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Vintage watches set the right example in our throw-away society

By Dakota Murphey

Consumerism has taken over almost all aspects of our lives. Like it or not we have been dragged into a throw-away society where over consumption and excessive production of disposable goods is the norm. Everything from kettles, TVs and washing machines to toothbrushes, computer discs and carpet tiles are thrown away as rubbish every single day. When things break, we just chuck them out and buy a replacement.

Sadly, fixing things and re-using them has become an increasingly alien concept. Gone it seems is the era of a repair industry and make do and mend. But not, it seems, when it comes to watches. If you need inspiration for recycling, fixing and re-using, look to the world of watches.

Vintage watches are sought-after collectors’ items. Heirloom watches are being lifted from their dusty boxes and brought back to life. It is refreshing to see a culture of repair and restoration, such as that firmly embedded in the watch business. We need more of this to combat the collective throw-away mentality.

6 Reasons why vintage watches set a good example for better consumerism

  1. Thoughtful purchasing

Buying a vintage watch isn’t a snap-decision purchase. It’s likely anyone purchasing a vintage watch will have done some research into the type of watch brand they want, the style, the age and a whole host of desirable features. This is a considered and thoughtful purchase.

  1. It’s an investment
vintage pocket watch

Vintage watches can make a unique style statement. Courtesy of pixabay

Vintage watches aren’t usually cheap (unless you unwittingly come across a bargain at a boot fair or in a charity shop). According to Fortune, vintage watches have become a multi-billion dollar market. Last year an 18-karat yellow gold Paul Newman Daytona, reference 6263, sold for $3.7 million at Phillips in Geneva.

However, vintage Tudor watches can be found for around the £1k mark, Breitling chronographs can be picked up for £700 and vintage Timex watches for as little as £20. Making purchases, such as these, as an investment is a much savvier way to shop.

  1. Good design is timeless
vintage pocket watch with roman numerals

Vintage watch. Courtesy of unsplash.

Unfortunately, as our hunger for snapping up a bargain has grown, the quality of what we buy has deteriorated. This has fueled a vicious cycle of wasteful consumerism. We have been persuaded by the power of advertising that newer is better.

As consumers we have lost touch with the reality of what good design means, namely that we can keep well-designed items for longer. Truly good design is timeless and doesn’t need to be constantly replaced. Vintage watches are prime examples of the potential longevity of high quality design.

Lewis Perkins, a member of the Global Future Council on Consumption, argues that the world doesn’t have a consumption problem, it has a design problem, and that instead of focusing on consuming less, we need to design products that are less harmful to our environment and the labour force that creates them.

  1. Love what you have

Do you really need to upgrade to something new? What is wrong with the old one? These are questions we should be asking ourselves before we hit the high streets on a shopping spree. Be strong enough to say no and love what you have. If vintage watch owners can do it, so can you.

  1. You never know what the future holds

Daryn Schnipper, chairman of ­Sotheby’s international watch division, said “I remember in 1990 a dealer came in with hundreds of ­Daytonas, the good ones from the ’60s. At the time they were worth $800. There was no market. Now they’ve gone through the roof.”

Again, vintage watches teach us the value of loving what we already own. You never know, something old you have in your house could be worth a fortune! Think twice before you chuck out your old relics.

  1. Value the story

Every purchase we make has a story behind it, such as why we bought it and what it was for. In the world of vintage watches every little scratch tells a story. Owning something that has a little bit of history behind it definitely has its appeal, but even new purchases should be made with integrity behind the acquisition.

It’s time we transformed human vacuum cleaners into responsible shoppers. The vintage watch industry illustrates one way to better consumerism. We don’t need to squash consumerism, we just need to curb its gross insensibility. Besides, there is really nothing wrong with second hand.

We hope the vintage watch story has inspired you to review your shopping habits. Check out DoNation for more information on fixing things.

Dakota Murphey currently lives in Brighton with her two young children. From an early age, she's always had a passion for antiques. Ever since her grandmother showed her their family's collection of antique pocket watches, Dakota has grown her love for vintage timepieces and even has a small collection of her own.

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