Yesterday, my friend the WatchBaron shared with us his thoughts about Condition versus Rarity. Intriguing read. It has inspired me to also think about this and ask myself in which camp I’m in. For me, the criteria is likely only applicable for vintage watches. It is true that in particular some modern Pateks or Rolex seem to be “rare”, but frankly, I don’t think they are rare, they are just kept on short supply and are sold at a premium. That’s not my definition of “rarity”. Similar for condition. A modern watch in bad condition is just something to stay away from regardless if rarity.
So in the vintage world, the situation is very different and both condition and rarity play a key role. After much thought I think I also tend towards the rarity side of the equation. Of course, an excellent condition can on its own make a watch “rare” but that’s circular reasoning. However, Rarity on its own is never a sole criterium for me. I could collect uber-rare pieces unique, but what would that mean? A watch needs to fulfil a number of criteria to be considered. The brand, the heritage, the special complication and most of all the design and execution.
But then what about condition? If you hunt vintage watches, you will have to make compromises if you don’t want to wait years for the right watch to come along in that NOS condition. However, the compromises must make sense. For example, I really wanted a GP Olimpico 9075 and many years ago, I had the opportunity to buy one with a heavy patina on the dial and I took it. For many years, I could not rest, I kept searching for a better condition 9075 until recently I finally found one in excellent condition. So was it wrong to buy the other one? I don’t know, but I can honestly say that it never gave me the thrill and pleasure on the wrist I was expecting from this rare watch.
Let’s turn to square watches and we can take some lessons on condition versus rarity here. At the very left, we have a Girard-Perregaux Damier Gyromatic, Ref 7838. This is a watch that has it both, relative rarity and excellent condition. In the middle, there is a Zenith Piccadilly. Probably not a rare Zenith, but one in excellent condition. This is a good example where condition becomes a Rarity criterium. While this watch is not rare, it is rarely found in good condition. Take the majority of Omega’s from the 1950s. Not rare, but try to find a good condition with original dial then it becomes a real rarity.
Finally, on the right, we have another GP from the 1970s, The Gyromatic 9095 with Day/Date. I’m not sure this is really a rare watch although you do not see them very often, but this is a watch I bought for its condition. And guess what, it does not give me much thrills. A good example that only condition is not a key criteria for me.
So when I conclude, I’m probably also more in the Rarity camp than the condition camp, but I started to be more picky and make sure that Rarity comes along with at least good original condition. It does not have to be New-Old-Stock, in fact, I find NOS watches often intimidating to wear in fear of putting a blemish on the NOS myth. So “condition, condition, condition”? Yes, but only for watches I like, be it for its rarity or some other criteria.