There are a wealth of places online where you can satisfy your itch for a great vintage find. Far too many places in fact. Just an overwhelming number of vintage watches, vintage dealers and vintage watch dealers – some more trustworthy than others – which is a lot to take in when you can’t even try them on before you buy. Given they might set you back tens of thousands of pounds, that can be a bit worrying. There must be another way and indeed there is with the best vintage watch shops in London.
London is home to plenty of brick-and-mortar preowned watch stores, offering not just superlative expertise (and someone to actually talk to about your potential purchase) but the chance to wear it, if only for a few minutes, to make sure it’s the dream watch you actually want. Sure, you can always imagine the case size on your wrist, but that’s a world away from trying the real thing. Yes, it will probably cost you a premium compared to rolling the dice on Chrono 24, but can you put a price on putting your mind at ease?
So, let’s start in London’s hub of vintage watches, Burlington Arcade. The regally appointed stretch of old-school British shopping has been around since 1819 and thus caters to a certain, well-heeled type of shopper. Shoppers that apparently have great taste in vintage watches.
Run by a father-and-son team, Somlo is the world’s only authorised vintage Omega dealer. Yep, they were doing it long before Rolex made the idea cool. And that means if you want to dive deep into some of the funkiest, most overlooked pieces in Omega’s archival arsenal, this is the place to go. Nestled at the Savile Row end of Burlington Arcade, expect an unsurpassed collection of Seamasters, Speedmasters and other, quirkier releases like the Chronostop or original Bullheads – at a premium. This kind of expertise doesn’t come cheap.
They do have a broader selection of non-Omega watches as well, from the usual classical suspects – your Patek Philippes, Vacheron Constantins and Audemars Piguets, but for obvious reasons Omega is very much Somlo’s bread-and-butter.
Where: 35-36 Burlington Arcade, London W1J 0QB
More details at Somlo Antiques.
Run by the eponymous vintage expert who’s about as old school as they come, this Burlington Arcade stalwart is one of London’s most respected dealers through sheer expertise – over 150 years of the stuff, when you combine their team. The store’s collection is mainly comprised of handsome dress watches from the likes of Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre (lots of rectangles) and Patek Philippe (of course), along with a healthy dose of Tudor and Rolex. You won’t find every vintage watch under the sun here; instead, it’s curated with a level of knowledge that most auction houses would beg for.
And if you ask nicely, David may well point you in the direction of watches that he considers undervalued. Not cheap of course – nothing in there is cheap – but if you’re after a potential investment piece, it’s worth stopping in.
Where: 63 Burlington Arcade, London, W1J 0QS
More details at David Duggan.
The Vintage Watch Company
Need a vintage Rolex in your life? This is where you go. There’s not a dealer in the world that doesn’t have a few examples from The Crown in their line-up, but the windows of Burlington Arcade’s Vintage Watch Company tend to stop horological aficionados in their footsteps. It may just be the best window watch shopping location in London. Seriously, David Silver, the man behind the storefront, literally wrote a book on vintage Rolex called… Vintage Rolex. If you can’t find the Rolex you’re after, just ask, wait and more often than not receive.
And yes, you can browse their collection via your birth year. Just hope that you were born in a relatively good year for Rolex. Alas for me, 1990 wasn’t particularly great.
Where: 24 Burlington Arcade, London W1J 0PS
More details at the Vintage Watch Company.
Our final stop to Burlington Arcade is Maunder Watches. Funnily enough, you can also visit Maunder’s sister store in Guildford, if you really, really need to. Either way, you’ll find one of the broadest selections of vintage pieces around. The usual suspects, sure, but also a solid range of Glashütte, Chopard, Heuer, IWC and actual (not Grand) Seiko. A lot of it ventures into neo-vintage, so a bit more recent, but if you’re not sure what you want, Maunder makes a fantastic starting point.
That’s good because it’s also one of the roomier, more relaxed watch stores, the kind of place you can drop in for a horological chat as well as buy a watch. God knows I’ve been at a loose end and popped in more than once. And almost walked away with a Grandfather Tuna.
Where: 43 Burlington Arcade, London W1J 0QQ
More details at Maunder Watches.
Finally veering away from Burlington Arcade (though admittedly not far given they’re about a five-minute walk away) The Watch Club lives up to its name as one of the most upscale spaces for vintage watches in the capital. No dusty, Goldsmiths-adjacent carpet-and-panelling combos here. It’s much more modern and design focused – as is their vintage collection.
Once again you’ll get Rolex and Patek Philippe here, but they’ll be alongside Franck Muller, Hublot and custom Rolex numbers from Pro Hunter. It helps that there are few people I’d like to listen wax lyrical about vintage watches more than The Watch Club’s Hustin Koullapis. Just make sure you have plenty of time to spare.
Where: 4 & 5, Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond St, London W1S 4SD
More details at Watch Club.
This is an odd one but well worth mentioning. Obviously WatchFinder is an online giant of vintage watch reselling, but they do also have a Bond Street-adjacent boutique among others dotted around the Capital, where they showcase a solid cross-section of what they have available. It’s a good range in-house, but the big point is that if you’re worried about buying something online without trying it on your wrist, you can get it sent to the boutique instead. It’s seriously reassuring when you’re considering dropping thousands of pounds on a collection of pixels, warranties or no.
You can find them in both Avery Row in Mayfair and the Royal Exchange, depending on where your need for a new vintage watch takes you.
Where: Watchfinder & Co, 6-7 Avery Row, London W1K 4AL
More details at WatchFinder.
Vintage Watch Room
You’re unlikely to stroll by the Vintage Watch Room unless your travels regularly take you to Winchmore Hill in North London. They probably won’t. But I do have a soft spot for anyone promoting American brands over Swiss, and if you’re into your more military-flavoured pieces, it’s well worth the journey to visit. That includes a lot of really fun Wittnauer pieces, a brand that if you don’t know, you should look up. Think white-label Longines but more fun.
Oh, they also have a fun little section for vintage pieces under £100, which is great for those just getting into vintage watches and who aren’t ready to commit to caring for that venerable Vacheron just yet. Or if you just fancy the odd vintage curio watch, all of which I’m worryingly tempted by.
Where: 834 Green Lanes, London N21 2RT
More details at Vintage Watch Room.
Mann About Time
Predominantly an online retailer run by artsy watch lover Robin Mann (hence the name), Mann About Time actually has some brick-and-mortar presence in both Savile Row’s Drakes, where you can match your watch to your new sartorial ensemble, and Fortnum & Masons. Where I guess you can match it to your choice of tea?
Either way, you can tell it’s a collection curated by a collector, rather than a dealer looking to make a quick buck. It’s also a speedily rotating collection, so always worth stopping in to check out what’s new next time you buy your champagne truffles.
Where: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1A 1ER
More details at Mann About Time.
Antique Watch Co.
While the Antique Watch Co. may be nestled in trendy Clerkenwell behind a front that admittedly looks like a pawnbroker having a fire sale, don’t let that put you off. They’ve been in the same spot for 40 years and for good reason; their selection of vintage timepieces offers some genuinely well-priced finds, with the kind of selection of sub-3K pieces that will be calling out for one impulse buy after another.
It’s also one of the few vintage watch shops that will happily service or straight-up repair your watch, which given how easy it is to damage a delicate vintage movement, is good to know. Every collector needs a place like this on speed dial.
Where: 19 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RD
More details at Antique Watch Co.