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Tea with AK71: Vintage Rolex watches.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I recently have a new routine. I would wind a vintage Rolex watch every night. Yes, quaint, isn't it?

I have automatic watches, solar powered watches and, of course, the ubiquitous quartz movement watches. A manually wound watch? I haven't had one since my primary school days more than three decades ago.

Shortly after acquiring the watch, I spent some time online trying to find the exact year of its manufacture. I know, from what I found, that it has to be more than 20 years old but it could also be more than 60 years old. I was able to finally determine its age from its serial numbers.

My vintage Rolex Oysterdate 6694.

The watch was manufactured in the year 1956 which means that it is some 15 years older than me!

The watch is from a time when life was a bit less hectic than it is today, perhaps. It was a time when people would have the patience to wind their watches, perhaps. For sure, the internet did not exist then and information most probably flowed more slowly.

The daily winding of the watch is quite therapeutic, I have found. It helps to focus my mind on something simple for a few moments each day. It has a very calming effect.

When I showed the watch to my father, he said that only the rich could afford a watch like this during those days. It would have cost S$400 - S$600 when he was a young man and that was a lot of money back then. A clerk made only S$200 or so a month in those days.

A quick search on eBay for similar Rolex watches found asking prices of between US$1,600 to US$2,990. The only unit available from the same era as the one I have was asking for the highest price of US$2,990. Antiques have higher valuations, I guess.

A friend said that it is creepy that I should have such an old watch and not know who were the owners before me. I don't feel that way. This is a piece of history and I am privileged to be its new custodian.

Related posts:
1. Bought a new car.
2. Parting with an old friend.
3. Money well spent.


Zi Rong said...

Wow, a real treasure you have there! Maybe I should buy a Rolex now, and look back at it 20 years later :D

AK71 said...

Hi ZiRong,

This is my second vintage Rolex watch. The first is a Rolex King which my dad gave to me. He bought it more than 30 years ago. So, I guess I would consider it an heirloon. Not a Patek Philippe but it would have to do. ;p

The Rolex King is a Perpetual which means that it is automatic and no manual winding is required. I just have to keep it in motion. Since I rarely wear it, after sending it to Rolex Centre in Singapore for a full service, I put it in an automatic watch winder.

I bought another pre-owned Rolex a couple of years ago, sent it to Rolex Centre for a full service and gave it to my dad as a birthday present. Total cost: $5,000. If I had bought it brand new, it would have cost almost $14,000. Since you are thinking of buying a Rolex, this is a big hint: consider pre-owned. No one would care if you bought it new. ;)

Send the watch in to Rolex Centre in Singapore for servicing if you want to find out if it is genuine but be prepared to pay about $500 to $700 in service fees. If the watch is not a genuine Rolex, they will refuse to service it. :)

peace said...

Great watch!

I also have some vintage watches.
Not of heirloom status but I guess I will wear and keep them for a long long time to come

EY said...

Hi AK,

I have an old old Rolex too! It's a Rolex Viceroy that was said to be made in the 1930s. I bought it 15 years ago from a watch collector who was the photographer for the project which I was handling. I like the aged feel of the watch and the thought of owning a piece of history just makes me smile. :)

In fact, I have some 10 vintage watches from different eras. This Rolex watch is one of the only two men's design I own. I like men's watches but as I have a small wrist, I find an oversized dress watch doesn't cut the look for me. Fortunately, this one made in the earlier days has a relatively smaller face.

Like you, I like winding my watches too. But I only do it when I wear them. My oldest watch is from probably from 1900-1910. It doesn't keep time that well. When I wear it, it serves more like an ornament. Haha. Really pretty looking! :D

Okay, think I'm getting a little carried away talking about my watches. I have a soft spot for them! I think I now own more than 30 watches. :P

And yes, austerity drive for 2013 includes not buying anymore new/old watches! I must try really hard to resist temptation. Sigh!

Thanks for sharing about your watch. I like this post! :)


AK71 said...

Hi peace,

Heirloom is just what I want to think of it as. My dad didn't describe it as such. Haha.. ;)

I am not a serious watch collector per se. Quite an accidental one. I see, I like, good value, I buy. :)

AK71 said...

Hi Endrene,

Wow! 30 vintage watches? They must have cost you an arm and a leg! Of course, you have all your shoes too... You are good for the economy. ;)

The watch I wear most is a light powered Pulsar which my parents bought for me from the USA more than 10 years ago. Sometimes, I would wear the titanium quartz which my mom gave me when I first started work. Titanium watches were more expensive in those days.

I have a Tag Heuer which I bought for $800+ a few years ago. It has a nice black resin rubber strap which I thought looked sporty.

When I travel, I would usually wear my cheap Smash, Seiko or Casio watch. Smash watch died already. So, I am left with the Seiko and Casio.

