Learn these terms and you’ll impress the man behind the glass case.
Annual Calendar: A function that automatically keeps track of the month, the date, and sometimes the day of the week
Automatic Winding: No battery needed. Movement of the wrist or arm triggers an interior rotating weight, which keeps the gears in motion and the hands ticking.
Bezel: The part of the casing that surrounds the glass
Chronograph: A watch that shows the time of day plus works as a stopwatch
Complications: Functions other than keeping time, like a chronograph or an annual calendar
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time): The time at the meridian that runs through Greenwich, London, used since 1884 as the basis of standard time throughout the world. A watch with a GMT function usually shows the time in two or more time zones.
Guilloche: A subtle pattern on the dial produced by using a grooving tool or a stamping machine
Perpetual Calendar: A calendar function that makes allowances for leap years and months with different numbers of days. It shows the day, month, and four-year cycle, and often the day of the week and the phase of the moon.
Power Reserve: A function that measures the remaining energy in a watch and tells the wearer when to wind it
Tachometer: A device on the dial of a chronograph watch that reads the speed at which the wearer is traveling
Tourbillon: A sophisticated function that enables the watch to compensate for the earth’s gravitational pull and thus keep extremely accurate time
HOW TO START A VINTAGE WATCH COLLECTION
Classic timepieces are more than just something to pass on—they’re a smart investment. Edward Faber, owner of Aaron Faber Gallery in Manhattan, lays out the guidelines.
"Brand dominates everything," says Faber, who recommends purchasing a watch that has proven collectability, such as a $10K-plus Patek Philippe or a Rolex. One of the most sought-after timepieces is the steel Rolex Daytona with Paul Newman three-color dials. Originally sold in the seventies for $300 to $400, it can now fetch up to $100,000.
"If the watch is beat-up, you’re less likely to enjoy it and it’s less likely to have a future value," Faber says. A restored watch will bring in a lower amount at auction, while original, an intact box, papers of authentication, and a unique history (like having been worn by a celebrity) can increase the value of a watch exponentially.
You know how your fiancée’s engagement ring set in platinum cost more than one set in gold. The same value system applies to watches. "Platinum trumps other metals. White gold trumps pink gold, pink gold trumps yellow gold, and those three trump stainless steel," Faber says. However, Faber notes, there are exceptions. For instance, steel watches produced from the mid-thirties to the late forties, such as a 1937 Patek Philippe chronograph, are far rarer than gold and platinum watches of the same era, because the material was used less frequently.