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Redefine yourself with 300watches high end luxury watches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why don’t all watches listed on 300watches.com feature the original box and papers? Aren’t watches with boxes and papers worth more?

First, we should note that in most cases our watches advertised as new and unworn do include the original box and user manuals. If these are not listed in the product description, please call or email us for full details. 

Pre-owned watches are a different matter. These are evaluated by 300watches on the basis of originality, condition, and value before they can be offered through our collection. Simply finding watches with “box and papers” is far less demanding than our evaluation process, and merely settling for watches with accessories would be sloppy.

We prioritize the absolute integrity of the timepieces over peripheral factors such as accessories. Ultimately, buyers are purchasing the watch itself.

Outstanding watches without boxes or papers will take priority over inferior units with complete accessories. Note that most of the top vintage watches on the premier auction circuit sell without any original accessories. Nobody has ever cancelled a seven-figure bid at Christie’s because a Patek Philippe 2499 didn’t include a box. Condition and authenticity rule all.

Just as sellers of used cars could order manuals and original accessories from the factory without scrutinizing a given pre-owned car, watch vendors can source boxes and manuals without investing in comprehensive reviews of timepieces.

In this sense, purchasing a luxury watch is very similar to purchasing a pre-owned luxury car. While original window stickers, manuals, and factory DVD are a bonus, every savvy buyer will prioritize maintenance records, a clear title, zero collision damage, low miles, and physical condition over all else.

With watches as with cars, the key to unlocking true value is a thorough inspection and evaluation prior to purchase; this is where 300watches sets itself apart from competing vendors.

The first and foremost consideration when 300watches considers a watch is authenticity. Essentially, is the watch real? We work with top industry sales and service partners to authenticate each timepiece before it is offered for sale. Once the basic watch has been verified as authentic, components such as the dial, hands, crowns, case, and movement are evaluated to ensure that all are correct for the model in question.

Finally, the condition of the watch is evaluated. This review includes reviewing details of the movement’s cosmetic and functional state, the condition of the dial, crystal, strap or bracelet, bezel, case, and hands. Watches are accepted for 300watches’ collection only if each of these components is found to be mechanically and cosmetically sound.

The ultimate goal of 300watches’ exhaustive pre-sale evaluation is to make the purchase process stress-free for buyers. If a watch meets all of our standards and includes the box and papers, we consider this a bonus. Nevertheless, we will always make the watch itself our principal focus; nobody pays $10,000 for a shipping box and booklet. 

Is it true that gold watches can be refinished only a handful of times?

This is true. While other materials can scratch, gold tends to be the most vulnerable to material diminution.

Consider the example of gold watch that has been swirled and lightly scratched. Polishing out swirls and light scratches will remove a certain amount of surface material. If a watch is scratched and remedially polished on a regular basis, a “leveling” of the case will begin to express itself in the form of reduced definition around character lines, uneven planes, and dulled facets. Details can begin to lose clarity if too much polishing occurs. As a result, many manufacturers recommend no more than five comprehensive polishing refinishes for gold watches.

One exception to this rule is white gold. Aside from Rolex, which smelts a homogenous white gold that never needs plating, most manufacturers produce their white gold watches using a milky-yellow alloy of yellow gold and white metals. The resulting product requires rhodium plating in order to complete the illusion of “white” gold. In most cases, refinishing such watches involves electronically re-plating the watch, not polishing it. As a result, many white gold cases will wear faster than their yellow counterparts, but the remedial procedure for the white gold has the advantage of being infinitely repeatable.

Deep scratches are a different matter. In general, local watchmakers will not attempt to refinish gold watches with deep marks. Instead, specialist jewelers and the original watchmaker are the best choice for this type of repair. Unlike polishing, the repair procedure for deep marks tends to involve micro-scale welding and filling of the grooves. Material is added and polished flush with the case. This is a stark contrast to the “leveling” of a case to erase smaller marks, but the cost is proportionally higher. 

Is it true that titanium tends to be soft and easily marked?

This is a fact, albeit, one that seems counter intuitive.

Despite its reputation as the go-to metal for heavy-duty industrial, aerospace, and medical applications, titanium alloys common to the watch industry tend to be very soft.

While high-strength titanium alloys exist for high-technology applications, these variants are uncommon in the world of luxury watch manufacturing. Titanium’s greatest asset is its low weight in relation to its volume, and watchmakers seek the grey metal for this quality. Unlike steel, which is relatively heavy, titanium can be used to meet the contemporary consumer appetite for large watches without placing excessive weight on the wrist. Titanium is valued for its ability to encase a large watch that wears like a small watch.

Due to the softness of jewelry-grade titanium, it scratches easily. This problem is compounded by the fact that most titanium watches feature distinctive brushed finishes in order to offer a visual distinction from common steel. Refinishing this grain can be a challenge for most watchmakers and jewelers, so titanium watches tend to require refinishing at the service centers of the original manufacturers.

The wildcard factor that complicates titanium refinishing is the wide range of surface coatings applied by different manufacturers.

In theory, raw, untreated titanium will form a thin layer of titanium dioxide that protects against further corrosion and expresses itself as a uniform matte grey surface. Scratches can be removed by polishing and grain can be restored through the use of standard refinishing tools.

