How it all began…
Waterstone Vintage Watches was born out of one man’s passion for mechanical wrist watches. The company grew out of a hobby, albeit a rather serious and obsessive hobby.
It all began with a collection of pre-WWII Hamiltons, but this soon grew to include watches from other the other American firms that were competing with Hamilton, notably Elgin, Bulova and Gruen. All four of these companies, though they may not be as renowned as the pre-eminent European legends of horology, produced some excellent movements and showed a willingness to take chances with design — chances that we would never see from their more staid and traditional counterparts.
Over time, I began to see an increasing number of people become interested in these cool little pieces of mechanical design. Good watches became scarcer, and prices moved upwards. Unfortunately, courtesy of a tight economy and rising gold prices, an increasing number of watches housed in solid gold cases became the victims of gold scavengers who would prefer to melt down the case for a quick profit. I also saw people who had interest in vintage watches turning to markets like eBay and often having less than positive experiences with pieces that may have been cheap to buy, but were often second rate (or worse). We created Waterstone Vintage Watches as a means of capturing more of the great watches produced by Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton and Gruen. We collect pieces, assess them, clean them and in some cases repair them. We only pass on to our clients the best pieces and we stand behind what we sell. Our hope is that the enterprise will continue to fund further excursions into horological archaeology so that we will be able to continue rescuing these pieces and bringing them to people who can appreciate them again.
What can you expect to find here?
We focus on wrist watches from four manufacturers: Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton and Gruen. While other watches often catch our eye, the simple fact is that we have our hands full with these four brands — the manufacturers were very prolific and created a large number of models and variations. We seek out quality examples of the craft, preferring high quality movements, typically the higher jewel count movements. You won’t find any 7 jewel movements here. We also seek out watches that exhibit excellent or unique design, typically in terms of their case and dial design, though sometimes also in their materials.
In terms of age, we focus on watches released prior to 1970, with the majority of our inventory coming from the fertile years between 1930 and 1960.
Why did we decide to focus exclusively on Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton and Gruen products? Because those four firms were close competitors during the years when mechanical watches ruled the market. They competed vigorously and that competition spurred innovation. They created unique designs, and they also copied their competitors. The result is a body of work that exhibits a number of similarities and was driven by a desire to excel — each sought to be the market leader and each released some very compelling products. We find that competition to be fascinating and the work that it produced to be worthy of curation.
Included on this site are resources that can help you learn more about vintage watches — and which might even help you identify a particular piece. We hope you will find this to be of use, and please do check back with us as we try to grow our resources and our listings.
We’re often asked if we do restorations. We do, but only for our own pieces — we don’t provide restoration as a service, in other words. While many of the pieces we sell don’t need extensive restoration, sometimes they do need some help. Often the watch movement needs to be cleaned, oiled and adjusted. Other times, the dial may need to be refinished, or a new crystal added, etc. In late 2013, we came into possession of a relatively less common Elgin — a States 672, dating to 1928. The watch was in fair shape, but clearly deserved to be restored. The original 15 jewel movement was in pretty good shape and was running, but we still cleaned, oiled and adjusted it to make it reliable and accurate. The green gold-filled case needed some help so we cleaned it, then re-enameled and polished it. The dial was a total loss, so we had it refinished to original specifications and replaced the missing hands. We added a new old stock replacement crystal and finally attached a vintage Elgin pigskin watch band. The results can be seen in the two photos, before and after.