Vintage vs. Antique Watches: What Are the Differences?

You might have heard of the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece. It sold for $24 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014.

The Supercomplication took a total of eight years to design and manufacture. In 1933, it finally went into the hands of its owner.

We classify it as a vintage watch and not an antique. There is a clear distinction between the two. For this reason, misclassification can lead to trouble.

But, what is a vintage watch, and how does it differ from an antique? When it comes to vintage vs. antique watches, which one is best? Keep on reading to learn their differences and more.

Vintage vs. Antique Watches

The only thing separating a vintage watch from its antique counterpart is its age. Antique timepieces must be at least 100 years old.

The definition of vintage is a bit more flexible. Some believe that a watch must be at least 50 years to classify as one. Regardless, it’s anything between 20 to 99 years old.

What about a watch below 20 years old? You can call it an old watch. By its 20th birthday, it then becomes vintage. Once it turns 100, it’s an antique.

What About Value?

The only firm distinction between vintage vs. antique is how old they are. Some people may claim they differ in value, but it isn’t always correct.

No hard-and-fast rule exists to say the older a watch is, the more value it has. Ultimately, it depends on how much people want to pay for it.

Some vintage watches get a higher price on the market and auctions. The value considers history, prestige, and unique qualities. Take as an example the Patek Philippe Supercomplication timepiece mentioned earlier.

The watchmaker designed it for Henry Graves Jr. to surpass the Grande Complication. It was the most complex mechanical timepiece for over 50 years. In 1989, Patek Philippe released the Calibre 89, dethroning the former.

At that time, computers were already commonplace. Regardless, Supercomplication remains the most complex mechanical timepiece built without its assistance.

That said, not all vintage mens watches fetch jaw-dropping prices. It depends on whether collectors consider them exceptional.


While age never determines the value, the condition of the watch does. Watch collectors may prefer a used state as they believe it has more character and history.

A little wear-and-tear can increase the resale value, such as browned Tropical Dial or a cracked lacquer. However, damaged then repaired timepieces sell for less. Collectors often prefer vintage and antique watches with their original parts, even if they’re imperfect.

Antique Watches

When you ask people, “what is an antique watch,” they usually say it’s a pocket watch. They’re correct for the most part since wristwatches didn’t exist before 1868. For this reason, there’s a good chance an antique is a pocket timepiece.

If you’re interested in collecting these, read up on an antique watch buying guide. Look for the following brands.


Omega is a well-known brand in the modern world, but you can still find some of its antique watches. Such is the First Minute-Repeater, released in 1892.


Longines is a Swiss luxury watchmaker established in 1832. It carries a long and rich history, creating a high demand for its brand.

A faithful collector recently discovered the oldest Longines watch found to date. It was a Savonette silver manufactured in 1867.


Cartier has been around long enough for some of its watches to turn antique. Examples are the Santos, Tonneau, and Tank.

Vintage Watches

Vintage watches are more popular among the masses. Collectors have more of them in their collection, and even a non-collector may prefer them better.

It might be why the market is rife with fakes. A vintage watch buying guide would tell you to research before committing to a purchase. Some popular brands are the following.


You might have seen Omega watches in the hands of celebrities and other societal icons. Examples of their popular vintage timepieces are the 1957 Trilogy (Seamaster, Railmaster, and Speedmaster) and the Omega de Ville.


Seiko has been around since the 1880s, but its signature models didn’t come until the 1960s. Its Grand Seiko from 1960 was the hallmark of accuracy for some time. The brand also produced the first automatic chronograph watch – the Cal. 6139.


Of course, we can’t have vintage watches without Rolex. The luxury brand carries more vintage models than antiques, with popular ones being the GMT Master, Submariner, and Daytona.


Tudor is a sister company of Rolex, aiming to provide more affordable watches. Nonetheless, it carries quality vintage timepieces that are still highly sought-after. Look out for the Royal 8533 and the Oyster Prince.

How to Determine the Age of Your Watch

How do you know if a watch is antique or vintage? You only have to look at the serial number on the watch’s number.

It’s not the number stamped outside, as this one is for identification purposes only. You have to open the watch to find the serial. You can then cross-reference it with the maker’s database to know its manufacturing year.

Is the serial number missing? That doesn’t automatically mean it’s fake, but it makes knowing its age harder.

It’s not impossible. You can take the watch to professionals to look at its features and materials to estimate its age.

Experts can tell the age with some photos, so you can send emails instead. You can also reach out to auction houses. They can tell you if your watch is anything of value and worth bringing in for a closer look.

Learn More About Vintage and Antique Watches

The distinction between vintage vs. antique watches is easy to tell. It’s more challenging to verify the authenticity of the timepiece. You also have to pay attention to the condition, market value, and other factors that determine the costs.

If you want to start collecting, consider learning how to spot fakes, replacements, and damage. The watch’s unique features and history also matter when deciding.

To know more, check out our other posts today.

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button