The complication arises when manufacturers as varied as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling, and Citizen use proprietary alloys and surface coatings to harden and seal a titanium finish. While these finishes can create striking aesthetics that resist scratches and oxidation, they become a refinishing challenge for any agency other than the factory. Often, refinishing a portion or a single spot on the case of a watch becomes impossible due to the contrast between the refinished spot and the remainder of the original factory-coated surfaces. When in doubt about refinishing a titanium watch, it’s best to contact the watch’s original manufacturer.
 

What is a “sapphire” crystal?

Upon entering the luxury watch market, watch buyers quickly realize that crystals – the transparent covers atop the dials – come in several varieties. The words “sapphire,” “mineral,” “Hesalite,” and others are used to describe the crystals of different watches.

Readers of contemporary watch reviews quickly realize that “sapphire” dominates the online discussion of modern timepieces. Fundamentally, the corundum crystals on luxury watches are of the same chemical composition as rubies. However, this material is known as “ruby” only when colored red; all other tints, including the man-made clear variety, are known as sapphire. When watch aficionados speak of sapphire, they speak of this material.

Sapphire is exceptional for two reasons. First, it features a Mohs scale rating of nine, which means that it ranks second only to diamond in hardness. This allows a sapphire watch crystal to withstand almost any abrasive encounter without scratching. Second, pure synthetic sapphire will take and hold a superb optical finish, and the material creates very little optical distortion. Four times harder than quartz, sapphire is the “Cadillac” of watch crystal materials and the default choice among luxury watchmakers.

Due to the expense of cutting and finishing sapphire, it is rare on watches with new retail prices below $1,000 U.S. dollars. Moreover, the economic feasibility of sapphire crystals developed slowly between the late 1970’s and the late 1980s, so this material is rare on watches over 30 years old.

What is a “Hesalite” crystal?

Hesalite and acrylic are two words used to describe essentially the same thermoplastic synthetic material. First used on watches during the 1930s, World War II’s large-scale industrial demand for shatter-resistant airplane canopies and nautical ports allowed the material to reach maturity by the 1950s. Many mid-century vintage watches employ Hesalite/acrylic to produce optically superior, impact resistant, and easily replaced crystals.

Although acrylic crystals are far easier to scratch than their sapphire counterparts, they are also less susceptible to shattering or fracturing upon impact. Omega’s Speedmaster Professional chronograph, which remains NASA-rated for space flight and extra-atmospheric tethered walks, continues to employ an acrylic crystal as a precaution against shrapnel-like zero gravity fragmentation. Moreover, acrylic crystals are easy for a watchmaker to polish and refinish with buffing tools, and they are inexpensive to replace when the damage is too great to remedy.

What is a polycarbonate crystal?

Polycarbonate is a more advanced thermoplastic cousin of acrylic. It was commercialized approximately twenty years after acrylic, and it is best known by the brand name “Lexan.” Polycarbonate is slightly more expensive to produce than acrylic, but it offers superior shatter resistance when compared to its predecessor. For this reason, many sports watches of the 1970s and 1980s feature polycarbonate crystals.

Is conventional glass ever used to create a watch crystal?

Collectors who seek pre-war wristwatches should be familiar with the limitations of glass and “mineral” crystals. From the first appearance of series-produced wristwatches in the late nineteenth century to the mass-market acceptance of wristwatches in the 1920s and 1930s, glass was the dominant crystal material.

While glass does resist scratching better than its thermoplastic successors, it is far more susceptible to cracking, fracturing, and shattering. The industry’s early attempts to address this vulnerability involved thicker crystals and cage-like grilles that were acceptable – barely – on military issue timepieces but untenable in the consumer market. Aside from cumbersome case-within-a-case solutions (similar to the “canteen case” pioneering waterproof watches) and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s singular Reverso reversible case, watchmakers and consumers spent the early decades of the wristwatch era guarding against disaster.

In general, mass-market wrist and pocket watches transitioned to synthetic polymers as soon as this became technologically and economically feasible. For this reason, few post-1950 wristwatches feature glass crystals.

However, as with all rules, exceptions exist. Today, crystals described as “mineral” utilize glass that has been treated with chemical processes that reduce the tendency to scratch and shatter. Seiko in particular has persisted with mineral crystals under the trademark “Hardlex.” Seiko claims its use of this material in certain dive models combines most of the scratch resistance of sapphire with shatter resistance and low retail costs comparable to thermoplastics.

While Seiko’s product and others like it can obtain a good balance of cost and durability, mineral glass crystals remain a middle-ground solution boasting neither the absolute shatter resistance of polymer crystals nor the scratch resistance of sapphire.

 

Which material is best for a crystal?

For the vast majority of users, the most desirable of these materials is corundum, or artificial sapphire. While it lacks the absolute shatter resistance of thermoplastic, contemporary sapphire boasts exceptional shatter resistance, scratch resistance, low optical distortion, and ability to hold an optical polish.

Moreover, during the last two decades, anti-glare coatings and sophisticated milling techniques have permitted even greater optical clarity and shatter resistance, respectively. Now that thirty years have elapsed since the first mainstream adoption of sapphire watch crystals, empirical evidence confirms that most sapphire crystals will endure for decades without incurring any marks whatsoever.

