5 Questions with Vintage Watch Retailer “Those Watch Guys”
Those Watch Guys met when Craig, the older of the two founders by four years, discovered that he and Sam shared an affinity for watches, so much so that they now run a thriving vintage watch dealership together. The watch fascination began when Craig chose what he remembers with a dose of insider shame as, “a Victorinox quartz chronograph thing,” for his high school graduation present. That quartz thing inspired Craig to learn more about watches, and Samuel followed him deep into the rabbit hole of horological discovery where they found a mutual love for vintage mechanical watches.
Their fascination with vintage watches led to the inevitable flip-and-fund cycle, which led to the Instagram account @thosewatchguys as a flipping platform, which led to HODINKEE featuring that account, which blew them up. In response, these young men built a proper dealership website, an impressive service network, and a stellar reputation. They now offer a steady stream of exceptional vintage watches in top running condition with six-month guarantees. In a sea of vintage watch dealers, Those Watch Guys stand out for all the right reasons.
Q: What are the requirements for a watch to make it into your inventory?
A: Craig: It has to be a watch that we like, for starters, and that’s usually going to be something a little different. We are into these older sport chronographs, for example. We see the value of a Datejust, for sure [Craig is wearing one, in fact], and we sell those because they’re so versatile—dress it up or down—but we get excited by some funky alarm watch, or a watch with an interesting colorway that we’ve not seen much of. The other thing we need to do is make sure the condition is solid. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be good enough that we can feel confident selling it with our guarantees. But mostly it’s about finding watches that we feel excited about, and that we think our customers will be excited about.
Q: Who repairs and services the watches you sell?
A: Craig: I’ve got a guy down here (in Baltimore) who does some of the work. If it’s a time-only watch, I’ll send it to him. If it’s a chronograph, I’ve got a guy in Texas who works on those. And Samuel has some watchmakers up in Boston who we also work with. It’s really a case-by-case thing, so we send the watch to the person who is best qualified to fix that specific watch. But we also try our best to buy from people we know and trust, people who can help us understand the service record on a watch. That helps in terms of making sure we’re starting in a good place with any given piece.
“Mostly it’s about finding watches that we feel excited about, and that we think our customers will be excited about.”
Q: Prices for vintage watches have been rising steadily for a number of years. How has that changed your business?
A: Samuel: Well, it hasn’t all that much, really, though the prices have gone up on some watches, so that does change things. We tend to sell in the $500 to $4,000 range, and some watches have moved beyond that price range lately. Heuer as a brand just keeps going up, for example. Rolex hasn’t gone up all that much in comparison, so we can still get and offer vintage Rolex pieces pretty reasonably. Certain Omega’s aren’t increasing as much as others, like Seamasters, so we sell quite a few of them still, often just around $1,000.
Craig: One thing that’s changed is that there are a more people out there who aren’t dealers asking for dealer prices through their Instagram accounts. These folks aren’t necessarily unreliable, but they’re pricing like a dealer without providing the service and guarantees that dealers provide. In some instances, those people don’t really know much about the watch they’re selling, and that’s a problem when it comes to service records.
Samuel: eBay has changed a lot, too. It used to be possible for us to get decent watches there at reasonable prices. We could go on and get a Gallet for around $400, and now they’re through the roof. It’s not that we don’t still sift through that website — trust me, we do — it’s just that every year it gets more difficult to find quality pieces there.
Craig: We do a lot with Gallet right now, because we really like them and they’re pretty hot. It’s amazing to watch these specific brands from the past take off like that. But generally we pay a bit more now, and we sell for a bit more now, so it’s not all that different from our perspective as a dealer.
Q: Do you see this business becoming a full time job?
A: Samuel: I would like to see that happen, but I think it’s good to keep it part time for now, maybe for a couple more years, as I’m still in the early years of college. That way we don’t put too much stress on ourselves or the business, and we can let it grow more organically. I work as a photographer at European Watch Co. in Boston part time, and so I’m pretty happy with my current situation.
Craig: I’m about to finish up college (at Loyola in Baltimore), and I think I’ll keep the watch business part-time for now. I aim to get a job in marketing once I graduate, and I can still keep the watch business going alongside that. The good thing is that we do it because we love it, and we don’t want that to change.
“First of all, figure out what you like. That’s not as simple as you might think.”
Q: What advice do you have for someone buying their first vintage watch?
A: Craig: First of all, figure out what you like. That’s not as simple as you might think. I’ve met people our age, guys under 30, who have built up this cool collection with a very specific vintage aesthetic, and then I see them a year later and they’ve sold it all and are wearing a Royal Oak. That happens way more than you might realize. People’s tastes can swing. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can be expensive.
Samuel: Yeah, I think that’s a good reason to not spend your whole budget on your first vintage piece, and instead try to get as many as you can in order to learn what you’re into. For example, if you go spend $7,500 on a Heuer Camaro, there are many watches you aren’t getting to know. Buying many lower priced watches quickly and learning what we liked was a big benefit for the both of us.
Craig: Another reason to start on the lower end price wise is that if you’re new to vintage watches then you’re still learning, so the risk of getting burned is a little higher. Everyone gets burned once in a while, even dealers, but if you do your research and don’t spend too much, you can minimize your risk.
Samuel: Another thing to keep in mind is that vintage watches are pretty different from today’s watches. You might buy a vintage Datejust, for example, and find that it feels really light. If you go drop $6,000 on a new Rolex, that watch will feel like a tank compared to a vintage one, so people kind of have to learn about vintage, how it feels, and figure out what they’re into by getting their hands on more vintage pieces.