Style Q+A: Theo and Harris Vintage Watches

A Rolex Datejust is just one of the many terrific vintage options on rotation from Theo & Harris. Photo courtesy of the brand.
A Rolex Datejust is just one of the many terrific vintage options on rotation from Theo & Harris. Photo courtesy of the brand.
Editor’s note: For more Style Q&A entries featuring everyone from Megan Collins of Style Girlfriend to Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent, click here.
If you read this blog, you know I have a passion for watches.  While I have a list of “holy grail” watches I hope to own one day (a Shinola Runwell and an Omega Seamaster among them), I also appreciate simple, uncluttered, solid everyday watches. That means timepieces like an Invicta Pro Diver , which I’m wearing as I write this post, and a great leather dress watch from Daniel Wellington. But there’s a certain breed of watches that up until earlier this year, I wasn’t too familiar with — vintage timepieces.

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My friend Christian Zeron, co-founder of start-up vintage watch collector Theo and Harris, first brought his fresh-out-of-the-gates company to my attention earlier this year. I covered them for VOUCH Mag this past summer, and here’s where it gets interesting — Theo & Harris sources, authenticates and sells all manner of vintage mechanical wristwatches, offering a plethora of coveted and rare timepieces along the way (seriously, prepare to be amazed by the company’s archive). That they’ve built such an archive since launching in February of this year is quite impressive, to say the least. Specifically, we’re looking at 200 watches (and counting) sold to 10 different countries in about 9 months, and their current collection is only growing. And if you want to experience even more watch envy, check out the Theo and Harris Instagram. Vintage watches are, of course, expensive by nature. And if you’re fortunate enough to own a vintage watch as a family heirloom, that’s a special story that only you have. However, there is an argument for investing in a beautiful vintage watch. So while you mull on that (and perhaps peruse the Theo and Harris site), I do hope you peel your eyes away long enough to read what Christian had to say on his interest in vintage watches and most importantly, why you (yes, you) should own a vintage watch. Again, I’ll only stick around to ask the questions.
The Style Guide: Tell me about how you got into vintage watch collecting?
Theo & Harris: Initially, my interest in watches was purely aesthetic. I was, and still am, very into watches that have a unique look and style; but as the interest became an addiction I began studying history, mechanics and technical design- being an enthusiast is a full time job on its own. I never owned many watches for myself though. Actually, the only watch I consider mine is the first one I ever bought — a Rolex Datejust reference 1601 with a brilliant blue dial.
TSG: During your time scouting out vintage timepieces, what have you noticed that separates these watches from their modern-day counterparts?
T&H: Value. There are some makers out there … that turn out some tremendously well-valued watches comparable to their equally priced counterparts. However, as a whole, modern watches are built in factories, by machine and without heart and then become, for some reason, painfully expensive. In vintage, I work everyday with watches under $800 that were designed by industry legends, assembled by hand and made to last.
Vintage watches go well with all sorts of outfits if you pick the right timepiece, according to the brand.
Vintage watches go well with all sorts of outfits if you pick the right timepiece, according to the brand.
TSG: How can a vintage watch set one apart stylistically?
T&H: The whole point of developing a style is to most accurately depict yourself through colors, textures, patterns (and) fits. With a modern watch shop selling only 5 brands, maybe  50 watches total, it’s impossible for everyone to actually be choosing what they want.
If 1,000 people are wearing the same 50 watches, they’re settling. Imagine if the whole world had to pick from 50 T-shirts to wear.
In vintage, you’re dealing with hundreds of brands and over 100 years of production. I can guarantee that there is, somewhere out there, the perfect watch for everyone. Luckily, finding them is my job.
TSG: What’s one vintage watch brand those looking to get into the vintage watch game should look for, if any?
T&H: Omega. Don’t get me wrong, there are dozens of other makers that I couldn’t live without but Omega is, at least to me, king. Foremost, they were all built with great attention to detail and obvious care. The movements are absolutely beautiful to look at and rather easy to service when needed. As far as design, Omega has drawn up some of the most classic watches ever to hit the wrist. Lastly, their product line is so incredibly vast that it caters to suits, soccer fields, boardrooms and the moon.

A vintage watch can work in many of the same situations as a regular timepiece -- just don't be afraid to rock. Photo courtesy of Theo & Harris.

A vintage watch can work in many of the same situations as a regular timepiece — just don’t be afraid to rock. Photo courtesy of Theo & Harris.

TSG: What are the qualities or characteristics that set apart a really “good” vintage watch, or at least one that’s still in good shape?
T&H: First, I work with, and wear, vintage watches all day of every day and my taste, although acknowledges, doesn’t prefer “good” from “fair” condition across the board. If I’m looking for a military watch from the Vietnam War, I want one that looks like it’s been beaten to hell. Every detail of wear, every nick or scuff is a piece of an inconceivably long story of this time traveler’s life. However, on all watches, the important elements to look out for are an unpolished or lightly polished case, a clean and properly functioning movement and an original dial. Those characteristics are always important, regardless of the style or period of the watch you’re looking at.
TSG: What are some ways to make sure you’re getting a fairly priced, authentic timepiece?
T&H: Remember, with watches comes more than 100 years of history, design, mechanics and an evil industry profiting off of the replication of all of it. Sure, anyone can try their hand at this tricky slope but to really be able to discern for yourself, there’s a whole lot of studying ahead. If that’s you’re thing, then you’ll never stop reading and loving every second of it. The reality, however, is that not everyone wants to be a full-time expert in everything they enjoy. For those people, they’ll have to find someone they can trust. A shop that’ll do all of the sourcing and sifting for them, a shop that will take all of the risk.
TSG: What’s one thing you’ve learned since getting into the watch business that people might  not expect?
T&H: In the past seven months I’ve learned, more than anything else, how to listen ever so carefully to my audience. For example, since we’ve started, we’ve redesigned our website from head to toe three separate times and we don’t go a week without minor alterations. That’s not to say I didn’t love each iteration of our virtual home base but I’ve learned how to read customer feedback, whether thats an email or a huge analytic, and tailor our services accordingly. With our website design, it not only has to be pleasing to view but also interactive to the point that it dynamically presents each of our products to our viewers just as well as I could in person over a drink. Getting into this, I really thought it would be 100% about our watches but with time, I’ve come to realize that, besides our excellent collection, there needs to be an equal experience.
What are your thoughts on vintage watches? Have you ever considered owning one, or do you own one already? What’s the story behind it?
As always folks — thanks for reading and stay stylish,
-Beau

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