During the same period, the industrial costs of working artificial sapphire have declined, and the only luxury sector watches (arbitrarily, call this the “$1,000+” segment) without sapphire crystals tend to be the Seiko Hardlex dive watches and timepieces that retain a thermoplastic crystal for practical or historical reasons. Omega’s Speedmaster Professional, which remains in use by NASA and is sold to the public as a living legend of space lore, exemplifies both of the latter conditions.

I’ve seen watches labeled “Gold Plated” and “Gold Filled.” How do these compare to “solid gold” cases?

Gold plate and gold filling are very different from true gold cases.

For starters, there is no such thing as “solid gold” in watch case metallurgy. Simply put, it is too soft to be used in vulnerable applications such as cases. Pure gold scratches easily, and thin cases of pure gold would be in danger of severe deformation when secured to the wrist. Instead, alloys of gold and secondary metals such as nickel, palladium, manganese, copper, and silver are used to construct case structures. These cases are “solid” gold only in the sense that the material has been blended to achieve homogeneity. If one were to cut the watch in half, the sheered case walls would be of the same color and composition as the exterior.

Labels such as “7K” and “14K (U.S. purity standards) or “9K” and “18K” (European standards) indicate the purity of the gold. 24-karat represents pure gold, and 18K, for example, indicates an alloy composed of 75 percent gold and 25 percent secondary content.

“Gold Plated,” by comparison, refers to an electro-plating process that deposits a microns-thick layer of gold to create the external appearance of gold on inexpensive watches. The true case material will be steel, nickel, or a variant thereof, and sharp edges easily compromise the surface layer of gold. However, gold plating is fairly easy to re-apply and can be performed by many local jewelers.

“Gold Filled,” also known as “rolled gold” or “stiffened gold,” refers to a mechanical bonding technique by which two thin sheets of gold are used to sandwich a base metal core before being rolled together under great pressure. This technique was most prevalent during the middle of the Twentieth Century, especially in the United States. Due to U.S. import tariffs on entry-level to mid-market Swiss watches, many were imported as uncased movements and completed with gold-filled cases by U.S. case factories. This was done so that the watches could avoid tariff charges as “U.S.-manufactured” products without elevating the finished articles to higher price points than the movement maker intended.

In general, the quantity of actual gold used in filled cases ranges from 1/10th to 1/30th of the mass of the entire metallic sandwich. Moreover, these cases often include a stamped reference to the purity of the gold such as “10K gold filled.” This means that the gold portion of the sandwich structure consists of 10K gold, and the case is not to be mistaken for homogenous (i.e., straight-through) 10K. If one were to cut open a “10K gold filled” case, there would be a non-gold base metal within the layers – similar to the way a U.S. quarter dollar coin is assembled.

Gold filled case finishes are far more durable than gold plated cases, but they can be more difficult to repair in the event that a deep scratch reveals the underlying base material. Neither plated nor filled gold are considered valuable from a material commodity standpoint, so the value of an individual gold-filled watch becomes a function of condition, model specification, documentation, and rarity; the word “gold” counts for very little in these cases.

I have heard that the dials of vintage watches can be refinished. Should I have my dial refinished before selling it, and should I seek watches with refinished dials when buying vintage/pre-owned?

To quote the TV announcer, “Don’t touch that dial!” Refinishing watch dials almost always results in lost value. Consider the question of originality.

Many watch collectors believe routine evidence of aging to be a legitimate feature of a vintage watch. Black dials that have faded to brown (i.e., “tropical dials”), radium lumen that has dulled to a matte yellow, and small signs of hour index or hand corrosion are more likely to be interpreted as signs of the watch’s unmolested originality than strikes against its value.

Collectors and buyers in general prefer to see an “honest” older watch than something that looks preternaturally fresh despite alleged vintage status. Often, a watch that looks too good is dismissed out of hand as an outright forgery or a basket case that required so much repair the owner simply replaced original parts. The former is an outright fraud while the latter leads to questions about whether the replacement parts are correct to the model, authentic in their own right, and whether additional undeclared damage lies hidden within the movement.

Vintage markets have a good feel for watches that seem too good to be true. Outstanding “time capsule” watches from important manufacturers tend to be priced accordingly. For example, only in rare cases does a completely original mid-century Rolex appear for sale with absolutely no signs of vintage patina. In general, these watches hit the pro auction circuit after stringent appraisals verify their authenticity.

When buying a watch, it is best to accept the “honest patina” than to take risks with refinished dials. An older watch that looks the part has character. Refinishing raises the suspicions of buyers and leads to questions about who did the work, when, why, and whether the seller can prove the refinish is true to the original design.

Unless a watch is rendered unusable by wear, it’s best to avoid refinishing a dial. The marks of age tell the story of a vintage timepiece, and, as car collectors say, “it’s only factory once.”

I love my watch, but I do have antiques and jewelry that I'm looking to sell. Can 300watches still help me?

Of course! Take a look at our top-rated eBay store and you'll see that a number of the items for sale aren't high end watches. We've sold everything from German expressionist paintings, to antique silverwork, alongside our work selling discount watches online.

