Keeping perspective on time: Or what's "normal" for a vintage watch

Does anyone have a standard set of how a vintage watch should perform? It's something I've struggled with finding, and it's also something that--because I don't have an understanding of what's "acceptable"-- I haven't formed proper perspective about. I've always appreciated the wealth of knowledge watchcrunchers seem to'm hoping you can help me figure this one out, too!

For example, I asked a seller on a popular watch marketplace "Hi, When was the watch last serviced? Has it recently been measured for accuracy? Thanks" The seller responded "Hi, thank you for taking interest in this beautiful watch. The watch has been serviced recently and keeping good time as of now. It may lose 30-45sec +/- in a day which is normal in vintage watches. Thanks and Regards."

What is keeping good time? It felt ludicrous that a loss of 30/45sec was "normal in vintage watches," especially since the watch I was interested in was a vintage Seamaster Chronometer. It didn't make sense that a watch built to (at one time) keep time within chronometer standards would keep worse time than a poorly kept Orient.

So help me gain some perspective on what's "normal" for a vintage watch.



All watches are going to be different due to service histories & the like, but a watchmaker worth their salt isn't going to let a luxury watch like that just be 30-45 seconds a day off just because it's vintage. All repair videos I've seen, the watchmaker does everything possible to get the movement to abt +/-5 seconds a day.

If it was recently serviced, have the seller show you the service ticket.

I would consider a vintage to be in normal range at about double or less the new spec for the movement.


I don't know the answer to your question, but I suspect it's pretty complicated. I think it depends on how accurate the watch was when new (as you mentioned), how well it was made, and how well it's been maintained. What I will say is that I don't personally have a problem with a 50 year old watch being off a full minute in 24 hours. That's not the type of watch I'm likely to wear daily, so I don't think I'd notice. And even if I did, I don't generally use my watch for keeping track of the time down to the minute.


To be fair - how old is the watch? You do realise that an unregulated NH35 is -20/+40 secs/day from the factory. A vintage chronometer, well it should be better (on paper), but it’s vintage. I think it’s unfair to expect a 50 year old chronometer to still be performing to COSC requirements, and, with no disrespect to the average watch serviceperson, I would be surprised if they could get anything back up to said accuracy, you’d probably need special equipment for a lot of the fine/tuning. Are you buying it because it’s a chronometer or because it’s an Omega? The sellers answer sounds like a safe bet, I’d say the same regardless.


I've had 7 vintage watches serviced & the least accurate gains 15 seconds a day. It does depend on the movement, the amount of wear it has & whether it has been serviced properly. On Ebay for example there are lots of unscrupulous sellers stating their watches are serviced but at the same time giving the impression you shouldn't expect them to beaccurate. Ask the seller for a picture of the watch on a timegrapher for evidence of how well is is running, the numbers don't lie at the end of the day. If they can't provide this then I'd walk away