The Care and Feeding of NOS Watches

Every once in a while, I receive a message from someone who is very excited to have recently purchased a “New Old Stock” chronograph, but is — at the same time — disappointed that the beautiful watch of thier dreams either (a) is not running properly (or is not running at all), or (b) has just been diagnosed as needing an expensive servicing. The questions vary: Why does a New Old Stock watch need servicing?  Isn’t a New Old Stock watch supposed to be perfect?  Why didn’t the seller tell me that the watch needed an overhaul?   The final gasp is to the effect that the purchaser paid top dollar for a NOS watch, and they never contemplated that they would need to invest an extra $500 to $700, just to get the watch to run.  How can this have happened?

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Definitions of “New Old Stock” and “Mint”

I have recently received an interesting e-mail message, posing the question of exactly what is – and what is not – this elusive “New Old Stock” that we hear so much about.  Drawing on a previous discussion on our Chronocentric vintage Heuer discussion forum, and realizing that opinions (and values) may vary considerably, let’s consider the definitions of “NOS” and “Mint”, as they relate to vintage watches.

Under my definition, a watch could be described as “New Old Stock” if:

  • the watch is comprised of the parts with which it was originally manufactured, with no replacement of any parts, and
  • the watch has never been worn, except for a customer to try it on, in the dealer showroom, or for the owner to try it on, without wearing it for an extended period.

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