Just like your pre-owned luxury watches, every antique or work of art has a story to tell, not only through the intent of its creator, but in the chain of ownership it has followed to its present location. Luckily, we have experts in our circles with knowledge beyond today's luxury watch brands.

In addition to their wealth of knowledge on luxury watch brands, we’re happy to say we have some friends on staff who really know antiques, and if you have something that we think will do well on the market, we would be glad to help you sell it. We are always intrigued by the thought of what’s out there, not only in the hands of the world’s collectors, but also those who came to possess valued antiques by pure luck.

You may have inherited an old collection of Meissen’s animalist figurines, not knowing that just one of those little decorative camels might sell for $10,000 through the right channels! Yes, one of those little collectibles might go for as much as some of our high end watches.

And how about the fancy silverware collection that lay unused in the drawer throughout your childhood? Little did you know that the entire set was crafted by the master silversmiths at Georg Jensen, and could fetch you thousands if you decided to sell it.

What about the new and exotic materials?

They are many and varied.

Titanium is the most common. Its lightness makes it an ideal option in the current era of large and oversized watch designs. Titanium allows watchmakers to create large cases that will not corrode or require anodized protection from skin oils, moisture, and hard water. Like platinum, titanium is not bio-reactive, so it will not affect those with certain allergies in the manner that nickel-plated white gold can.

At the same time, titanium responds well to aesthetic embellishments such as polishing, brushing, and bead blasting. The unique grayish-white color of titanium is luxuriously rich when viewed closely and discreet when observed from a distance.

Despite popular perceptions, titanium is not an indestructible or indelible substance. It is very prone to scratches, and most local jewelers are not able to refinish titanium components; such services often must be obtained through the original manufacturer’s service center.

Carbon fiber is a new material that has seen some acceptance in the upper echelons the of the luxury watch market.

Audemars Piguet has been the most active in the adoption of this substance, which combines woven carbon strands with a polymer resin. The result is a composite that is lighter than any standard case metal – titanium included. Carbon fiber cases are molded and cured to retain the chaotic appearance of fibers in the random pattern in which they were pressed together.

Although the material is scratch-prone, carbon’s mass of clashing lines, shades, and dark forms swallows scratches and causes them to disappear. Carbon is waterproof, resists discoloration, cannot oxidize, and should not require refinishing unless a colossal blow compromises the shape or integrity of the case.

Ceramic is the newest introduction to the catalogue of luxury watch materials. Although Rado pioneered the concept decades ago, mainstream adoption of ceramic-coated components is a phenomenon of the last ten years.

Watches with ceramic cases or bezels are exceptionally resistant to scratching or denting. The ceramic material consists of a chemically deposited inorganic compound that offers a level of scratch resistance comparable to the sapphire dial crystals that have become standard-issue equipment on contemporary luxury watches.

In other words, only a herculean knock or an attack by a faceted diamond can mar ceramic.

Other materials such as aluminum, bronze, palladium, and tantalum have found their way into the luxury watch market, and each offers a balance of beneficial and detrimental attributes. Buyers who seek detailed information about watches featuring esoteric compounds are encouraged to contact the expert team at 300watches.

In general, what are the characteristics of the different watch case materials?

This used to be a simple matter, but surging global interest in luxury watches has prompted an explosion of options. It’s best to start with the classics.

The trifecta of steel, gold, and platinum remains the mainstay of the market, but each of these has been revised to include several variants, and entirely new materials have been introduced by the watch industry.

Steel has enjoyed a renaissance in popularity. Part of this has come about as a backlash against the gem-encrusted golden “peacock” aesthetic of the Gordon Gekko era, but the merits of steel have won it legions of devotees. Steel’s versatility is unrivalled, and it can provide distinctly different appearances when polished, brushed, and faceted. Steel looks good on the boardwalk and in the boardroom.

Even better, steel is the least costly material to refinish when the case, bezel, or bracelet require a touch-up.

Gold – yellow, rose, and white – remains the most popular choice among precious metals. Regardless of color, high-quality gold should feature a consistent color throughout; the surface color should not amount to a plated topcoat over a dull yellow base.

While most premier luxury watch brands will not utilize this trick, certain price-point models from entry-level brands will employ plating in good faith in order to create accessible products. Buyers are encouraged to speak with 300watches’ professionals if there are any questions regarding the gold status of an advertised watch.

Gold is a soft material, and it should not be polished excessively. Each polishing removes gold in order to “level” the case around a scratch or dent. For this reason, watches such as divers and sports models that will see rough use should be sought in steel if the timepieces are to be employed as intended.

Due to the large number of colors and tints that can be obtained by creating gold alloys, gold offers buyers genuine variety. Red, yellow, and white gold can create striking solid and multi-tone designs that are not possible with steel or platinum alone.

Finally, many luxury watch buyers value colored (e.g., pink or yellow) gold for its visual “warmth,” a trait that the relatively austere white metals cannot match.

Platinum remains by far the most expensive, least common, and most hearty of the traditional watch materials. It is heavier than gold, harder than steel, and inherently more valuable than either. Platinum is an excellent choice when a collector’s budget permits because platinum offers the best elements of steel and gold in a single material.

