Deciding whether to buy a vintage watch versus buying a modern watch like an Apple Digital watch boils down to what you are looking for.

If you’re a collector you will probably be looking for a vintage watch. If you just want a watch that tells time accurately, a newer watch does that. Do you want one that is fashionable to wear like fine jewelry? Vintage can give you that, but there are many beautifully designed high-quality, modern watches available today, so you could go either way.

If you are attracted to the vintage look of yesteryear, there are some remakes of vintage designs that look and function better than the originals. Should you invest in a classic vintage watch with a long history and prestige? Or on the other end of the scale, should you purchase a computerized Smartwatch with all the bells and whistles? Do you really need all those features?

With so many watches and so many types of watches on the market, you should be able to find one that suits your fancy. But with so many choices, how can you make the right choice? To compare you need to look at the pros and cons of each kind of watch, before choosing which one is better for your lifestyle, needs, style, and value.

Comparing Watch Types

What makes a watch vintage is the age. Anything 20 years old or older is considered vintage. (If it is 100 years old it becomes an antique.) There is no set definition of what a “modern” watch is. We could say it is one currently in production and made with the latest technology and materials. Let’s go with that for this study. Whether vintage or modern, you have to consider the type it is to really make a good choice.

Two Kinds of Watches

There are two basic types of watches. Analog mechanical watches, and electronic digital watches which have no moving parts. You can also add to that list a third type - mechanical watches that power a digital (numerical) display. These were made as far back as the 1890s. What’s commonly called a digital watch today usually refers to the electronically powered type.

Since the first commercial electronic digital wristwatch was introduced in 1970 by Hamilton, which was 50 years ago, there are many electronic watches out there that are “vintage.” When talking about the pros and cons of a vintage watch, if it is a mechanical or electronic type will be two different things.

Join the Mechanical Watch Movement!

To complicate things, there are different mechanical watch “movements,” the mechanism that drives the hands and complications of the watch, which have their pros and cons. (“complications” the technical term for features such as a calendar, chronograph or dual time zone.)

When buying a watch of any kind, don’t base your choice on just the exterior of the watch. If you have an eye for detail you will appreciate the mechanism inside the watch. Carefully crafted movements define a masterpiece and make it distinct from an ordinary watch.

Three mechanical movement types:

Quartz – Powered by a battery that sends an electrical signal through crystal quartz, the movement makes the second hand move in individual ticks.

  • Pros: Keeps exact time and never needs winding.
  • Cons: Battery needs replacing every 2 to 4 years.

Mechanical – second-hand moves in a smooth motion.

  • Pros: A quality mechanical watch with proper care, will last a lifetime.
  • Cons: Requires manual winding for the movement to operate

Automatic – A self-winding watch where the mainspring is wound automatically by the Kinetic energy from the natural motion of the wearer's arm.

  • Pros: With regular wear, the watch continues to function, no winding needed.
  • Cons: Automatic’s are usually thicker because of additional rotors.

Wind them up!

Many people actually see winding as a kind of ritual. So, if you are a “winder,” an older vintage mechanical watch will be a good choice. Vintage and luxury watch collectors prefer mechanical movements. Many mechanical watches are designed as a piece of art with incredible attention to detail. Some are often engineered to withstand extreme physical conditions such as Rolex Submariner watches, which work even in ocean depths.

Is Vintage better?

Vintage watches seem to have something special that makes them more desirable than modern models. Their history, important world events, famous people who wore the watch, it’s pedigree, who designed it, all of these make them more interesting and valuable. Also, the farther back you go in time the less there are on the market, so each vintage timepiece can be unique and special, unlike newly mass manufactured models.

Vintage mechanical watches also have an advantage over quartz, battery-powered and electronic digital watches. Mechanical timepieces can be serviced and repaired while many quartz and digital watches have components that are no longer in production.

Vintage makes financial sense

Value and investment-wise, there are some great deals on beautiful vintage watches that can be found for under $2,000 whereas a modern watch of similar elegance can cost $5000 to $6000. A new watch isn’t the wisest investment. The moment you take it out of the store, its resale value drops substantially. The same with very high-end watches also. If you buy wisely, older classic watches can increase in value as they become rarer and more sought after by collectors.

Modern Watches

When it comes to comparing modern watches to vintage, it gets a little trickier. There are so many watchmakers now producing watches in great numbers and of all types that it can be overwhelming choosing. If you're looking for a modern watch, find one in good condition used if you want to save.

The first thing you want to be aware of when you're looking at a modern watch versus a vintage watch is the differences in how the watch is made. Just because a watch is vintage, doesn’t necessarily mean it is made with better materials.

For example, older Rolex timepieces were produced with crystals made from acrylic plastic. Acrylic crystals are much less scratch-resistant than sapphire crystals, which are highly scratch-resistant. High-quality watchmakers like Rolex are constantly improving the materials they use.

Conversely, modern watches can be made cheaply using inferior materials to many vintage timepieces. If they are “vintage” that means they’ve been around for a good long time, meaning they were made well with durable materials. Many vintage watches are technological marvels in their own right. But there has also been a lot of progress in these modern times in material and technology.


Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch have been around for a few years now. Released on April 24, 2015, they quickly became the best-selling wearable device with 4.2 million sold. Only 5 years old at this point makes them the most “modern watch.”

But how do you compare it to any other watch? It is basically a computer with 32GB of storage or a mobile phone that you strap on your wrist. No fancy diamonds decorating it, no moving hands, you just change virtual watch faces digitally. A space-age timepiece that gives you instant notifications, tracks workouts and does much more than a normal watch.

Since it is an electronic digital watch, it has a battery. That is one of the few things similar to traditional watches, besides telling time and date. It keeps working for about 1.5 days on a battery charge.

Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon to manufacture Smart Watches. Samsung, Mobvoi, Fitbit Versa and others. If you are a gadget lover, a smartwatch may be just what you want.

But comparing these modern marvels of technology value-wise to vintage watches, the latest Series 5 Apple Watch price starts at $399 and has an estimated resale value is 44% after one year. So, as an investment, a vintage watch would be a better choice if you have the right one

Visit Goldstein Diamonds

Vintage, modern or electronic digital, the watch you choose to wear says a lot about you. Take your time and do your research. Hopefully, this blog post will give you some guidance. If you want some professional advice, just come on into Goldstein Diamonds and we will be glad to help find the perfect watch for you. You can also call us at 1 480 945 4367 or fill out our contact form. If you have a vintage, modern or smartwatch you would like to sell, we buy!