VINTAGE VS MODERN: Why do people buy vintage watches over their modern counterparts?

Here at Watches of Henley Street Limited(Pre-owned Rolex Specialist), we wanted to break down some key points of why our customers choose between a modern and vintage rolex. With a watch collecting journey not routed to one path, we see customers taste and desirability change over time quite often.

Vintage and modern Rolex watches differ in several key aspects, including design, technology, materials, and collectibility. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main differences:

Design and Aesthetics:

  • Vintage: Vintage Rolex watches often feature more classic and timeless designs. They may have smaller case sizes, simpler dials, and less extravagant features compared to modern Rolex watches.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches tend to have larger case sizes, more contemporary designs, and often incorporate advanced materials and features. They may have more complex dials and bezels.


  • Vintage: Older Rolex watches were typically made of stainless steel, gold, or a combination of both. Vintage models may have acrylic crystals.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches often use advanced materials such as 904L stainless steel, Cerachrom ceramic for bezels, and sapphire crystals, which enhance durability and scratch resistance.

Movement Technology:

  • Vintage: Vintage Rolex watches commonly use older movement technology, such as manual-winding movements and older automatic movements.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches are equipped with state-of-the-art automatic movements, often with enhancements like the Parachrom hairspring for better accuracy and resistance to shocks.

Water Resistance:

  • Vintage: Older Rolex models had good water resistance for their time, but they may not meet the same stringent water resistance standards as modern Rolex watches.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches are known for their excellent water resistance, often featuring the Triplock winding crown seal and higher depth ratings.

Lume and Illumination:

  • Vintage: Vintage Rolex watches may have tritium-based lume, which can age and discolour over time.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches use Super-LumiNova or Chromalight lume, which offers better and longer-lasting illumination.

Collectibility and Rarity:

  • Vintage: Vintage Rolex watches are highly sought after by collectors due to their historical significance, limited availability, and potential for price appreciation.
  • Modern: While modern Rolex watches are popular and well-made, they are generally more accessible and less rare than vintage models.


  • Vintage: Depending on the model and rarity, vintage Rolex watches can vary widely in price, often reaching high values in the collector’s market.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches are generally more affordable compared to their vintage counterparts, but prices can still vary significantly depending on the model and materials used.

Bracelet and Clasp Design:

  • Vintage: Vintage Rolex watches may have older-style bracelets and clasps, which may not be as comfortable or adjustable as modern ones.
  • Modern: Modern Rolex watches often feature improved bracelet designs, including the Oysterlock clasp and the Easylink extension system for greater comfort and adjustability.

It’s important to note that Rolex has made continuous improvements in their watches over the years, so modern Rolex watches often benefit from advancements in materials, technology, and quality control. The choice between vintage and modern Rolex watches ultimately depends on individual preferences, style, and collecting goals.

Why buy vintage?

Vintage watches are often considered more collectible for several compelling reasons:

  • Historical Significance: Vintage watches often have historical significance or a unique place in horological history. They may have been associated with important events or famous personalities, making them highly sought after by collectors interested in owning a piece of history.
  • Limited Availability: Many vintage watches are no longer in production, which means their numbers are finite. This scarcity can drive up demand among collectors who want to acquire rare and discontinued models.
  • Design and Aesthetics: Vintage watches often feature timeless and classic designs that appeal to collectors with a taste for nostalgia. These designs may have a unique charm and character that modern watches can’t replicate.
  • Craftsmanship: Vintage watches are appreciated for the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into their production. Some older watches were hand-assembled and finished, showcasing the skills of watchmakers from a bygone era.
  • Unique Patina: Vintage watches develop unique patina over time, which can enhance their character and authenticity. For example, the ageing of tritium or radium lume, the fading of dial colours, or the wear on the case can all contribute to a vintage watch’s appeal.
  • Investment Potential: Some collectors view vintage watches as investments that can appreciate in value over time. Certain vintage models, especially those associated with iconic brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe, have shown remarkable price growth in the collector’s market.
  • Collector Community: The enthusiasm and camaraderie among vintage watch collectors create a vibrant and passionate community. Many collectors enjoy the thrill of hunting for rare pieces, sharing knowledge, and attending vintage watch events and auctions.
  • Emotional Connection: Collectors often have a personal or emotional connection to vintage watches. These timepieces may remind them of a particular era, a family heirloom, or a memorable life event, adding sentimental value.

Not all are equally collectible, and the collectibility of a particular vintage watch depends on various factors, including brand, model, condition, rarity, and historical significance. Collecting vintage watches can be a rewarding hobby, whether for the joy of ownership, the appreciation of craftsmanship, or the potential for investment.

Please visit to learn more and buy both pre-owned modern and vintage rolex watches.