Like gold, platinum is a precious metal of rare beauty and enduring value as a commodity. While the commodity value of the gold or platinum in a watch is far lower than the price of the timepiece, such a watch cannot, by definition, ever be worth nothing. Precious metal watches appeal to a buyer’s appreciation for quality, rarity, and exclusivity, and platinum is the ultimate embodiment of all these qualities.

Even better, platinum boasts a surface hardness of 4-4.5 on the Mohs scale. This figure matches the hardness of steel and easily surpasses the 2.5-3 Mohs figure of gold. Not only is platinum resilient, it will never need to be re-plated the way cheap white and rose gold must be. Even better, platinum will not induce allergic reactions such as those occasionally induced by nickel-plated white gold.

Finally, platinum matches the discreet qualities of steel. The white metal can be finished to draw no more attention than steel, and its slight milky-white haze is imperceptible under all but the closest scrutiny. The connoisseur who appreciates quality but needs not boast will value a platinum watch.

Platinum is a heavy metal whose mass exceeds gold by 20 percent for any given volume, so larger watches rendered in this material should be experienced “firsthand” if there are any doubts concerning weight on the wrist.

Does case material have any impact on long-term collectability or investment value?

This may be the case, but the impact of material may be counter-intuitive.

In fact, many of the most desirable collectible watches of recent time have been steel models. Auctions of Patek Philippe and Rolex references in steel have set house and world records in the last year alone.

Collectors are interested in the historical significance of a model, the rarity of the model, the condition and originality of a specific example of the model, and its documented ownership history. Precious metals are impressive in the flesh, but the commodity value of mere ounces of silver, gold, or even platinum becomes irrelevant when measured against rarity, significance, and documentation.

Customers interested in collecting watches for investment purposes are encouraged to speak to 300watches’ expert staff and avoid generalizations on the basis of case material. Certain watches are always in demand, offer access to well-established collector communities, and provide better long-term collector potential than others.

The watches on your product pages have blurred or invisible serial numbers – why? Don't your watches have serial numbers?

300watches only purchases and offers watches with full identifying codes. These codes include the serial numbers on movement and case, manufacturer model reference number (if applicable), and limited series sequence number (if applicable).

The first reason for blurring or digitally erasing the serial numbers is to protect buyers and manufacturers from counterfeiting. The second is to provide due discretion to our partners who supply our new and unworn discount watches.

300watches conceals identifying codes to thwart counterfeiters. Virtually all watch manufacturers maintain databases of the watches that they have produced. Often, these databases contain identifying information on watches dating back to the first half of the twentieth century – and sometimes the late nineteenth century!

Often, case serial numbers are tied to other identifying features of the watch such as its movement reference and serial numbers, its model name, its model series, its date of manufacture, and other details of the watch’s specification.

In the modern luxury watch sector, counterfeiters are sophisticated. They know that vendors and customers often contact manufacturer customer service to request authentication of watches based on serial numbers. Listing a watch with photographs of its identifying codes would permit counterfeiters to produce fake watches with real authentication marks. As a result, even the manufacturer would be unable to validate the authenticity of the watch without physically inspecting it.

Since external case serial numbers may be tied to movement numbers, model information, and date of assembly in manufacturer databases, supplying basic serial numbers to counterfeiters may give them access to a treasure trove of instructions for forging a watch. Smart sellers will not provide practitioners of forgery with the means to request identifying information from the watch manufacturers.

The second reason 300watches digitally conceals identifying codes is to pay deference to the industry suppliers who provide our new and unworn luxury watches.

While 300watches is not an authorized dealer of any brands we sell, we maintain mutually beneficial business relations with many authorized dealers of top luxury watch brands.

Due to the nature of the dealer-factory relationship, dealers may not advertise or otherwise promote the sale of watches below certain factory-defined minimum retail prices. Manufacturers keep track of which serial numbers are sold to specific dealers, so revealing timepiece identifying codes would be a disservice to the partners that enable 300watches to offer premier timepieces new and unworn.

When 300watches purchases inventory from these dealers, 300watches ensures that the dealers are able to rotate their collections, and we ensure that our customers have access to watches that are the literal equal of any available from authorized channels.

By combining industry-leading discounts with our own guarantees of authenticity, money-back promise, and available service plans, 300watches offers greater value than authorized dealers with protection levels unmatched in the discount sector.

What is the difference between watches labeled “Waterproof,” “Water Resistant,” and “Water Resist XXXfeet/meters?”

The short answer is “very little.” The first term, “waterproof,” is an archaic marketing term from the first decades of water-resistant watches.

For most of history, including the entire pocket watch era and the first three decades of wristwatch production (1900s-1930s), watches that could survive water exposure virtually did not exist. The few exceptions were esoteric dive models that consisted of a cumbersome “watch-in-a-box” arrangement in which the timepiece sat inside an exo-case with a glass viewing port. A small bottle cap-style crown cover could be screwed off to wind or set the time when dry.

In 1926, the Rolex Oyster case popularized the submersible watch and the term that came to describe it: “waterproof.” Truth be told, this term is a piece of advertising hyperbole from a more innocent time when manufacturers were inclined to overstate water resistance, consumers were willing to accept the exaggeration without skepticism, and government watchdogs either didn’t exist or didn’t care.

