Looking for Vintage Luxury Watches? Turn to Instagram
While segunda mano shopping has been more common of late, you'd be hard-pressed to find genuine secondhand luxury timepieces in the market. Unless you’re a horology savant, it can be difficult to tell the difference between an authentic watch in its original condition versus a Frankenwatch (a watch that has been put together using different components from various watches) that’s being passed off as the real thing.
Enter @awristotell, the Instagram account that showcases vintage watches sourced from watch shops and owners looking to sell pieces from their collections. Launched in September this year, founder Dave Brandon Chua wanted to provide an avenue for collectors to find their coveted watches at a more affordable price tag.
“People tend to think that buying luxury timepieces come with a hefty price tag,” he says. “The shop provides more options for watch enthusiasts for acquiring timepieces at a more affordable price. It will help introduce vintage timepieces to everyone, whether you are an avid watch collector or someone who’s just starting to invest in watches.”
Of course, as these vintage watches had different owners, it would be hard to expect them to come in mint condition. Dave, who values his relationships with his clients, is forthright about this on his page and in every inquiry, but he maintains that it’s all part of the charm. “In terms of the condition, imperfection is part of buying vintage watches. The marks, dings, scratches are part of the appeal,” he says
It makes sense. Part of the value of vintage watches is their legacy and secondhand watches carry these stories. Esquire spoke to Chua to learn more about his online shop and why old pieces can sometimes carry more value.
ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: What’s the story behind awristotell? How did it start?
DAVE BRANDON CHUA: The name was inspired by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Every time you hear the word “vintage” or “antique,” these things come into mind: old, outdated, and unreliable. My goal is to share how vintage timepieces have stood the test of time. Even though these watches were manufactured in the mid-19th century, they still show the quality of craftsmanship and their value still remains.
ESQ: Have you always been a fan of vintage watches? What is it about them that you’re drawn to?
DBC: It started at a young age—when I saw my father wear his two-tone Rolex GMT “Root Beer.” Seeing it back then really fascinated me, especially how the brown and gold color matches perfectly. I was amazed by the durability of the watch since my father wore it every day, even up until now.
Fast forward to a few years ago, I was planning to buy my very first watch. Limited by my budget, I searched for an affordable Omega watch, which, by the way, is a good introduction if you want to buy your first vintage watch.
I came across a site that specializes in vintage watches, and a gray Sigma Dial Rolex caught my attention. That led me to dig deeper into it as a sigma dial signifies that solid gold was applied. Learning about the history of the watch and its timeless classic design was what really got me into vintage watches.
ESQ: Are the watches really vintage? How do you acquire them?
DBC: Awristotell’s collection ranges from the early ’50s to the late ’90s. Most of our timepieces are sourced locally from watch shops and antique stores and some are offered to us by clients from their personal collections. The history has been very interesting. One time, I stumbled upon an Omega Seamaster that even has the name of the first owner engraved on the case back.
ESQ: Your watches are on the inexpensive side. How do you determine their prices?
One of the main factors that affect the price is box and papers. Since the watches are vintage, it's rare to find them with complete papers and a box. Also, if the watch comes with its original strap or bracelet, the price would be higher. I do market research to determine the prices of the watch.
ESQ: How do you protect yourself from counterfeit products and from bogus buyers?
DBC: We make sure to check every watch thoroughly by examining the model, reference number, dial, and movement to avoid counterfeit products. There is a term in the vintage watch market called the Frankenwatch—named after Frankenstein—a watch composed of different parts from different watchmakers.
To verify, we make sure to do our research about the watch. Right now there is a lot of information that can be viewed online. Some watch manufacturers' websites contain archives of information about early models. The reference number shows the correct dial, case, and movement that should be in the watch.
Also, all of our watches are inspected and checked by our watchmaker. We can provide a full refund if the client can guarantee that the watch is not authentic
ESQ: In your opinion, what is the value of a vintage timepiece?
DBC: The vintage watch market has grown exponentially these past few years and continues to rise as watchmakers lean on reissue designs of watches in their new collections.
The value of a vintage timepiece will still depend on one's perspective and purpose. However, in my opinion, it should not be simply valued by its price alone, but also by the story behind it. That makes it more valuable.
One good example of this would be Paul Newman’s personal 1960s Rolex Daytona. It was auctioned off by Philip’s Auction House at a final price of $17.75 million (P905 million) while a brand new 2019 Rolex Daytona retails at $12,500 (P630,000).
ESQ: Among the pieces you’ve had (whether on your own or for the shop), which one is your personal favorite?
DBC: Having a big appreciation for watches, whether vintage or new, I can say that my holy grail watch would be a Patek Philippe 5270P. This would be a dream come true if I would be lucky enough to own one someday. Choosing from my current collection, however, I could not imagine letting go of the Rolex given to me by my parents. I hope that I could pass it down to my future kids someday. Also on the top of my list is the Omega Seamaster 1950s that my girlfriend got me for my birthday.
ESQ: How can customers purchase timepieces from awristtotell?
DBC: We do our best to provide all the necessary information that our customers need. For now, awristotell has two social media platforms where clients can purchase our vintage timepieces. They can check us out on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We also do meet-ups or nationwide shipping via courier.
We are also planning to launch a website in order to help our clients browse through our collection conveniently.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram at @awristotell.