Eric Brahms Provides Insight on Vintage Watches
Eric Brahms Provides Insight on Vintage Watches

Eric Brahms, President of Mae Capital and vintage watch dealer

Eric Brahms, a distinguished figure in the vintage watch market and President of Mae Capital, shed light on the intricacies of collecting vintage watches.

GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT, UNITED STATES, March 15, 2024 / — Eric Brahms, a distinguished figure in the vintage watch market and President of Mae Capital, recently shed light on the intricacies and allure of collecting vintage watches. With over two decades of self-taught expertise in legendary brands such as Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Rolex, Brahms has established himself as a trusted authority in the field. His journey from a passionate collector to a trusted dealer offers valuable insights into the vintage watch market, its trends, and the importance of authenticity and preservation.

Eric Brahms’ foray into vintage watches began with a realization of their investment potential, sparked by a profitable sale of a Rolex Gilt 1675 GMT early in his career. This experience illustrated the unparalleled returns vintage watches could offer compared to traditional financial investments, as he was able to net a return of almost 100% after 3 months. After that Brahms scaled up and started buying and selling watches full time. In his exploration of market trends, Brahms noted the enduring value of the Rolex Stainless Daytona, which continues to fetch significant premiums in the secondary market.

The appeal of vintage watches lies not only in their financial value but also in their historical and aesthetic significance, with discontinued models like the Rolex Paul Newman Daytona achieving iconic status among collectors.

Brahms commented: “What makes the Paul Newman so iconic primarily is the fact they no longer make it. Anything that is discontinued has the potential to become exceptionally desirable, but first and foremost it’s a Daytona. The original Paul Newman dials have a unique art deco font and uncluttered simple layout. It has this allure because it’s been worn by movie stars, billionaires, athletes and powerful men for over 50 years.”

Emphasizing that authenticity stands at the heart of vintage watch collecting, Brahms noted the meticulous process of authentication, which requires extensive knowledge and attention to detail. This ensures that each piece’s value and integrity are preserved, highlighting the importance of original parts and the detrimental impact of service parts on a watch’s authenticity and value. For context, he described the example of a vintage Rolex, stating: “The amount of knowledge required to accurately authenticate a vintage Rolex takes years of research and knowledge. Literally, there are probably 100 points of interest on any single watch and knowing what dial, bezel, pusher and movement configuration differs on every single watch every single year. Running changes are made constantly and knowing the correct pushers on a watch from 1970 will not be the same as the pushers on a 1973 (for example) are nuances that can only be understood after handling hundreds of watches. A service bezel can reduce a stainless steel Daytona’s value by $10,000 and on a gold watch $20,000 over its original counterpart. So if you can’t tell the difference between the service part or original part, then you can’t make an accurate assessment of a watch’s value or originality.”

Preservation poses a significant challenge in maintaining the original condition of vintage watches. Eric Brahms advocates for a conservative approach to restoration, balancing the need to maintain originality with the judicious application of restoration techniques. This philosophy underscores the importance of preserving the legacy of vintage timepieces for future generations. Regarding the biggest challenge for ensuring that a vintage timepiece maintains its integrity, he described the importance of using good judgment in balancing restoration and preservation. “Knowing when to leave a watch alone and how aggressively you should go with the restoration,” he began. “This is a judgment call and for me I re-cut a case when it’s rounded but still thick. When it’s overpolished and thin, then you have no choice but to become aggressive and have the case laser welded and completely refinished. I prefer to do nothing, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to find watches that need no work at all.”

For newcomers to the world of vintage watch collecting, Brahms advises consulting with reputable dealers. The complexities of the market and the nuances of authentication make it essential for collectors to rely on the expertise of trusted dealers who can guide them in building a valuable and authentic collection. “Speak to a reputable dealer and ask them all the questions you can think of. This is the best advice I can offer. There is absolutely no way a layman is going to find an investment grade timepiece on their own. If they are fortunate enough to have one fall into their hands by some miracle, they will have no idea what parts are genuine, service or aftermarket or how to determine if a dial has been refinished or relumed or is just incorrect for the year of production. If you don’t know what you’re handling then you have no way of determining value or originality. Get into a relationship with a good dealer and they will do all the heavy lifting.”

Eric Brahms’ insights into the vintage watch market underscore the depth of his expertise and his commitment to the preservation and appreciation of horological treasures. His advice and observations serve as an invaluable resource for collectors and enthusiasts alike, reinforcing the importance of authenticity, knowledge, and passion in the pursuit of vintage watch collecting. Through his dedication and expertise, Brahms continues to contribute significantly to the vintage watch community, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of these timeless pieces among collectors and enthusiasts.

Franklin Moore
Horology Digest
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