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How to date my luxury watch?

Some watches are new and some watches are older, that is just stating the obvious, right? The next question that comes up in your mind might be ‘how old is my watch actually?’. Well, to answer this question there are a lot of thing you have to look at. If you don’t have any papers with your watch where you would find your date of production, there are some other options. Let’s take a look at the ways to date your luxury watch and find out its age.

Overal age

When it comes to the overall age of you watch, there are a few things you can look at. Lets start at the first and most visible piece of the watch, the design. Wristwatches have been around since the beginning of the 20th century, and the designs have changed a lot. From the 20’s till the 40’s the Art Deco style was the main design. Often these watches were squarish. In the 40’s this design changed and we saw a rise in round, and military watches. From the 50’s and onwards we see a lot of technological advancements in watchmaking. Watches from this era got more sporty and stylish, and offered more features. When the 60’s came around a lot of watches got designed for nautical and spacial exploration. This caused a rise in Diving watches, and Pilot watches which often featured chronographs and tachymeter functions. In the 70’s the innovation of Quartz watches was started by the brand Seiko, so if your watch is Quartz powered it is likely from the 70’s or later. From the 80’s different materials were used for cases like titanium or a plastic composite, and Plexi glass crystals got replaced by sapphire one’s. From the 2000’s and onwards we see more digital watches and bigger watch cases.

Documentation

If you once got your hands on a luxury watch from an AD, they would have most definitely also gave you the Box and Papers that belonged to the watch. The papers, or documentation, should show the reference and serial number that specifically belong to the watch you own. It should also have a date of production and duration of the warranty on there. Sometimes even the box is stamped with your specific serial number to make sure they belong together.

Serial Number

As mentioned, each watch has a reference number, like Rolex Reference Numbers for example, to tell you which brand, type and edition it is, but they also have a unique serial number, specifically for your watch, almost like the ID of your watch. These serial numbers refer to the specific date your watch was produced. The serial number, or production number, is often located on the inside of your lugs, on the inside or outside of the caseback, or on the movement itself. All though brands have been changing there numbering systems of the serial numbers over time, a lot of the data of these serial numbers is public. The Rolex Serial Numbers for instance, can be dated up to 2010, for newer models only AD’s can date your watch. Omega Serial Numbers can be dated up to 2008. For vintage Omega’s there are online tools that can date your watch. Note that the serial numbers of Speedmasters differ a bit from the regular dating system of Omega. The Breitling Serial Numbers have been changed throughout the years. Older models have a chronological order, where Breitling makes a distinction between chronograph watches and regular watches. In the 2000’s Breitling decided to stamp their cases with a 4 digit number where the first 2 numbers refer to the week and the 2nd 2 numbers refer to the year.

Extract from the Archives

While there are numerous ways to try to date your watch, the only way to actually know the real date of production is by the documentation that should be present. If this is not included with the watch, only the watch brands themselves can tell you the answer. Watch brands often offer you the service to acquire an ‘Extract from the Archives’ which is piece of paper which is acknowledged by the brand that shows you the production date and other information of your specific watch. This can however cost you some money. While some brands like Audemars Piquet will send you one when you service your watch, an extract of the Rolex archives alone can cost you anywhere from €800 and upwards.

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