Two watches in the auto winder: the Rolex King and a limited edition Tissot (which silly me bought as an investment years ago).

If you can tell me the serial numbers of your vintage Rolex, I can find out the exact year of manufacture for you. You would have to remove the watch strap to see the serial numbers though. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi AK,

Nice vintage watch. I did get a street watch with automatic winder for a couple hundred but find it always in the wrong time as I seldom wear it. Not keen on a watch winder as the parts will wear out faster? So its quartz for me. More specifically, Casio haha.


EY said...

Hi AK,

I don't have 30 vintage watches lah. I only have about 10 of them. The rest are all contemporary designs. :)

This Rolex Oyster Viceroy cost me $4000. It is very pretty looking with a pink gold bezel and a dial with some aged spots. 17 jewels movement. Serial number is on the inside of the back case. I can't see it, unfortunately. But I know its reference number is 3359 and it was made in the 1930s.

The rest of the vintage watches I own are much cheaper. Mostly less than $500. I can't afford to buy premium watches lor. I'm born with a disposable spoon, you know! Hahaha.

The money spent was all my hard earned money. I earned my financial independence at 17, giving tuition 7 days a week! Buying watches has been a little indulgence which brings me much happiness. It's different from buying shoes, bags or clothes which just feeds my materialistic tendencies (sometimes I like to argue it as my artistic tendencies! :P). Watches have a very special place in my heart. They journey through my life with me and quietly share my trials and tribulations. Many of them have suffered from my rough handling. In my haste and clumsiness, most of my watches have scratches all over the place, including the face! When I hurt them, it hurts me too. :`(

But you are certainly right. I'm good for the economy! :P

My modern watches are from a variety of brands. About 10 of them cost close to or more than $1000. I have an Omega, a Rado, a Movado, two from Fendi, 3 from Valentino, a Christian Dior, and a Nina Ricci. The most expensive among this lot is the Valentino chronograph watch with a diamond bezel and diamond numerals. Cost around $2000 after discount. The diamonds are really tiny. Frankly, I won't spend this kind of money on fashion watches any more. These days, my fashion watches would not exceed $500. I have probably about a dozen of them.

And of course, I have my cheap but trustworthy travel companions too. I have a casio watch bought during a sale at $55 and it has been to many place with me. It has a function which allows different time zone choices which I like. I would also bring along another Citizen watch which looks dressy enough for business wear. I used to like Swatch watches during my younger days but I now only own one which was given to me by my colleague and friend when I left teaching. :)

Hmmm....talking about my watches has inspired me to take better care of them. Perhaps, in the next year, whenever I have the impulses to buy new ones, I should take out my old ones to clean and sayang them. Probably, that'll help me stay away from temptation. :D


AK71 said...

Hi Tree,

Et tu? haha.. I was told that automatic watches if left unused for long periods of time will find it hard to keep good time in future. My dad's Rolex King was a case in point. :(

The Rolex King was solid gold and too flashy. So, he kept it in safe deposit box in the bank. When he gave it to me, I sent in to Rolex Centre for a full service. It was going faster and faster each day. Then, when it came back, it was going slower and slower each day. Went back 3 times. Gave up. Left it in the auto winder since. Haha..

In contrast, the Tissot automatic which I bought is in the same winder and keeps perfect time. That was also how I found out the Rolex King was not keeping good time because the two watches were side by side. Could easily see the difference of even a minute or two.

My Seiko is a Seiko5 which is also automatic. I haven't worn it for many years, prefering my even cheaper Casio when I travel. So, maybe my Seiko5 is also kaput. Haha..

So, I don't know what is the street watch you bought but if it is automatic, you might want to wear it more.

AK71 said...

Hi Endrene,

Oh, yes, the Swatches! I have totally forgotten about those. I had quite a few of those before. They are not meant to last. They are also noisy. Haha.. Mine are all kaput now. These days, I tell people that it is silly to buy Swatches.

I had probably 4 or 5 Swatches in my life including an Olympic series and an Irony. If I had saved all the money, I could buy another basic Tag Heuer! A foolish youth was AK71.

Somehow, after finding out that you do not have 30 vintage watches but "only" 10 while the rest are comtemporary luxury branded watches has not changed my impression that your watches cost you an arm and a leg. Ok, I'm bad. ;p

From your description of you vintage Rolex, you might consider sending it in to Rolex Centre on Orchard Road. You know the building in between Lucky Plaza and Paragon? I hope it is still there. They will oil the mechanism for you and clean up all the spots and remove or lighten the scratches. Do some recalibration and extend warranty for 2 years. The watch deserves a spa treatment. :)

I agree that taking care of your impressive watch collection, looking at them every other day, you would probably not buy another watch ever again. Would feel guilty if you did, no? Haha.. ;)

EY said...