Although there is no single watershed moment, the tide (pun intended) began to turn in the mid-60s when standards for truth-in-advertising began to receive attention from a new generation of private-sector consumer advocates and their government equivalents.

As a result, many watch lines that were produced continuously through this period exhibit “waterproof” labels in their early-60s iterations while later models from the same era read, “water resistant.”

Later, in pursuit of even greater clarity, manufacturers began to specify the precise static pressure limits of individual models with labels that read, “Water Resist XXX feet/meters.” 

So, the number on my watch labeled “Water Resist XXX feet/meters” is the maximum safe depth for the watch?

Not exactly.

Water resistance figures are listed in terms of static pressure. This means that when the watch is factory-fresh and ready to be used for the first time, it is rated for the listed depth when held perfectly still in an environment that features no compromising chemicals, extreme temperatures, or sudden temperature swings.

Extreme water pressures are associated with jumping into a pool, falling while water skiing, plunging a hand into water, or driving one’s hand through the water while swimming. Any time a watch encounters such conditions, its seals are subjected to a temporary over-pressure that may create forces exceeding the “static” stress of the watch’s maximum rated depth.

A vivid analogy with respect to human limits would be the difference between a person’s comfort at 1atm (sea level) and extreme discomfort after taking a hit to the eyeball from an automotive service station’s pressurized air hose. Although it may occur at “sea level,” that momentary burst of pressure is going to do some damage.

Rapid changes in temperature can cause uneven contraction of watch seals that can compromise water resistance. When a reveler at a mid-July barbeque plunges his 90+degree wrist into a drink cooler full of ice and frigid water, the combination of temperature shock and dynamic over-pressure can instantly overcome the resistance of non-dive watches.

Other factors including the presence of detergents, chlorine, salt, hand soap, and caustic chemicals can degrade the water resistance of a watch. Sometimes, dish or automotive soaps can bypass watch seals in as little as one exposure. It is advisable to avoid showering while wearing a watch.

Modern diving watches are quite robust and likely to survive abuse that would terminate less hermetically focused designs. However, many of these watches also require the user to screw all crowns and secondary function actuators into the case before submergence. Users who fail to do so before water exposure may find their rugged dive models compromised as quickly and expensively as their high-and-dry dress watch counterparts.

So, how does one assess the safety margin of a given watch model? The best approach is to use the following rule-of-thumb; for factory-fresh watches, 3ATM or 30 meters of water resistance means “splash only” security; 5 ATM or fifty meters equates to safe swimming but not high-impact diving; 10 ATM is the minimum acceptable rating for a watch that may be used for snorkeling, Scuba diving, jumping into a pool, or dynamic activities such as riding a wet slide at a water park.

Are vintage watches “water proof?”

The one-word answer is “no.” However, this is a subject that requires serious consideration beyond the simple answer.

Although many watch buyers only consider watertight hermetic qualities to be relevant to dive watches and sports watches, the dangers of water intrusion should be considered a serious hazard to collectors of all vintage watches.

Moisture is encountered while washing one’s hands, dashing from the car to the office during a downpour, when grabbing a drink from a cooler, and during periods of heavy perspiration. Pools, beaches, and showers are by no means the only danger zones. Plan ahead to safeguard your investment.

First, consider the internal composition of a mechanical watch. Metals including steel, brass, aluminum, and copper are present in the plates, bridges, springs, levers, and wheels of a mechanical watch. At the same time, the quantity of lubricant on any given pivot is so minute as to be invisible under most jewelers’ loupes.

Dials are coated with delicate paint, enamel coatings, applied metals, and inks that can be ruined by even trace amounts of vaporized moisture.

Introducing water to this environment creates corrosion, mold growth, removes lubricants, and forms a mini-sauna once placed on the user’s wrist. All of these factors will affect the rate and regularity of a mechanical timepiece. The onset of corrosion, mold growth, or the loss of lubricant can stop a movement outright.

Often, the only viable repair solution is a complete rebuild of the movement starting from the main plate; a new movement must be built. Since this process must be undertaken by a single watchmaker in a manufacturer’s service department or independent shop, the cost of this one-off watch rebuild may exceed the original cost of building the watch in the efficient environment of series production.

Anecdotally, the most expensive watch repair 300watches ever has heard of involved a gentleman who submerged a vintage Audemars Piguet minute repeater pocket watch in salt water: $20,000. Unless he discovered sunken treasure in the process, that was an expensive day at the beach.

Regardless of their original design purpose, all vintage watches should be considered just as vulnerable as that vintage Audemars. In time, the aging process will compromise the seals that secure watch crowns, case backs, crystals, chronograph pushers, calendar adjusters, and helium release (deep dive) valves.

In addition, many seals rely on factory-applied oils to provide extra resistance, and these oils will dry to a crust as their volatile elements evaporate over time.

Finally, the threaded shafts of screw-down crowns, pushers, and case backs will wear and become less water resistant over the course of many insertions and removals. This is a process that is far more difficult to reverse than seal or lubricant degradation.

Even on the new watch market, manufacturers such as Omega and Audemars Piguet advise having a new watch checked for hermetic security every year and two years, respectively. Clearly, the watertight status of any vintage model worthy of that description should be regarded as suspect in the extreme.

