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Buying Original Swiss Watches in London

The number of fake Swiss watches currently in circulation is remarkably high, so it’s a good idea to know what to be aware of when you’re looking for original Swiss watches. London may not have such an obvious counterfeit watch industry as some other world cities, where fakes are sold blatantly on street corners, but it is still surprisingly easy to be fobbed off with a replica when you think you’re buying the real thing.

Original Swiss Watch

Original Swiss Watch

Tips for buying original Swiss watches in London

These tips should help you ensure your new timepiece is exactly what it claims to be:

*   Most original Swiss watches in London are sold by the brand’s authorised retailers, so start your search there rather than going to a general watch or jewellery store, even if they are located in a good area and appear to be reputable.

*   Ask for the manufacturer’s warranty, the original packaging, and any printed material that accompanied the original watch, to ensure its authenticity.

*   Original Swiss watches in London stores will generally have a fixed price with little room for haggling. If your seller offers to drop the price significantly there’s a good chance you’re being sold a fake.

*   If you want to buy a watch online rather than visiting a physical store, make sure you do some in-depth research on the company. It’s fairly easy to create the impression of a reputable store online.

What’s wrong with buying a fake?

Some people knowingly buy replica watches for the appearance of wearing the real thing. They think that because nobody else will know their watch isn’t the real deal they’ve got themselves a bargain. However, counterfeiting is a criminal activity which usually involves illegally reproducing a brand, stealing a copyrighted design, and falsifying hallmarks or country of origin marks. If you knowingly purchase a counterfeit watch you are encouraging criminal activity. While buying counterfeit goods in the UK isn’t currently illegal, selling them certainly is.

Check for Guarantee and After Service

Check for Guarantee and After Service

While original Swiss watches in London will have been produced to high technical specifications and stringent safety levels, counterfeit watches will not be of the same quality. Manufacturers of fake Swiss watches tend to focus on the appearance of the watch rather than the technical parts to gain the highest possible profit. This means that the buyer ends up with a watch that is at best poor quality, and at worst damaging to their health. Counterfeit watched have been known to include radioactive or allergy inducing materials.

If you’re searching for original Swiss watches in London, visiting a reputable retailer that is authorised by the brand you have chosen, will ensure you have a guarantee and a strong after-sales service. You will have access to knowledgeable, experienced staff, and authentic parts when your watch requires servicing.

While original Swiss watches in London stores might cost more than the replicas you can buy online, you will benefit from many years of technical innovation which will ensure a watch of the highest specification. If your watch claims to be a chronometer for example, a certification from the COSC Swiss testing institute will prove that it actually is. Alongside technical excellence, buying original Swiss watches rather than counterfeits will allow you to truly enjoy the brand image and design, safe in the knowledge that you have the real thing and not just a cheap imitation.

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

Tips for Buying Antique Watches in London

Unfortunately there isn’t one compact area of London with a high concentration of specialist vintage watch shops, as there is with jewellery in Hatton Garden. However, that doesn’t mean that genuine antique watches in London are difficult to find. If you take the time to look both online and offline, there are a large number of specialist shops where you can buy antique watches in London. Here are a few tips to help you make a good choice.

Choose vintage watch experts

Rolex Milgauss 6543

Rolex Milgauss 6543

There are many general vintage stores and markets selling antique watches in London. These do a fantastic trade in furniture and jewellery, but aren’t necessarily the best places to buy a genuine antique watch. Of course you might get lucky, but you are more likely to get an authentic and well maintained watch from a vintage watch expert.

Look for a specialist in your brand

Do you have a favourite brand or era when it comes to antique watches? London is sure to have a watch expert that specialises in your particular make or decade.  For example if you’d really like a Rolex then make sure you find an expert that is Rolex accredited so they will be able to service your watch in the future and access genuine Rolex replacement parts.

Don’t be fooled by an address

Just because a store is located on Bond Street or Regent Street that doesn’t mean its watches are more authentic, or in better condition than a smaller workshop in a less celebrated part of the capital. Of course it might be more fun to shop for antique watches in London’s famous locations but you might find that the prices will be a little higher than is absolutely necessary.

