Best Places to Buy Vintage Watches – The Ultimate Sourcing Guide

Now then reader, the best places to buy vintage watches is a great question!

Vintage watches exude timeless elegance and hold historical significance, attracting enthusiasts worldwide – So who wouldn't want to own one?

Exploring various avenues to purchase these horological treasures unveils a diverse landscape – from specialized retailers and auctions to online platforms and local markets – each offering unique experiences and challenges for passionate collectors.

Our 8 Best Places to Buy Vintage Watches

As suppliers of exquisitely sourced watch straps, it’s incumbent on us here at Thrifty Gentleman to guide you to Vintage Watch heaven.

So let us begin with our list, and then we’ll get into each one in greater detail.

  • Specialized Vintage Watch Retailers
  • Auction Houses
  • Online Marketplaces
  • Brick-and-Mortar Antique Shops
  • Watch Forums and Communities
  • Estate Sales and Flea Markets
  • Authorized Dealers and Brand Boutiques
  • Vintage Watch Shows and Fairs

According to, the vintage watch market, or what they call the ‘secondary market’ will be worth $32bn per annum within a few years, outranking the Swiss watch market of $25bn.

Vintage Waltham Watch Being Held In Hand

Intrigued? Okay, so let’s get into the subject, along with some pros and cons too.

1. Specialized Vintage Watch Retailers

These are shops and stores that specialise in selling exclusively vintage watches.

They have a curated collection, often with knowledgeable staff who can provide insights into the history and value of each piece. Examples include Analog/Shift, WatchBox, and HQ Milton.

These retailers cater specifically to vintage watches, curating collections that span various brands, eras, and styles.

They often employ experts who authenticate, service and provide historical context for each timepiece which is great for watch connoisseurs like us.

These stores may have physical locations or operate primarily online, offering detailed descriptions, high-resolution images, and sometimes even restoration services.

Buyers benefit from the expertise and assurance of authenticity that these specialized retailers provide.


  • Expertise: Knowledgeable staff offering guidance on authenticity, history, and value.
  • Curated Collection: Carefully selected vintage watches with detailed descriptions.
  • Restoration Services: Some offer restoration or servicing options.


  • Higher Prices: Often higher prices are due to curated collections and added services.
  • Limited Availability: Limited stock compared to larger marketplaces.

2. Auction Houses

Ahh, the beloved auction house, including those famous ones like Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips all host watch auctions, featuring rare and valuable vintage timepieces.

They offer a wonderfully atmospheric and historically nostalgic method for collectors to bid on unique watches.

Auction House Gavel

Renowned auction houses like Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips regularly organize watch auctions, showcasing rare, one-of-a-kind vintage watches. These auctions attract serious collectors and enthusiasts globally – so that might be you!

Auction catalogues feature detailed descriptions, provenance, and historical significance of each watch, making them valuable resources for collectors.

However, do note that prices at auctions can soar quite readily due to competition among bidders, and additional buyer premiums are often added to the winning bid.


  • Rare Finds: Access to unique, rare, and highly sought-after timepieces.
  • Detailed Information: Comprehensive historical details are provided in auction catalogues.


  • High Prices: Competitive bidding can lead to inflated prices.
  • Buyer's Premium: Additional fees added to the winning bid.

3. Online Marketplace Websites

These include websites like Chrono24, Watchfinder and even eBay, which when combined offer a vast array of vintage watches.

They cater to a broad range of budgets and provide filters for narrowing down searches by brand, model, price range, and condition.

Buyers have access to various sellers worldwide, but caution is necessary due to the risk of counterfeit or misrepresented items. We believe they call this ‘Caveat Emptor’.

Trusted sellers often have high ratings, detailed product descriptions, and return policies to ensure customer satisfaction.


  • Wide Selection: Extensive inventory with various brands and models.
  • Convenience: Easy access to a diverse range of sellers worldwide.


  • Counterfeits: Risk of encountering counterfeit or misrepresented items.
  • Trust Issues: Varying seller credibility and potential for scams.

4. Brick-and-Mortar Antique Shops

Local antique stores often have vintage watches in their collections.

These stores may not specialize in timepieces but could have hidden gems waiting to be discovered by some knowledgeable fellow.

Local antique stores occasionally carry vintage watches in their collections. While not specialized in timepieces, these shops may house unique finds at reasonable prices.

