NEW YORK - Ben Clymer, founder and executive editor of the wildly popular watch-enthusiast website Hodinkee, can sense the rising popularity of vintage watches. "They are really starting to pull market demand away from modern authorized dealer purchases," he says. "Buying a watch today doesn't necessarily mean walking into Rolex and picking up a Submariner. It means going online and doing hours of research on Hodinkee or TimeZone and finding the right Submariner for you." As Clymer points out, vintage timepieces allow their wearers to have a real personal connection with the piece itself. "When you get a modern watch of any kind, it hasn't lived a life yet. There's much less charm, much less character than in something secondhand." With decades of styles to choose from, here are the watch trends that Clymer most recommends.
HODINKEE'S BEN CLYMER.
"At a macro level, you could say there's been a return to elegance. We're seeing a lot more of simple, understated watches, and moderate sizing is a big part of that trend. For some time, a 45 to 47mm watch was the norm. But now 42mm has become the max, while most high-end watches are being designed even smaller at around 40mm."
Lot Pictured: 140. Jaeger-LeCoultre, A Stainless Steel Automatic Triple Calendar Wristwatch. Est. 4,000-6,000 USD.
"More and more people are focusing on complications and the technical side of watchmaking instead of the case. The luxury market old guard really cared about the case material as a value driver—everyone wanted gold and platinum watches. But we speak to a lot of people in the younger generation of buyers who would prefer to spend money on the complication. Jaeger, for example, released a perpetual calendar in stainless steel two years ago for $20,000. $20,000 is really reasonably priced for a watch of that caliber."
Lot Pictured: 25. Breguet, A Yellow Gold Automatic Skeletonized Wristwatch. Est. 8,000-12,000 USD.
"The idea of using 21st-century materials is still prevalent, but not to the same degree they were five years ago. Black ceramic watches were super cool, but they also broke relatively easily. There's been a return to reason. We're not seeing people use materials that have no business being in a watch. I still say stainless steel is the baseline."
Lot Pictured: 245. Rolex, A Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Wristwatch. Est. 25,000-35,000 USD.
"The forties to the sixties was the golden age of wristwatch design—and that midcentury aesthetic is still what people are looking to for inspiration. We often forget that the wristwatch as we know it is less than a hundred years old and only reached its peak in the sixties with the introduction of a lot of the watches we think of as landmarks, such as the Submariner, the Daytona, and the Explorer I from Rolex."
Lot Pictured: 127. Rolex, A Rare Pink Gold Automatic Wristwatch. Est. 8,000-12,000 USD.
"Brands like Jaeger and IWC are really strong right now. They're both playing up their histories. IWC came out with a great 75th anniversary collection of the Portuguese this year."
Lot Pictured: 144. IWC, An Oversized Platinum Limited Edition Wristwatch. Est. 6,000-9,000 USD.