Check the watch’s service history                                                            

You’d worry about buying a car without a service history and an antique watch is no different. Of course if you’re buying a vintage watch it might not come with a record of every service or repair it has ever had, but there should certainly be details of any work that has been done in recent years, particularly if it has been completely restored. A reputable watch specialist should be happy to talk you through the repairs or restoration.

Rolex GMT 6542

Rolex GMT 6542

Look for professional registration

Professional registration can give you confidence when you’re buying antique watches. London has plenty of online and offline business directories where vintage watch experts are listed along with their registration or accreditation details. The British Horological Institute has a professional register for watch specialists and repairers in London and the whole of the UK, so this can be a good place to start.

Many specialist watch shops will sell products online, which is a possible option if you live far away.  However most people like to visit the physical store when they’re shopping for antique watches. London is easily accessible by public transport so shortlist a handful of possible vintage watch specialists and visit them all in person. You’ll quickly get a feel for the type of service they offer as well as the stock that they hold.

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

Five Reasons to Use Vintage Watch Experts

A keen collector of antique watches is unlikely to consider anyone other than vintage watch experts to restore or service a watch, but if you’ve inherited an antique watch, or been given one as a gift, you may not understand the importance of taking your watch to a specialist. Here are five reasons why you should look for vintage watch experts to repair or restore your timepiece.

Rolex Daytona 6263

Rolex Daytona 6263

They will respect the original features of your watch

The code of conduct of the British Horological Institute states that vintage watch experts must “Respect the original character and property of all artefacts, especially those of historic, rarity or quality value, and advise the customer accordingly.” If they are asked to make a change that they do not feel is in keeping with the original character of the vintage watch, experts are more likely to question the wisdom of the change and to explain the possible alternatives.

They will keep thorough records of your service or restoration

Vintage watch experts will understand how important your watch is to you. They should provide a receipt when you give them the watch, ask for your authorisation if they need to disassemble it to provide a quote, and keep detailed records of any work done or results of tests carried out.  They may also photograph your watch at various points during the service or restoration to provide a visual record, and are likely to return any broken or replaced parts to you when the work is complete.

Rolex 1803

Rolex 1803

They will have expertise in your particular brand

When you’re looking for experts to service or repair your vintage watch, try to find one that specialises in your particular brand whether that’s Breitling, Omega, Rolex, Heuer, or a less well known make. They will have the specialist knowledge to work on your watch as well as access to the right parts. If you have a Rolex watch consider that only watchmakers with the right accreditation are able to maintain a parts account with Rolex so you will need to visit a Rolex accredited watchmaker to purchase genuine parts.

 

They will have gained professional accreditation

Vintage watch experts should have gained specific professional accreditations that relate to antique watches. As mentioned earlier, Rolex is one brand that has a strict accreditation process. Rigorous training is required to gain this accreditation, and continuous education in necessary to maintain it so you know your precious watch is in good hands.

They will know how far to take your restoration

A common mistake among watch repairers that don’t have experience with vintage watches is to over-restore them, which in some cases can mean de-valuing them. Vintage watch experts will know which parts to refurbish and which to leave alone. As an example, the dial is the most important part of an antique watch and hold the majority of the value. An expert will do the minimum amount if restoration possible to the dial to avoid losing value.

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe

Choosing vintage watch experts to serve, repair, or restore your antique watch will give you peace of mind. You can be sure that the watchmaker will carry out a thorough job, keeping the necessary records of any work done, and using the right parts, whilst maintaining the original character of the watch and preserving its value.

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

The Art of Restoration: Breitling Navitimer

This article was researched and written by Superlative Time

Restoration: The act of restoring or state of being restored, as to a former or original condition

The above definition is all very well but in my opinion it is impossible to restore a watch to it’s original factory condition. The exception may be if the watch is returned to the factory of origin where they fit new old stock parts including dials and not modern replacement parts, such as the restoration of the existing dial.