However, the selection might be limited, and thorough inspection is crucial to ensure authenticity and proper functioning.


  • Hidden Gems: Chance to find unique vintage watches among diverse antiques.
  • Personal Inspection: Ability to inspect the watch in person before purchasing.


  • Limited Selection: Smaller inventory and limited availability of vintage watches.
  • Authenticity Concerns: Lack of expertise in authenticating watches.

Vintage Pocket Watch

5. Watch Forums and Communities

Online forums such as Watchuseek, Rolex Forums, and Omega Forums have sections where users buy, sell, and trade vintage watches. These communities can offer trustworthy transactions and valuable advice.

These platforms foster a community of passionate enthusiasts who share insights, advice, and experiences.

Transactions often occur between individuals, so buyers must exercise caution and verify the reputation of the seller, again caveat emptor.

However, these communities can provide a wealth of knowledge and trustworthy connections.


  • Community Engagement: Interaction with enthusiasts sharing insights and advice.
  • Potential Deals: Possibility of finding good deals from fellow collectors.


  • Individual Transactions: Riskier individual transactions without formal guarantees.
  • Trust and Verification: Need for caution due to varying seller reputations.

6. Estate Sales and Flea Markets

Estate sales and flea markets can yield surprising finds at relatively lower prices. It requires patience and a keen eye to spot authentic vintage watches among various items on sale.

Estate sales and flea markets can be treasure troves for vintage watch enthusiasts.

Sellers may not always recognize the value of the watches they have which is a bonus for the astute like us, presenting opportunities for finding hidden gems at affordable prices.

However, authenticity and condition can be questionable, requiring a discerning eye and some knowledge of vintage timepieces.


  • Bargain Finds!: Potential for discovering undervalued vintage watches.
  • Negotiation: The possibility to negotiate prices directly with sellers.


  • Authenticity Risks: Higher risk of encountering fakes or misrepresented items.
  • Condition Issues: Watches might require significant restoration or repair.

7. Authorized Dealers and Brand Boutiques

Some high-end brands have vintage watch departments within their boutiques or authorize select dealers to sell certified pre-owned or vintage pieces. This ensures authenticity and often comes with warranties.

Some high-end brands offer certified pre-owned or vintage watches through authorized dealers or their boutiques.

These watches undergo rigorous inspections, servicing, and certification processes, often coming with warranties.

Buyers can have confidence in the authenticity and quality of these timepieces, but they might come at higher prices due to the brand's reputation and added services.


  • Assurance: Guaranteed authenticity and quality due to brand verification.
  • Warranty: Some offer warranties and after-sale services.


  • Premium Prices: Generally higher prices due to brand reputation and services.
  • Limited Selection: Limited availability of vintage models from specific brands.

8. Vintage Watch Shows and Fairs

Events like the International Watch and Jewelry Guild (IWJG) show or local watch fairs bring together collectors, dealers, and enthusiasts.

These gatherings showcase a wide variety of vintage watches for sale, and you’ll likely see other intentionally well-dressed gentlemen at the event too.

Events like the International Watch and Jewelry Guild (IWJG) show or local watch fairs gather collectors, dealers, and enthusiasts.

These exhibitions provide an extensive array of vintage watches for sale, offering the chance to see, handle, and compare pieces from various eras and brands.

Negotiation opportunities and the chance to meet other enthusiasts make these events exciting for collectors.


  • Extensive Collection: Access to a wide range of vintage watches in one place.
  • Networking: Opportunity to meet collectors, dealers, and experts.


  • Competitive Environment: Prices might be driven up due to auction-like settings.
  • Impulse Buying: Potential to make hurried decisions in the event's excitement.
Vintage Watch With Cognac Bottle

Best Places to Buy Vintage Watches - Thrifty Gentleman’s Thoughts

Whether hunting for horological rarities or seeking timeless classics, the quest for vintage watches spans a dynamic spectrum of options.

From trusted specialized retailers to the thrill of discovery at flea markets, each avenue offers a super chance to unearth horological gems, making the pursuit both exhilarating and rewarding for aficionados.

Following on from that, we have another avenue you can go down to find your perfect strap for that vintage watch you just purchased. Go to the Thrifty Gentlemen online store for your next watch strap.

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