Even vintage dive watches s3ould be considered to have no watertight integrity until a watchmaker or original manufacturer’s service center certifies otherwise.

For these reasons, it is critical for collectors of vintage timepieces first to consider the watches bereft of watertight security. This safe assumption represents an insurance policy against accidental damage. 

What if I want to use my vintage watch around water? Do I have any options?

Most vintage dress watches, aviation models, and complications were never intended to get wet, so there is no point in pursuing restoration of water resistance never intended to be more than an emergency precaution. Whatever minimal splash protection these watches may have incorporated when new will have aged beyond usefulness.

Compromising originality or risking the value of decades-old watches with resistance ratings of “3 ATM” is a foolish risk.

However, certain vintage marine and dive models can be restored to reasonable water resistance provided the owner works with a knowledgeable watchmaker with access to factory parts. For example, many older Rolex and Omega dive models are sufficiently common and robustly engineered that some degree of watertight restoration is a real possibility.

From this starting point, a collector can take a vintage watch – a 1950s 6538 Rolex Submariner, for example – to the watchmaker. Most watchmakers offer a simple hermetic pressure test to evaluate the water resistant state of the watch while keeping it dry.

Once the water resistance of the watch (or lack thereof) has been established, the watchmaker will be able to retrofit seals, through-case fittings, and grease/oil application to recover lost water resistance. It is important to discuss the final results with your watchmaker to understand the limits of this restoration work.

With respect to “in-house” and “third-party” (outsourced) movements, what is the distinction between the two?

The question of in-house and “outsourced” movements has reached the mainstream after spending eons as the domain of industry insiders.

In the early 2000s, the Swiss watch industry began a general stampede to issue manufacture movements that continues to this day. Just as complications and expanding dimensions came to define contemporary cool, the design of a “manufacture” – or proprietary – movement became a matter of status for Swiss watchmakers of all market strata.

The expanding watch media and the voracious information appetite of the Internet had cast a bright critical spotlight on the traditional Swiss watch industry reliance on third-party part suppliers and purchased technology.

What had been an industry commonplace for generations became something of an embarrassment for watchmakers. Regardless of the standards of artisanal finishing or mechanical enhancement inherent in – for example – a Patek Philippe-finished Lemania ebauche, the use of a customer caliber from a Swatch group appendage (Lemania) meant that online sophistry of the broad-brush variety was damaging corporate reputations.

Upscale forum trolls were painting houses such as Patek, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin into corners with the likes of fashion brands that insert unfinished raw movements into department store fodder.

Of greater long-term concern to the industry was Swatch Group Chairman Nicolas Hayeck’s early 2000’s declaration that Swatch Group SA would begin to withdraw its customer calibers from the market and taper Swatch’s parts shipments to competing firms. At the time, an outsize proportion of the watch industry was dependent on Swatch for off-the-shelf parts and technology.

Delaying tactics of the federal Swiss Competition Commission notwithstanding, Swatch’s stance represented a serious existential threat to watchmakers of all sizes.

Today, many watchmakers are designing in-house calibers to bolster their reputations against the Internet’s critical microscope and to secure their access to movements once Swatch finally stops supplying parts in 2019.

Are in-house movements more desirable than customer calibers?

Ultimately, in-house or manufacture is an artificial distinction that has no bearing on quality per se. The holistic quality of a timepiece is the first matter of interest to any serious collector. Collectors know that a watch featuring a purchased movement may be far more desirable than an in-house timepiece if the former’s case finishing, dial design, movement elaboration (post purchase), and artisanal qualities add the vast majority of value to the watch. Consider the following comparison as an illustration.

A Swatch Rebel quartz watch features an in-house movement based on proprietary sealed-case technology developed and implemented exclusively by Swatch. And it costs $70.

By comparison, International Watch Company released “Il Destriero Scafusia” in 1993 to mark the company’s 125th anniversary. It featured a base (rough industrial version) caliber provided by Swatch Group member Valjoux. To that basic template, IWC added rich hand engraving, polishing, contrasting finish, and grand complication elements including a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, and split-seconds chronograph. Over six years, 125 were manufactured by hand, and they command over a quarter of a million dollars on the rare the occasions when they hit the open market.

Quality is self-evident, for better or worse. When assessing in-house vs. customer movements, give preferential consideration to the watchmaker’s overall standard of design, elaboration, and finish. If you have additional questions about specific brands or models, feel free to reach out to our expert staff; we love to talk watches.

I see the word “Chronometer” used on many watch dials; what does it mean?

Chronometer is a technical designation bestowed on qualifying Swiss watch movements by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).

Copyright laws and national origin conventions protect the term “chronometer.” Watches that fall short of the COSC technical standards or lack Swiss origin may not display the word “chronometer” anywhere on their construction.

The COSC was established in 1973 by the Swiss watch manufacturers’ federation and the five Swiss cantons containing the majority of the nation’s watch industry.

At the time, Swiss watchmakers were beginning to feel the squeeze from East Asian competitors and their mastery of low-cost quartz technology. Moreover, the once-celebrated observatory trial competitions were dying out, and Swiss watchmakers needed a new basis on which to promote their product “pedigree” against the quartz onslaught.