Superlative Times’s perspective is that we try and sell watches as close to original as possible, which is what all reputable dealers want to do and all collectors want to buy.  The most important part of the watch is the dial and there the value lies, therefore on rare and high value items it is best to leave well alone and do as little refurbishment work as possible.

Whether we undertake work for a customer or our own stock, we have to take  into consideration how far to go with the restoration so as not to de-value it yet still make it pleasant to wear.

I have chosen this early Breitling AOPA/ Navitimer 806 as an example of the work we can do. This watch was purchased on Ebay from the USA with the intention of bringing it back to life so that someone else could enjoy wearing the watch for another 50 years. The seller had inherited the watch from a relative who actually used the watch when navigating in B52’s during the 1950’s. He had decided to cash in rather than having it restored.

I have owned one of these before and knew that the dial configuration was rare (small B). I took a chance that underneath the grime and scratched glass was a good dial .

For those not familiar with the process of Selling/Restoration or Refurbishment the following photos will give you an insight into the process.

Breitling watch restoration - Part1As you can see the glass is badly damaged and discoloured, you can just about determine the condition of the dial, slide rule and hands.  On the case lug at 4 o’clock I noticed some damage, a small dent.  The hands needed tidying up and though the slide rule was also discoloured but not damaged I felt that it was going to be OK. Breitling watch restoration - Part2From this angle it looks like a dirty case with a few scratches, the lugs look fairly sharp and defined, no signs of over polishing.
Breitling watch restoration - Part3Case back free of dents, serial number on the inside, again more dirt than damage or corrosion. Breitling watch restoration - Part4The pushers are not damaged.
Breitling watch restoration - Part5Better photo of glass, bezel and slide rule. Breitling watch restoration - Part6As I thought, the dial is in good
condition with all the luminous intact, though not entirely happy with
the hands.
Breitling watch restoration - Part7 LEFT: The first time I had seen the movement was in the workshop, pleased to see no rust and generally in good
condition for it’s age. It appeared to have very few services the screw heads and adjustment plugs were in good
condition.
RIGHT: These early AOPA/Breitling cases had a movement ring that was secured to the middle section by 3 screws. The Rice bezel snapped onto a thin ring that slotted between the middle section and movement ring. Photo shows all components in good condition, though require cleaning. Notice in this photo the small indentation on the lug. Breitling watch restoration - Part8
Breitling watch restoration - Part9On the removing the dial I was pleased to see the movement free of rust, screws intact and just a few bits of debris / dirt floating around. Breitling watch restoration - Part10No major work required just a good
service.
Breitling watch restoration - Part11Stripped to base plate for cleaning
Breitling Watch - Part 12 LEFT: Photo shows the original mainspring on the left with a brand new one pictured on the right. Notice the difference in the two. The original is ‘dead’ no power left to drive the movement, the new one recoils back on itself so has the strength to power the movement until the next service.
Breitling watch restoration - Part13Middle section stripped of pushers and pendant tube for refinishing.
Breitling watch restoration - Part14Parts cleaned ready for assembly.
Breitling watch restoration - Part15Photo shows the middle section, ring, movement ring and bezel in order of assembly after polishing and cleaning. Breitling watch restoration - Part16Final process all components together waiting for the movement to be fitted.
Breitling watch restoration - Part17Notice the 3 retaining screws securing the middle section. Breitling Watch  Restore - Part 20Case complete with new glass, also a check to see if all components work
before fitting in the movement.
Breitling Watch Restore - 21 LEFT: Rear photo of movement fitted into case, you can see the 3 movement ring screws and also the 2 screws that retain the movement onto the movement ring.
Breitling Watch - Restore Part 22 LEFT: Photo showing assembly of movement and dial without hands. I prefer to fit the  hands, and in this case, the chronograph hands whenever possible whilst the movement is fitted into a case.  It allows me to test the chronograph mechanism using the pushers in a controlled way.

The restored hands are fitted.

