collecting vintage chronograph watches

The Collector’s Guide to Vintage Chronograph Watches

Friday 29th Dec 2023 |

Chronograph watches have recently become a favourite among collectors and watch enthusiasts. Because of this, many think that these watches are recent innovations; however, that’s not the case at all. They have been around for a long time, and notable mentions like the Omega Speedmasters and the Heuer Chronograph (Circa 1945) are a testament to this.

That said, collecting vintage chronographs can be pretty tricky because there are lots of different things you’ll need to pay attention to. So, in this guide, you’ll learn vital tips for collecting vintage chronographs. You’ll also discover some brand suggestions to pay attention to when you’re doing your collecting

Prices and Wallet Sizes

The general opinion is that collecting vintage watches is a costly hobby. As such, many believe that the more money you have, the more quality items you can collect. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.

For one, there are different brands of vintage chronographs, and many of these watches are available at bargain prices. But if you’re after something more pricey, there are also premium options like gold watches. So there’s always one for every pocket size, meaning you can always ensure you get value for money.

However, vintage chronograph collecting isn’t something you want to do without a budget. This is because sellers tend to inflate prices for collectors. Having a budget will allow you to avoid many of these price pitfalls.

Additionally, many of the most popular chronographs already have their valuations published online. You can always refer to these online resources to verify any price you’re in doubt of.

Originals vs Replicas

The ability to distinguish between original vintage chronographs and fakes is a vital skill every collector must have. Here, there are several features you’ll need to take notice of. For example, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the brand’s logo and font styles. You’ll also need to pay attention to other unique features specific to the time period of the watch.

For example, early Rolex models often have specific dial features that changed over the years. In addition to this, these vintage chronographs typically have serial and reference numbers on their case backs or between their lugs. So, you can also cross-reference these numbers with manufacturer records to be sure you’re about to buy an original.

Another way to verify a vintage chronograph’s authenticity is to look at the watch’s movements. The movement of a fake watch often differs significantly from the original. You should research how the original moves to ensure you can immediately spot a fake. For some, the fake’s mimicry is pretty good, so you may need to consult an expert or watchmaker.

Brands and Models

If you’re just starting out as a vintage chronograph collector, you should stick to collecting popular watch brands. This includes brands like Richard Mille and Rolex. This is because, over the years, these brands have released several models with a lot of history and iconic design, so you’ll have a lot of options. Also, because these brands are so popular, they usually have pretty good investment values. In no time, your collection will be worth a lot.

collecting vintage chronograph watches
  • Heuer: Before becoming TAG Heuer, this watch brand was known simply as Heuer. Interestingly, Heuer has produced some of the most iconic chronographs of the 20th century. This includes highly sought-after models like the Autavia, Carrera, and Monaco.
  • Universal Genève: If you want something less common, then this Swiss brand is perfect for you. Universal Genève watches are often overlooked, but they actually hold a significant place in chronograph history. The Compax series, especially the “Nina Rindt” Compax, is a prime example of a worthy addition to your collection.
  • Breitling: Breitling has been a major player in the development of chronograph technology for a long time. As you would expect, this brand has many iconic models, and some notable mentions include the Navitimer, Top Time, and Chronomat.


A vintage chronograph collection is an interesting hobby that opens you up to a fascinating new world. But every journey has its risks and pitfalls. With the above tips, however, you will be able to avoid vintage chronograph collection traps. You’ll also be able to enjoy a fantastic experience every step of the way.

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