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Buy Vintage and Write a New Chapter in Your Favorite Story

Like most people, I can appreciate brand-new things. Whether it’s a new car, a crisp watch straight from the dealer, or even a fresh pack of underwear, there is something undeniably special about being the first person to own something.

For items like underwear, being the first owner is a firm requirement for purchase (at least for me). However, for other things, particularly those that I’ve chosen not only for their functionality but because of how they make me feel – the items I purchase because I actually genuinely love them – owning something that is brand-new can often be a bit of a sterile experience.

1966 Rolex Explorer I (Ref. 1016) Gilt Tropical dials are a mesmerizing phenomenon and among the most collectible when considering gilt or matte dial Rolex. This Tropical Rolex Explorer 1 ref. 1016 is astonishingly beautiful with an ombre-like tropical patina that creates a grander sense of depth to the dial.

On one hand, a brand-new item will be in absolutely pristine condition and it will be accompanied by all of its various accouterments and accessories. On the other hand, it will also be the exact same as every single other example out there – which isn’t always a bad thing. No one wants a kitchen appliance that would be described as “packed with a unique character that tells a story” (sounds absolutely terrifying). However, that same description about an old watch or guitar? Count me in every single time.

1968 Tudor "Snowflake" Submariner (Ref. 7016/0) Semi-PCG Case The Tudor “Snowflake” is the nickname given to the Tudor Submariners with reference numbers 7016/0, 7021/0, 9104/0, and 9411/0 which was in production from 1969 to 1975. Dial variants are commonly found in black and or blue and the watch can feature at date complication. The nickname snowflake comes as a result of the unique features of the reference range such as the square hour markers and a unique snowflake hands that were introduced by Rolex/Tudor to increase visibility in low light conditions. However, there is more to the Tudor’s Snowflake Submariner line than its unique and different visual features.

Stepping Into An Existing Story

One of the biggest draws of vintage goods is that every item has a story. Even when you don’t know its history, the simple fact that it has one makes it inherently special and unique. Our human imaginations can’t help but be inspired when we see scratches on the bezel of an old Rolex Submariner, or vintage old Les Paul where the varnish on its neck has been worn away from years of use. And this isn’t just me romanticizing old and well-loved items; the second you start to wonder how a scratch or dent might have occurred, your imagination is already up and running (whether you want to entertain it or not).

1981 Rolex Explorer II (Ref. 1655) "Mk. V" The Rolex Explorer II was first introduced in 1971 as the ref. 1655, and was a professionals tool watch with a very niche application. The Explorer II ref. 1655 and its famous orange 24hr hand works in conjunction with the fixed 24hr bezel to be used as a day/night indicator.

Admittedly, all of this does absolutely nothing to augment the functionality of the item itself, and there will always be those who simply do not appreciate vintage goods with intriguing backstories, instead opting for the latest releases from their favorite brands. Personal preferences aside, this is one aspect of ownership that is entirely absent when you buy something brand-new. With newly-purchased items, there is no history behind them and they even lack the mystery of what their previous lives might have been, as they simply do not have them.

Additionally, the term “vintage” typically implies that an item has been around for a minimum of 20-30 years, so this means that when you buy vintage goods, you can also choose a time period that particularly resonates with you. Do the 1970s bring back fond memories of a joyful time in your life? Pick up a vintage racing chronograph from that decade, and have a little reminder of it on your wrist every day. If you still love that car you had on a poster as a little kid, get it now and live out your childhood dreams as an adult. Buying vintage lets you choose your favorite bit of history and make it a part of your life today.

1959 Rolex Chronograph Pre-Daytona (Ref.6234) Box, Papers, Letters From Original Owner This ref. 6234 in particular, other than being in marvelous condition, comes with substantial provenance. The watch was purchased in 1959 and was given as a gift from a wife to a husband for a wedding anniversary. The husband kept all of the Pre-Daytona's accessories, including the original guarantee paper, original Rolex clamshell box, Rolex's Gentlemen's Watches booklet, and shipping receipts from when the watch went to service. To top it off the watch also includes a letter from the original owner's son from 2012.

What Money Can’t Buy

How truly special is something if anyone with the financial means can simply go out and buy one? 

Exclusivity due to price alone should never be confused with something being truly special. Although there can often be a solid amount of overlap between these two concepts (especially when it concerns collectible vintage goods), there are also many items that are incredibly special due to the remarkable lives that they have lived, how they have aged over the years, or even due to what they represent to the individuals that own them.

971 Rolex Datejust (Ref. 1603) "Masonic Linen Dial Although Rolex is known for selectively placing logos on their dials; Pool Integral and Domino's Pizza as some more common examples, the Masonic dial is one of the most interesting and alluring as it is so seldomly seem as it is in collaboration with one of the most secretive fraternities in the world.

Certain things can only be earned through time spent in existence, and whether we are talking about the Tropical patina on the dial of a vintage dive watch or certain sunglasses that have become representative of a particular era, it is only with time that these items have picked up additional significance beyond what they were when they were first created. No two vintage items are going to be exactly alike, and it is within these small differences where you will find those unique bits of history that money simply cannot buy.

1980 Patek Philippe Nautilus "Jumbo" (Ref. 3700/1J) 18K YG long with the creation of Apple Computers and the Concorde Transatlantic Airplane, 1976 brought us one of the most iconic watch designs recognized to date, and by none other than the legendary Gerald Genta. This icon of design was the Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700, often referred to as the “Jumbo” due to its large size for the era, 42mm.

Write Your Own Chapter

In addition to being able to choose an item with an existing story, part of the enjoyment of owning vintage goods is being able to take something with an existing history that spans multiple decades and integrate it into your modern life. At the end of the day, regardless of whether you buy a vintage watch, camera, jacket, or guitar, whatever it is that you end up purchasing will ultimately be yours, so it is important for you to be able to feel like you actually own it.

1979 Rolex Datejust (Ref. 16018) 18k YG "Tiger Eye" For a short period of time in the 70s and 80s, Rolex manufactured timepieces featuring exotic materials including dials made from a variety of minerals, woods, and stones. Burlwood, Black Onyx, Tiger Eye, African Mahogany, Lapis Lazuli, and Birch were all used for dials during this time. Most commonly these watches were produced in 18K yellow gold.

I love brand-new things, but I find that I am increasingly tending to gravitate more towards vintage items when I want something that will really speak to me and inspire my imagination. I try to make a point to use everything that I purchase, and for vintage items, part of the fun of owning them is trying to find ways to take something that very much has its own existing identity and make it something that is truly mine.

If like me, you are drawn to the history and unique stories that accompany vintage goods, then you should not be afraid to add to the history that drew you to them in the first place. Each chapter of a vintage item’s life only further adds to its one-of-a-kind story, and buying vintage allows you to choose your favorite story and start writing your very own chapter in it.

Ripley Sellers is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant working within the watch industry. When he’s not covering a story or writing about the world of horology, you can usually find him hiking or spending time outside with his dog Ziggy.


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