Hi AK,

Foolish youth? Who hasn't been? I'm foolish still! Hahaha. But you probably shouldn't feel this way cos your stylo milo Swatch watches would have caught a few more glimpses from the girls whom you set eyes on! ;) If a young man wore his father's watch, it's youth wasted!

Anyway, for my Rolex watch, it had been checked and maintained by the Rolex Service Centre before I took over. That's why I was willing to pay a premium then. The previous owner bought it for $3300 and he gave it a facelift! The metal bracelet, the watch hand and some internal parts were replaced. It was in very nice condition when I took over. Every 2 to 3 years, I send it for servicing which costs around $200. Not at the Rolex Service Centre though. That would cost me an arm or a leg! Hahaha. Just like my Omega Constellation watch. The first time I sent back for servicing and battery change, I had to pay $200+! Changing battery alone costs $50. For a $1600+ watch, one routine maintenance costs 15% of its price? It's daylight robbery to me. :(

Anyway, I honestly don't take special care of my watches. I just clean them with a damp cloth after every wear. That's about it. I don't see them as having any investment value. Never thought of selling them. Can't bear to part with any one! :D

Well, I have been thinking about penning down my 10 resolutions for 2013. This conversation gives me a impetus to start. :)


AK71 said...

Hi Endrene,

Indeed, I am still foolish in certain aspects of life, I have no doubt. Haha.. Only human.

Er... I don't think girls gave me second looks because of my Swatch watches. In fact, I don't think they looked at me at all. ;p

My uncle sold to my dad one of his old Rolex watches and when my dad sent it in to Rolex Centre for servicing, he was told that a few parts were not original and had to be changed! Apparently, my uncle sent it to some shop elsewhere to be serviced before and they replaced the genuine Rolex parts with compatible parts! Scary.

For sure, having so many watches would also mean higher maintenance cost. You might think of selling a few away although you can't bear to part with them. If you could reduce the number from 30 to 10, it would be an ahievement, no? ;)

Do I smell another blog post from EY in the works? Hahaha... ;p

Anonymous said...

I've got a pre-owned Rolex GMT 2 too. Like the black and red bezel with the red hr hand. Can't find it on market anymore, as in 1st hand.

Sometimes, pre-owned stuff are of more valuable.

AK71 said...

Hi vansontan,

Old is gold!

Thanks for sharing your happiness with us here. :)

AhJohn said...

Frankly, I don't know any functions except show-off for luxury watches, just personal view, no offence. I prefer digital watches, more function and more accurate.

AK71 said...

Hi Ah John,

You are a very pragmatic guy. Very good. :)

All of us have moments of weakness. I am sure you do too, right? haha.. We also have soft spots for certain things in life. Ah, such is to be human. ;p

EY said...

Hi AK,

Appreciate for your advice. :) Every watch I bought has its unique features. Each one is a product of somebody's sweat and toil. The hours that have gone into its precision engineering is worth every bit of respect. I'd prefer to keep them and maybe some day pass them down as heirloom if they are still worth something. :)

As for a guest post on my resolutions, I won't be comfortable sharing with such a large audience. I also don't have your patience and PR skills to interact with readers. So I mustn't spoil your good name. Haha. But anyway, if I do get around to pen my financial resolutions for the new year, I'll email them to you if you wish read. :)


AK71 said...

Hi Endrene,

I guess you are really attached to your watch collection. I shall keep quiet. :)

You know, I have never penned down any new year's resolution before. I have from time to time come up with one plan or another with regards to my finances but I have never planned for them to start at the beginning of a new year per se.

I rather respect that it is most probably a very private matter. So, not to worry, I shan't be kaypoh. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi AK,

I'm afraid the street watch in question is a silly swatch. ;P

For a period of time I was fascinated with those mechanical movements of watches on display at sincere, cortina, watches of Switzerland, etc... except the list prices of the watches that always make me cringe!

So, when I saw an automatic mechanical watch going for a couple hundred I thought why not give it a try, see if I like it... thx for the advice on accuracy but i'm not too concerned on the watch accuracy as it's not a watch that will go up in value like matchsticks do 8P

And so the conclusion seems to indicate that I still stick to my casios... more specifically, techy watches...

Recently a new watch caught my eye, the Seiko Astron. Not as prestigious as the grand seiko, but some very very cool features... I shall not spoil the surprise by revealing what.

Ahh, we all have our soft spots for one thing or another.. keke


AK71 said...

Hi Tree,

I am definitely not one for high technology. I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to watches. I did own a G-SHOCK when I was doing NS because that was the most pragmatic choice. :)

My Seiko5, an automatic, cost me some S$115 only. Since you like Seiko, you could consider a Seiko5 if you are looking for an automatic.

Seiko Astron? OK. I shall not go check it up in case I get tempted. I must go read the Lord's Prayer now. ;p

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