home / Buyer’s Guide

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 WatchesManually 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 Watches

Automatic WatchesAutomatic 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.


AccuracyOur 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.

Water Resistance

Water ResistanceSome 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

Care and MaintenanceVintage 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

Watch StrapsWatch 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.

Arabic numerals

These are the standard text numbers that you’d expect to find on a computer keyboard.

Glossar Movement

Watches listed as automatic have a mechanism inside them that will ensure the watch is automatically kept wound while the watch is worn. If you aren’t wearing the watch every day, then you will need to give it a wind to get the movement going. The majority of automatic watches have a rotor which travels around the circumference of the watch movement. Bumper automatic watches have a rotor that travels around two-thirds of the movement’s circumference, buffering forwards and backwards against coiled springs (see illustration left).

Balance/Regulator/Shock resistance

Every mechanical watch has a balance which, together with the watch’s escapement, controls the speed at which the watch runs – above the balance is the balance cock, a metal bridge that almost always has a regulating index to speed up or slow down the movement. Above the centre of the balance is the so-called ‘end-stone’ this is the jewel which caps the balance pivot and, in some watches (as in that shown above) there is a shock resistance ‘spring’ which helps to absorb shocks to the watch.


The bezel holds the watch’s crystal or glass in place.


Buckles are usually standard pin fasteners similar to those found on belts.



This is the identifying pattern number for a watch movement – the ‘workings’ themselves. This number is often (although not always) stamped to the movement plate, often close to or under the balance.

Case backs
Snap-on – a friction fitted case back which attaches to the main body of the watch case. This is usually removed with a specialist case knife. Screw-down – a case back with a threaded lip which screws down onto the main body of the watch. This is usually removed with a specialist ‘key’ and vice. Screwed down – these case backs have small screws which hold the case back onto the main watch body. Hinged – some early wristwatches were made with hinged backs that unclip and fold away from the main body of the watch. Sizing – Please note that diameters and widths of watches will exclude winding crowns. Lengths will generally include the length of the lugs (the part that holds the strap) unless otherwise indicated. Bracelet lengths, where relevant, give a rough indication of the total length of the watch as worn around the wrist. It’s a good idea to measure out the size of any watch you like the look of on the website and perhaps compare the dimensions to one you already have – it’s surprising how hard it is to get a sense of the scale of watches from a photograph. It is difficult to give precise depth measurements of watch cases as bevelling/chamfering to the edge of cases mean that the depth may vary across the surface of a watch. Bear in mind that the height of the crystal/glass can greatly alter the depth of a watch.

Centre seconds

A centre seconds hand is mounted directly above the minute and hour hands at the centre of the dial.


Chronographs are essentially normal time telling watches with the addition of a stop watch. Registers – and ‘subsidiary’ dials on chronographs will usually record time elapsed in minutes and sometimes hours as well. We provide extra instructions to guide you through their use and explain the sometimes complex calculating scales you find on them.

Cross-Hair Dial

A term used to describe a thin cross sectoring a dial


A crown is used for winding and setting the watch and is invariably at the 3 o’clock position.


Magnifying window usually above a date aperture.


The dial is the face of the watch on which the time itself is indicated. The base of the dial is usually metal although enamel dials can also be found.


The ‘blank’ movement before finishing – many watch companies did not manufacture their own ebauches and bought these in before finishing the movements themselves in-house.

Geneva stripes

Also known as Damascened, these are wave form patterns which cover the backplate of a movement and a purely decorative. Such high quality finishing is usually only found in the highest quality wristwatches.

The majority of vintage watches have synthetic glasses and are often made from materials such as hesalite. Sometimes watch glasses are referred to as crystals, however, this terminology is usually generic and can be used to refer to glass as well as synthetic materials.


Good quality mechanical watches are jewelled. The jewels themselves are almost always synthetic rubies. These ‘rubies’ are extremely hard wearing and act as ‘sinks’ or ‘reservoirs’ into which a small droplet of oil is held to lubricate the pinions inside the watch movement. Jewels are also used to provide strength within the watch’s ‘escapement’ – the pallets of the lever for example which constantly make contact with the escape wheel. Without these jewels, metal would grind against metal leading to heavy wear. Typically, a good quality manually wound vintage watch will have a minimum of 15 jewels, higher grade movements will have 17 or 18 jewels (although this is not a maximum). Automatic movements will often have additional jewels in their automatic ‘rotor’ systems and therefore such watches can have over 20 jewels.

Lever escapement

The escapement of a watch controls the release of power from the movement’s mainspring. The lever escapement is found in the vast majority of mechanical wristwatches.


The lugs protrude from the watch case and are joined to one another by either a removable spring lug pin or a fixed bar, both of which hold the watch strap/bracelet/band in place.


The majority of our watches have hand-wound movements which require daily winding when in use. When fully wound and depending on the watch, the running time is typically between 30 and 40 hours.

Subsidary seconds

This is a small dial that displays a seconds hand. The subsidiary seconds dial is usually, but not always, at the 6 o’clock position. The subsidiary seconds is sometimes referred to as Constant seconds, especially when found on a chronograph dial.

Triple calendar

A watch that displays the days of the week, date and months of the year.

You may notice in some of the photographs that some watch cases are engraved ‘Waterproof’. Whilst these watches would originally have been water resistant and we have re-sealed them as best we can, they are not guaranteed waterproof and we advise against immersing any of our watches in water. Please note that we do not guarantee the watches against any water ingress.