Buying from Black Bough
Every vintage watch is personally selected and authenticated by our watch expert Alex Barter
Alex’s career began in 1996 at Sotheby’s auctioneers in London. In 2002 he was posted to Geneva to run Sotheby’s watch auctions in Switzerland. Spending most of his time travelling around the world, viewing, valuing and selling antique and vintage watches, Alex returned to London in 2005, becoming Deputy Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s watch department. In 2009, Alex left Sotheby’s to become an independent watch consultant and, in 2011, co-founded Black Bough with Adam Withington. In addition to his work at Black Bough, Alex acts as a watch consultant to a number of other art companies. He is a member of the Antiquarian Horological Society and is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the oldest surviving horological institution in the world, founded by Royal Charter in 1631.
All our vintage watches are sold with a guarantee, detailed certificate and a presentation box.
Selecting your watch
Browse through our watches online. Select a watch from the listings to see its full description together with detailed photographs and a video.
Fully serviced Vintage Watches
Our Vintage Watches are fully serviced by specialist watchmakers. Every vintage watch is dismantled and all movement parts are cleaned, checked, lubricated, adjusted and re-assembled. Following service, each watch is timed and tested before we offer it for sale. Black Bough subscribes to the Watch Register and all unique serial numbers on vintage watches are checked against their database of lost and stolen pieces.
Vintage dials and cases
Unless clearly stated within a watch’s description, we do not have the dials of our vintage watches restored or refinished, this is in order to keep them in as original condition as possible. Metal watch cases are always thoroughly cleaned and are usually left unpolished – this means that there may be some scuffs and scratches to cases. Occasionally light scratches may be removed from cases and sympathetic polishing and/or graining may be applied where deemed necessary, although care is always taken to ensure that the overall design is not impacted.
Measurements & abbreviations
Diameter and width measurements always exclude winding crowns. The case length includes the watch’s lugs. A watch’s depth measurement is taken from the centre of the crystal/glass to the centre of the case back. Maximum bracelet lengths always include the watch head. We do recommend viewing our videos which can often give a better sense of scale than the photographs. The following abbreviations are used within the technical descriptions:
[M] Movement [D] Dial [C] Case [B] Bracelet [S] Signatures.
We provide a 1 year guarantee for all our Vintage Watches. The terms and conditions of this guarantee are as follows: 1. The watch must not have been damaged by accident, misuse, neglect or unreasonable wear and tear; 2. The guarantee does not cover water ingress or scratches or damage to crystals/glasses, straps and buckles; 3. In the unlikely event that a watch requires repair during the guarantee period, the watch must be returned to Black Bough for the repair; 4. Black Bough shall at all times endeavour to be fair and reasonable in assessing the cause of any fault which might occur after purchase.
We offer a 14 day return policy for any vintage watch purchased online, please refer to our delivery/terms for further information.
Buying a vintage watch
Manually Wound Watches
Manually wound wristwatches require daily winding – if you are not used to a hand wound watch, this is something that quickly becomes part of your daily ritual and is a matter of a few turns of the winding crown. Many people worry about over winding a watch, in fact one has to apply considerable pressure past the point of the full spring to break it. As a general guide, a manually wound watch, when worn day to day, will require approximately 10 to 15 turns of the winding crown. If a manually wound watch has been left to completely run out of power, it could require twice as many turns of the crown. For a watch to run at its optimum level, it is important to fully wind a watch until the spring feels full. Power reserves for watches will vary depending on the make and movement calibre, but a manually wound vintage watch will typically run for between 30 and 40 hours on a full wind.
Automatic wristwatches have a rotor inside them that will wind the watch whilst it is being worn. If such watches are worn daily, they will not need to be manually wound, however, if they have been allowed to completely discharge their power, a few turns of the winding crown will be enough to start the watch running once again. If you are not going to wear your automatic watch every day, it can be placed in an automatic winder which simulates the movement of the wrist and keeps the watch wound. This is especially useful if an automatic watch has calendar settings as it avoids the need to set the correct date if the watch has been allowed to run out of power. We have a stock of automatic winders for sale in our online shop.
Our vintage watches are adjusted by our watchmakers to ensure that they are good timekeepers. However, these are not electronic/quartz watches and some variation in timekeeping will naturally occur. In the finest quality movements, these variations will be no more than a few seconds a day, however, in some watches, the variation could be around half a minute. When you bear in mind that mechanical watches are beating around half a million times or more a day, the margin of error is incredible; this is especially so when you consider that mechanical watches are subjected to enormous variations in position, movement and temperature throughout the day which can influence their timekeeping.
Some vintage watches were designed as waterproof and, indeed, many are marked as such to their dials or cases. That said, we do not guarantee any of our vintage watches to be waterproof (unless we specifically state them as such in our paperwork) and we advise against immersing any vintage watch in water. However well vintage watches are sealed against water, it is almost impossible to guarantee resistance in older watches.
Care and Maintenance
Vintage watches require periodic servicing to clean, lubricate and adjust their timekeeping. It is generally recommended that a mechanical watch be serviced every 3 to 5 years. All watches bought from Black Bough are fully serviced and overhauled before sale and we are happy to arrange future servicing for watches that have been purchased from us – quotations can be provided upon request. Care should be taken to avoid contact with water and vintage watches should never be immersed in water. Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners or polishing cloths that contain liquids. We recommend using a microfibre cloth to remove dirt or to gently polish the surface.
Watch straps and bracelets are generally held onto watch cases by spring bars. There are varying qualities of spring bars available on the market, we always check and routinely change the spring bars that hold a watch strap to the watch case and only use high quality bars to ensure durability. Occasionally original spring bars may be made of gold and, where these are in good condition, they will be retained. Some early vintage watches have ‘fixed’ bars, this means that the strap is either stitched or glued directly onto the watch – ‘fixed bars’ are always mentioned in our descriptions. The majority of our watches are fitted with Hirsch straps or our handmade Christopher Clarke for Black Bough leather straps. We also sell a range of straps which are also available to purchase separately and which we can fit to your watch for you.
Some of the technical terms we use in the cataloguing of our watches.