Interview: DC Vintage Watches

I met Nick of DC Vintage Watches at the first DC Microbrand Meetup in 2016. At the time, I was already aware of him from his Instagram and Facebook posts, and I admired the selection of affordable classics he offered for sale. When he exhibited as a vendor at the second event in 2018, I got to spend more time chatting and was pleased to discover that he is also an all-around good dude with a passion for 1960's and 70's timepieces. What makes this avid collector and dealer tick? Time to find out...



Let’s start with an introduction. Who is the man behind DC Vintage Watches? 

A relatively uncomplicated man, to be honest. I grew up, as did my family, in the DMV area (that’s the DC, Maryland, and Virginia for the uninitiated) but when the chance came to expand DCVW to Los Angeles and its extraordinary watch scene, I jumped on it! Although we still maintain a presence in DC (and make no mistake about it, I still have incredible friends in the DC area I have known for decades), I am the public face to DC Vintage Watches, which means our social media presence will heavily feature Los Angeles.  Aside from the resident dork Seikoholic, I also bring a decent eye to the photography DCVW uses to sell its watches. I love photography, in particular, the creativity that comes with it and social media platforms like Instagram!  I share this passion with my sister, who is a much better photographer than I could ever hope to be. Another passion of mine is vintage automobiles, which I share with my father. While my boxy 1989 Isuzu Trooper is nowhere near as stylish as my father’s 1968 Chevy Camaro or some of his other cool vintage rides, I’ve had my Trooper since high school (with the mileage to prove it), and we have gone on insane adventures together in the intervening decades. Finally, I’ve always had a passion for knowledge and learning, a gift from my mother. I read widely and often, from books on horology to military history to political science.

What drew you into the vintage watch market?

Watches have been in my family for as long as I can remember. From my grandfather’s watch to my father’s burgeoning watch collection when I was in high school and after; all my family have either been involved in or interested in, horology. For me, my father got me started in watch collecting.  Vintage Seiko, as I have noted elsewhere, was my (and many, many others) gateway drug. I got hooked in high school and college on Seiko – hard. Few other watch manufacturers have the catalog of Seiko, nor the history for that matter, from the fantastic 6139 automatic movement of the Seiko Pogue fame to Seiko being instrumental to the start of the notorious quartz crisis in the 1970s with the Seiko Astron.Accompanying all of the above is the phenomenal vintage watch collector community. I have met amazing people the world over, all through a shared love of horology. These collectors don’t collect for the passing status a brand name brings, but from an understanding of history and the unique beauty, a work of art like a complex mechanical watch represents.

1972 Seiko 6139-6005 "Pogue"
1972 Seiko 6139-6005 "Pogue"
I like the fact that your inventory is all squarely in the affordable range. What pieces would you recommend for bargain hunter? 

Most anything vintage Seiko. Although Seiko prices are trending upwards (unfortunately), there are still plenty of bargains to be found! Seiko’s 5606 Lord Matic or 7005 automatic series are great examples, which remain amazing values. Who doesn’t like to wear an astonishingly unique watch with a great story behind it? These don’t have to be named Rolex or cost $5,000 – solid back stories make for amazing watches, like Seiko’s 6139 Pogue. It’s no mistake vintage Seiko features heavily in our catalog of offerings on our website, as its variety of unique watches is hard to beat, especially for the price point.  But make no mistake about it, prices are rising for both buyers and dealers. Also troubling is the so-called “Franken” watches that come with the turf of increasing prices; unless a seller openly declares their vintage Seiko include aftermarket parts, make no mistake about it – these are fakes! Doing your homework will always pay dividends, and there is a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet to take advantage of (warning: shameless plug), like when Time Bum reviews vintage watches. 

1970 Seiko 6106-7100
1970 Seiko 6106-7100
What’s in your personal watch collection?

Not much of a surprise here, but a lot of vintage Seiko and Heuer! I actually get asked this question quite a bit, and my answer is always greeted with surprise (in particular from those that insist they “have a smartphone and don’t need a watch.” To each their own, but that’s not me, or DCVW’s customers. My personal collection has a little over 100 pieces, almost entirely from the 1960’s to early 1980’s; the Seiko 6139 and 6106 favor heavily within these, in particular, due to their dozen-plus variants for each. Yes, there are some quartz in there – a faux pas, I know – and these are mostly 1980s-era Heuer dive watches, which are incredible for their design and durability. Another of my personal favorites are so-called regatta watches – after all, Washington, DC loves its sailing. These are usually characterized by movements with five or ten-minute countdowns for timing the start of regatta races; I have several from Heuer, Seiko, and Memosail.  Finally, as I noted, I have a passion for military history, and this extends to horology. I love pieces like World War II Hamilton military watches, and the Bulova Accutron Astronaut and Omega Speedmasters, which the U.S. government (per Hodinkee and other watch sites) issued to pilots and astronauts.