Breitling watch restoration - Part18Cased up and ready for a strap
Breitling watch restoration - Part19Strapped and ready for a new owner

Breitling Navitimer 806

Serial Number 868765

Approx year of Manufacture 1955

WhichWouldYouPrefer

This article was researched and published by Superlative Time

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

Military Diving Watch

Military Rolex Submariner – ref 6538

This article was researched and written by Superlative Time

Rolex SubmarinerAfter the second World War and during the Cold War there wasn’t a need for attack divers, large amounts of unexploded ordnance left over from the war had to be cleared. This was a job for a new type of diver “The Clearance Diver”.

The Clearance Diving (CD) Branch was officially formed under the Admiralty Fleet Order of 1952.

The equipment used by CD divers was much the same as the other diving branches. Some of the equipment is consumable and therefore needs no signature but all diving equipment, watches etc, would require signing for.

Signed Receipt for Navy issue Rolex

image courtesy of http://www.diving-watch.org

The procurement department at the M.O.D. provided the CD teams with two types of divers watch: Rolex or Omega.

The Rolex supplied to the teams was the 200m Rolex Submariner model 6538 and variant 6538A. The divers watch is normally supplied only to CD teams and units. To the divers this was a valued part of their kit and was not looked upon then as anything but that.

As part of my research for this watch, I was fortunate to find this fine example of a Signed receipt for a Navy issue Rolex.

This receipt is a rare record and I was delighted to find it.

This is the message that is displayed with the receipt

“An ultra rare piece of Naval diving memorabilia.  A signed receipt for a Navy issue Rolex submariner.  Kindly given to me by Shorty Lougher.  This was the Stores receipt for returning the watch when he left the Far East Diving Team (Singapore) in 1968.  I wonder where the watch is now!”  – http://www.diving-watch.org

When the Admiralty (M.O.D.) purchased Herstmonceux in 1946 the castle grounds became home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Within these grounds 200 people were employed at its peak of procurement, service and astronomical study. Included in the 200 employed, a division of 27 watchmakers, managers and administration staff were responsible for the following: Procurement, design, servicing and selling.

Military Rolex Submariner

Military Rolex Submariner

This applied not only to wristwatches to ships’ clocks, chronometers, deck-watches, pocket watches, wrist-watches and divers’ watches etc.

The Rolex 6538 Submariner was purchased by this department from Geneva in 1954 and according to records from Rolex, about 200 of these were imported. These watches arrived in civilian form without M.O.D. specifications.

Military service watches had to meet certain guidelines; these standards were set by the Hydrographic Standard Department (H.S.). The 6538 had to be robust, waterproof to 200 metres, have a clear luminous dial, clear luminous hands, rotating bezel, fixed bars and be reliable (movement calibre 1030). The only modifications needed to the civilian 6538 were to add fixed bars and to mark the case back with M.O.D. identification.

Military Rolex Submariner

These modifications took place in the workshop. A retired watchmaker explained to me “Watches arrived to us without fixed bars, only spring bars. We had to apply fixed bars in the early years. I have seen cases glow red with the heat when soldering. Later on the watches started to arrive with fixed bars, that saved us some work.”

The watch shown has had its fixed bars removed so that it can be worn with an Oyster bracelet. This was not an uncommon practice when the watches were retired from use.

Military Rolex Submariner

The other addition was the marking of the case back. The same retired watchmaker explained: “We had a large pantograph machine for marking the case backs. It was rather a large machine manufactured by Taylor Hobson. Instead of an engraving tool, it had an electro-etcher that burnt into the metal. We didn’t want to go too deep into the metal.”

The dial in the watch shown is not the original Swiss dial, but in fact a service-replaced dial. The original dial would have been kept in service as long as it wasn’t damaged. Around 1963-64 radium dials were deemed unsafe as explained by a retired watchmaker: “A room was designated to remove all radium from clock and watch dials. These instruments were not called back from departments just to remove radium, but were just those that came in for a service. The watches/clocks that arrived for a service, their dials were stripped of radium and the dials restored. Swiss dials were expensive and it was cheaper to send them to a dial restorer who would restore them to the required specification. Though they were not as good as Swiss manufactured dials, they did the job.”

Military Rolex Submariner

Military Rolex Submariner
The company with the M.O.D. contract was Watch Dials (Burford) Ltd.The 6538 as shown has a service-replaced Burford restoration dial. These are now known as Burford dials.

