a billboard.  The same people like the latest James Bond stuff could end up buying something completely different than their lifestyle.  Remember, the guys that are on the billboards are modeling a watch, and their personal life is much different than what they are paid to represent.

Is there any specific brands that one should look for?  If you want to see what is actually popular and cool, then look at auctions.  In my opinion, the pinnacle of watch collecting are the same pieces that do well in auction: Vintage Rolex and Vintage Patek pieces.  The other stuff is cool, but these two brands are the best.

What sort of research should a guy do prior to buying a nice watch?  It is important to reference a specific model number and go online and see what everyone else has or has sold.  There are also plenty of dealers to talk to…like us.

What type of questions should be asked when shopping for a nice watch?

Does it run?

Is everything original to the time period to when the watch was produced?

Are there are any major deficiencies or problems with the watch?

What are the benefits of buying a vintage watch vs. a new one?  It’s more of a stylistic thing. Vintage pieces capture a type of feeling that the brands can only dream of touching upon.  There is  a big trend in modern pieces to design them to look like vintage pieces.  I would say vintage watches are like vintage cars.  The new stuff may be built better, go faster, and won’t break, but the older stuff just feels cool. It’s not better… it’s different.

I have a nice watch, and am ready to add a second one to my collection.  What should I look for?  Something that fits your lifestyle.  You can’t go wrong with a vintage Rolex Sport model from the 60’s – 80’s…that’s the way to go.

Be sure to save the H.Q. Milton site to your bookmarks.  You’ll thank me later.  When you tell me what time it is, from your new, vintage watch.

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6 Comments

  1. Clay
    04/01/2014 / 11:30 AM

    Great write up on watches. I’ve been a watch collector since eBay started up – my first purchase on eBay was a 1940s Bulova tank in 10K gold. I still have it and wear it occasionally. Today I have on a 1960s Omega Constellation which I am switching to a striped canvas strap this afternoon. I like to look for vintage in dress watches and modern in sport watches.

    Get the tools and you can change bands quickly, which gives your vintage watches more versatility. Good bargains can be found on vintage watches, but be prepared to spend between $200-$500 to restore or repair one that is not working. In Atlanta, Hurley Roberts Service in Norcross is a good repair shop.

    I haven’t had any luck with lower end watch winders, but if you buy a few automatics that you won’t wear everyday, it’s a good investment to get a quality winder.

  2. liz fischer
    04/01/2014 / 3:37 PM

    I think you mean flair, not flare.

  3. Ryan
    04/02/2014 / 12:10 AM

    Great post. I love H.Q. Milton’s site. My grail is a Rolex 1675 Pepsi bezel with a Tiffany dial, but due to cost am looking hard at the Rolex GMT II 16710 Pepsi (or Coke). If you really like Panerai, you should look at their vintage models that used Rolex movements and cases.

  4. Ryan
    04/02/2014 / 12:34 AM

    Just a heads up, you linked to Tim Hortons, not timezone.com

  5. 08/10/2018 / 12:51 AM

    Cổ điển Rolex và Vintage Patek miếng. Những thứ khác là tuyệt vời, nhưng hai thương hiệu này là tốt nhất.

  6. 08/16/2018 / 1:49 PM

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    The clarity in your post is simply excellent
    and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well withh your permission allpow me
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    Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

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