1968 Bulova Accutron Astronaut GMT Electric
1968 Bulova Accutron Astronaut GMT Electric
What is your current favorite? 

By far, my Heuer Autavia, Memosail Regatta chronograph, Seiko 6117 Navigator GMT, Seiko 6309 diver, and Omega Speedmaster 861. Each one of these watches has and will continue to remain a firm personal favorite for incredible life experiences I went through while wearing each.  I will never sell them for this reason. I think many vintage watch collectors understand this, the emotional attachment that one forms to incredible watches. I can definitely recall purposefully picking certain watches out on purpose, knowing I would be wearing it for an important event. For instance, my grandfather’s retirement watch, which I wore at my wedding. Despite it being a simple 1970s gold-plated mechanical watch, it’s my most valuable by far. While I don’t care much for gold watches, gold has represented enduring value and love through the ages, good and bad, just like my marriage to my incredible wife.

What are some retro watch design cues that would like to see in a modern watch?

Definitely some of the more outlandish color combinations we saw Seiko use during the 1960s and 1970s. Seiko also really nailed class and sophistication in their ‘60s dress watches and their pops of color on their 1970s 6106 Sport Divers are nothing short of amazing. Included within these were the Seiko 6139 chronograph series, which are also amazing. Seiko would do well to take cues from the popularity of these watches; after all, they haven’t shied away from re-releasing the ever popular 6218 and 6309 dive watches!

1983 Seiko 2C21-0080 Field Master "Contra"
1983 Seiko 2C21-0080 Field Master "Contra"
In your time buying and selling, what was the most interesting watch you encountered? 

Hands down, it’s the 1980’s Seiko 2C21 Field Master, aka “Seiko Contra.” Although seemingly small at 30mm in width, it consists of two modules attached via a central spring bar and thus wears large on the wrist at about 60mm in length. One of the modules is a watch, while the other is a compass; it also had map wheel and LCD timer modules that the wearer could swap out. In the last five years, I’ve seen a small handful of these. We actually just sold one in the last month, and it took all of 45 minutes to sell (we still have the listing up at https://www.dcvintagewatches.com/product-page/1983-seiko-2c21-0080-field-master-quartz-watch-compass, with more detail on the uniqueness of this incredible watch).
1983 Seiko 2C21-0080 Compass
1983 Seiko 2C21-0080 Compass
I wonder how new a watch can be and still be considered “vintage.” Do you see any interest or nostalgia for 1980’s watches?

Personally, I tend to draw the line for “vintage” around the mid-1980s, but this will always be a sliding scale as time marches on (forgive the pun). We are definitely seeing interest in 1980s-era watches, usually Seiko divers such as the 6309. Other than these (and excluding the Seiko Field Master), we aren’t seeing much interest in this era. Not yet, anyway.

Zodiac 106-21-07 "Poor Man's Heuer" and Heuer 1000 Professional Quartz
Zodiac 106-21-07 "Poor Man's Heuer" and Heuer 981.106 1000 Professional Series Quartz
Give us your take on the vintage watch market. What’s hot? What should we buy now before the prices go through the roof? 

Seiko 6139 Pogues are insanely hot right now. We can’t keep them in stock for more than a week if even that. Right now, we have a waiting list with about a dozen people on it.  Aside from the Pogue, anything Heuer is also hot right now, in particular, Autavia’s and even quartz-powered Heuer dive watches. This popularity has extended to the so-called “Poor Man’s Heuers,” i.e., non- Heuer branded watches that utilized Heuer movements and design cues, like Zodiac and even Sears-branded watches.

As far as sleeper vintage watches, I would recommend pieces like the Seiko Lord Matic (for dress watches), or 6309’s (for dive watches), Citizen 8110 bullheads, or Omega Dynamics. All of these are destined to go up in price in the near to mid-term in my opinion. ⬩
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