Burford Dials

As you can see the printing is not as sharp or accurate as an original, especially the coronet. Also the style of lettering on the dial is much more refined and precise on the Swiss dial as illustrated. Note, the “T” and the 200m- 660ft as an example.

Rolex Submariner Booklet

Rolex Submariner Booklet

The markings etched on this watch are:

H S 1 0  C D

       ⇑

4 X X X X

  •  H S = Hydrographic Service (Standard)
  • 1 0 = Diving Watch
  • C D = Clearance Diver
  • ⇑ = M.O.D. Property
  • 4 x x x x = Serial Number date 1954
This article was researched and published by Superlative Time.

Identification of Rolex Calibres 1520 – 1580

This article was researched and written by Superlative Time

When servicing or buying a vintage watch you have to be sure that the movement/calibre number is correct for the model, dial and serial number. With a Rolex it may not always be possible to view the movement as the case back would be tight and sealed, though there are occasions such as markets, shows, auctions and websites where the case backs are loose and the movements can be viewed.

Rolex Calibres 1520 -1580

Movement identification is primarily for watch repairers when ordering parts. I have seen and worked on watches that are mismatched and the following information maybe of interest.

Most brands mark their movement/calibre number on the main plate underneath the balance. Rolex also marked their calibres there until the introduction of the Rolex Calibre 1030 where the movement/calibre number was moved to the Automatic Device Bridge. All modern Rolex calibres are marked in this way.

Rolex CalibresThe calibres 1560, 1520, 1570 & 1580 have all derived from the basic calibre 1530 and share many of the parts that make up the movement. What tells them apart is not the engraved calibre number on the bridge but in fact the different forms of the balance wheel bridge and regulator. Do not totally ignore the calibre numbered bridge but this part is 100% interchangeable throughout the 15 series range.

Rolex CalibresI recently viewed a Rolex Comex on behalf of a client at a London Auction House. The model & serial number were fine but the bridge was marked 1555. This did make me suspicious but due to recognition of the balance bridge and regulator, I could tell the movement was correct and wouldn’t have deterred me from purchasing the watch. The problems that can arise with the 15 series is that certain numbered bridges are obsolete and if the part needs changing then you have to fit with what you can get.

There will be 1570 calibres with 1530 bridge markings or 1560 calibres with 1520 bridge markings. A problem can arise if for example model number 1002 has a 1530 calibre with a 1560 marked bridge.

Rolex CalibresThe calibre 1560 is unique to all the others. Hard jarring of the case would throw the hairspring out and catch the regulator, the problem was corrected by fitting a safety pin. This modification then became standard in the production of this calibre. Some have it, some don’t.

One more identification point is if the last number of calibre has a 5 or 6, it means the movement is date only or day-date. Lastly just to add another detail, form 1&2 were fitted with KIF FLECTOR and form 3&4 were fitted with KIF ELASTOR as can be seen in the diagrams.

This article was researched and written by Superlative Time

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

Rolex Accredited Swiss Watch Specialists

Welcome to the blog of Superlative Time, Rolex Accredited Swiss Watch Specialists.

Rolex
We hope you will find helpful and informative articles that will help support any research and knowledge about vintage and modern watches.
Our passion lies in vintage watches and we specialise in Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Rolex, Breitling, Heuer and Omega from the 1920’s to the present day.
Breitling
With over 35 years’ experience, Graham Simmonds is the senior watch repairer and every watch that we offer has been serviced in our own workshops and comes with a guarantee. Graham, an accredited Rolex repairer, served his apprenticeship at Garrard and Co in the 70’s and went on to work for Omega and Breitling before setting up his own workshop looking after the pieces of many of the biggest vintage dealers in the UK.

OmegaFor modern watches, post 1980, we are able to service most models and movements using original factory supplied parts, including waterproofing and depth testing where possible.

We have focused and specialised our knowledge in quality watches form the golden ages of the Fifties and Sixties, both manual wind and automatic, civilian and military.

Graham Simmonds, Rolex Accredited, Superlative Time – London

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