Talking Vintage Watch Restoration Ethics with James Lamdin, Eric Ku, and Eric Wind –

To make his point, James draws an analogy to the vintage car world. With a vehicle, everything is stamped with a common identification number (a VIN number, or a serial number). “Watches are not that way,” he explains. With so much parts sharing between manufacturers of cases, movements, dials, hands, and other components, watches were never produced in a way that made “originality” easily trackable. An “original” watch, then, might be something that a customer thinks they want, but when they realize it’s never been given a polish (and looks like it), and has never had a service so it’s not in working order, their mind can be changed.

Similarly, Eric Ku has banned the word “unpolished” from his watch vocabulary. “This is the most misused and outright false adjective when it comes to vintage watches,” he says. “Without owning a watch since new, how can you be certain?”

The answer, of course, is you can’t, and this represents yet another opportunity to inform and educate the customer. “Before watches were collectible, a normal factory service included a detailing of the case,” Eric Ku tells me. Nobody knew then (and many still don’t) that it would be detrimental to the value of a watch in the long term for the case to be worked on. As James put it during our discussion, in the past, “If you spent your money on a shiny watch, you wanted to keep it shiny.”

Both James and Eric Ku agree that certain words should be avoided when discussing vintage watches. For James, it’s “original—the most overused word in vintage.”

The axiom of “buy the seller” is perhaps a bit overused, but only because it tends to be incredibly useful in the watch world. From speaking with Ku, Wind, and Lamdin, the one thing that became abundantly clear throughout our correspondence was just how enthusiastic they are for the hobby, and for talking watches, whether they’re selling them or not. If you’re a buyer and you’re unsure, simply asking about a watch’s history seems like a good option. If the seller doesn’t oblige, or doesn’t know, it might be best to move on.

As Eric Wind puts it in extremely clear terms, “If a dealer or auction house just replies ‘trust me’ when you ask how they know something about a watch and don’t try to educate you, run!”

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