Wednesday 6th September 2023 - Cara Bentham
How to Collect and Care for Antique Timepieces
Antique timepieces are popular amongst collectors who are drawn to them for their craftmanship, the stories they tell and their connection to the past. Collecting old clocks and watches can be a rewarding hobby and worthwhile investment. In this post, we explain everything you need to know about collecting and caring for antique timepieces.
Collecting antique timepieces, such as vintage watches and clocks, is a fascinating and rewarding hobby that offers a glimpse into the craftsmanship and history of horology (the study of time, or the art of making clocks and watches). Here’s how to begin and enjoy your very own collection:
Begin by gaining knowledge about antique timepieces. Study the different types, styles, and brands of watches and clocks. Learn about their mechanisms, materials, and historical significance. Books, online resources, and horological societies can be excellent sources of information.
Determine your focus
Antique timepieces come in various forms, including pocket watches, wristwatches, wall clocks, and mantel clocks. Decide which type or era interests you the most, as this will help narrow down your collection focus.
Set a budget
Establish a budget for your collection. Antique timepieces can range from affordable to high-end luxury items, so it's essential to know how much you're willing to spend. It’s a good idea to start small and build your collection up over time. This will give you time to learn which will help you make better buying or investment choices.
Set Auction Alerts
The best way to search for antique timepieces is using our search feature. You can set auction alerts so you never miss out on our auctioneers newest lots. You can of course, also trawl boot fairs or antique shows.
When in doubt, seek advice from horological experts or collectors who have experience in antique timepieces. They can provide insights on authenticity, value, and restoration. Consider joining forums or social media groups with a focus on this niche as these can be great places to network and learn from others.
Ensure that the timepiece you're interested in is authentic and not a replica. The great thing about using our plattform is that most of our auctioneers will have already done the legwork of due diligence on the lots so you won't have to worry about whether the item is genuine. If shopping elsewhere, pay attention to the manufacturer's marks, serial numbers, and any accompanying documentation. If in doubt, do further research before buying. Books and online resources can help with this; although authenticity will be verified by our auction houses taking the guesswork out for you.
The condition of an antique timepiece significantly affects its value. Look for pieces in good working order or be prepared for potential restoration costs. Original components and dials are often more desirable to collectors. You can request a condition report and ask any questions you may have of our auctioneers directly.
Maintenance and care
Proper maintenance is crucial to preserving antique timepieces. Wind mechanical watches regularly and have them serviced by experienced watchmakers. Keep them in a dry, controlled environment away from direct sunlight.
Join horological communities
Connect with fellow collectors and enthusiasts by joining horological forums, social media groups, and local clubs. Sharing experiences, knowledge, and insights with others in the hobby adds an additional layer of enjoyment to collecting.
Document your collection
Keep detailed records of each timepiece in your collection. Note the maker, model, date of acquisition, purchase price, and any historical information you discover. This documentation can help you track your collection's growth and value.
Display and enjoy
Showcase your collection in a safe and aesthetically pleasing manner. Some collectors prefer display cases or watch winders for their wristwatches. Others may create dedicated spaces for their clocks.
Collecting antique timepieces is a journey that can span a lifetime. Start with a few pieces that truly resonate with you and gradually expand your collection based on your interests and budget. This gives you time to truly enjoy each new addition to your collection, while gaining knowledge that can help you make better investments over time.
Collecting antique timepieces is not just about acquiring beautiful and functional objects; it’s about preserving history and craftsmanship. Each timepiece tells a unique story and provides a tangible connection to the past, making this hobby both intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding.
Proper care and maintenance of antique timepieces are essential to preserve their functionality, value, and aesthetic appeal. Whether you collect vintage watches or antique clocks, here are some key guidelines to ensure the longevity of your timepieces:
Keep them in a controlled environment
Store your antique timepieces in a stable environment with controlled temperature and humidity levels. Avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures, moisture, direct sunlight, or rapid changes in conditions, as these can lead to damage and deterioration.
Regularly wind and run mechanical watches
If you own mechanical watches, wind them regularly to keep the movement lubricated and running smoothly. Over time, the oils used in the movement can dry out, so winding helps maintain their performance. However, be gentle when winding, and never force the crown. If you have antique clocks, you should also wind them regularly to keep them running. Follow the clock's specific instructions for winding, as overwinding can cause damage.
Service by professionals
Periodic servicing by a qualified watchmaker or clockmaker is recommended for antique timepieces. Depending on the age and condition of the piece, this may be needed every 3-5 years for watches and 5-10 years for clocks. Servicing involves cleaning, oiling, and replacing worn parts to prevent damage and maintain accuracy. It’s a worthwhile investment as it can help to preserve the value of your pieces.
Keep your antique timepieces away from strong magnetic fields, such as those generated by magnets or electronic devices. This is important because magnetisation can affect the accuracy of the timekeeping.
Handle with care
When handling antique timepieces, use clean, dry hands, and avoid touching the dial or movement unnecessarily. Handle them gently and hold them by the edges to prevent fingerprints and scratches.
Use a soft, lint free cloth to gently wipe the exterior of the timepiece to remove dust and dirt. Be cautious when cleaning the dial, as it can be fragile. For deeper cleaning, consult a professional.
Storage and display
Store your timepieces in dedicated watch boxes, display cases, or on watch cushions designed for their size and shape. Ensure that they are protected from dust and potential damage during storage.
Protect from vibrations
Avoid placing your antique clocks or watches in areas with excessive vibrations, such as near heavy machinery or loudspeakers. This is important because vibrations can affect their precision.
Avoid overexposure to light
Limit the exposure of your antique timepieces to natural or artificial light, especially if they have delicate dials or materials that can fade or degrade over time.
Document and maintain records
Keep detailed records of your antique timepieces, including their service history, provenance, and any other relevant information. Proper documentation can add to their value and assist future collectors.
Consider insuring your collection against theft, loss, or damage, especially if it includes high-value antique timepieces.
By following these care and maintenance guidelines, you can ensure that your antique timepieces remain in excellent condition, continue to function accurately, and maintain their historical and monetary value for generations to come.