The COSC has three testing centers located in Biel, Saint-Imier, and LeLocle. The business of these facilities involves a battery of evaluations involving timing precision in five positions, at three temperatures, and for sixteen days. These are the test’s exact tolerances:

Average daily rate: -4/+6 sec
Mean variation in rates: 2 sec
Greatest variation in rates: 5 sec
Difference between rates in horizontal & vertical positions: -6/+8 sec
Largest variation in rates: 10 sec
Thermal variation: ± 0.6 sec
Rate resumption: ± 5 sec

Manufacturers submit uncased movements with temporary time-setting crowns for the use of the attending technicians. The movements in this state are not truly representative of their performance characteristics when cased and fully assembled within the final watch. This change can and does alter the performance of the final product to varying degrees

However, the COSC test is regarded as a sound basis for vetting the basic chronometric qualities of a watch. Obtaining COSC status generally requires manufacturers to produce movements with more detail refinements than non-chronometers. These upgrades may include fully jeweled gear trains, more sensitive balance regulators, better hairsprings, better gear tooth profiling, and more linear mainspring torque output.

 



 

Are there chronometer standards for quartz watches?

Yes there are. They differ somewhat from the COSC standards for mechanical chronometers in that quartz chronometers are not held to a standard international ISO specification while mechanical chronometers are.

For instance, a fine watch from Japan such as a Grand Seiko can meet the ISO 3159 standard that governs mechanical chronometer evaluations. However, the Grand Seiko, not being a Swiss watch, cannot use the label “chronometer” without facing legal action from the COSC. The Seiko makes the technical cut but not the origin standard.

Contrary to the mechanical codes, COSC quartz chronometer technical standards have been established entirely by the COSC and are not recognized by any international conventions or organizations other than the COSC itself.

But what the COSC quartz tolerances lack in standardization they recover in stringency. Few watches are certified as quartz chronometers. Of the major Swiss watch manufacturers, the only one that certifies a significant number of quartz chronometers is Breitling, which in 2001 debuted a policy of COSC certifying every movement it produces.

Because there is no macro-scale oscillator in a quartz watch, shocks and position have little effect on the rate of the timer. The key to a contemporary quartz chronometer is a thermo-compensation system that can neutralize the effects of a quartz watch’s nemesis: temperature variation.

In contrast to the mechanical chronometer procedure, the COSC quartz certification allows the subject movement to remain in one position while the temperature is cycled through three levels for a test period of eleven days. The objective is movement rate stability throughout.

Although different manufacturers use different systems to achieve this feat, COSC claims the end result is a quartz chronometer standard that results in a ten-fold accuracy advantage compared to a standard quartz watch.

Which of the watch case materials should I choose?

This is a complex but common question for those seeking to enter the ranks of luxury watch owners. There are two ways to approach the question.

First, it’s best to look at a watch from the practical standpoint of a user. How do you plan to use the watch in practice? That is to say, regardless of the watch’s design “intent,” how do YOU plan to employ it? Are you going to wear a dress watch in casual settings or a robust diver with a suit?

In general, white metals are the most versatile.

Even “dress watches” in white metals such as steel, white gold, and platinum can pull double-duty as casual watches if the basic timepiece isn’t outlandishly styled. Formal watches such as the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle series are understated in design, and their white gold or platinum variants can compliment informal garb such as polo shirts and shorts.

By the same token, certain sport watches such as those from Rolex’s Oyster family and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak collection have become acceptable accessories in formal settings. While a solid 18 karat gold Rolex Submariner would look awkward in street clothes or at a dive, it could be an elegant companion to a suit and tie.

The second consideration in choosing a material is value. In the crass terms of pure economics, value is a function of the purchase price as measured against retained value upon resale. While precious metal watches almost always command a premium when purchased new, they also tend to lose a greater percentage of value after purchase.

Buyers who know that they desire precious metal watches are well advised to pursue pre-owned watches from a trusted sources such as 300watches. Like certain high-performance cars, precious metal watches tend to command large premiums from authorized dealers and present an optimal “bang-for-buck” proposition only when purchased pre-owned.

How To Save My Luxury Watch From Water Damage?

To care for the luxury watch is not difficult, but very important especially if you are going to sell old watches for cash in future. For this reason, it's necessary to take into account the level of water resistance usually indicated on the case. Models with minimum water resistance are marked just with «water resistant». It means that a mechanism is protected from rain and splashes. Water-resistance up to 50m lets you swim with a watch on the wrist. Luxury watches with a 100m marking are suitable for shallow diving. A 200m marking allows snorkeling, scuba diving, and other water sports. There are also higher levels of water resistance rating of 300m and greater created for professionals.

So if you want to get cash for old watches in future, follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Additionally, do not expose your luxury watch to sudden changes in temperature. Before any contact with water, ensure that the crown is not pulled out. And remember that water-resistance is ensured by a series of seals. That’s why you should have a regular preventive control every one-two years in order to change all the seals if necessary. If you follow all this tips, you won’t have any problems in selling old watches. You can always get a free watch appraisal filling out a special form on our website. We are ready to buy used watches created by famous brands, but the price will certainly depend on the condition of your timepiece.