Where to buy vintage watches: Seoul, the unlikely watch collector's destination for your next trip out of Singapore
If your highly trained traveller's instinct is telling you to steer clear of the mainstream districts and devote your time on just the cool hideouts, you'll be in for a great time in Seoul – but you'll also be doing your wrist a disservice. Why? Because the city's best watch traders are located where the major touristic neighbourhoods are.
While the vintage watch market in Seoul isn't exactly as evolved as, say, Tokyo's, it's not without its fair share of well-priced choice finds. Indeed, Korea is a little behind countries like Japan and Singapore when it comes to pre-owned timepieces, so buyers are strongly advised to do their own homework before breaking out the Benjamins.
Apart from the perennial Rolexes and Omegas, it's fairly common to spot out-of-production Cartiers, obscure Patek Philippe references, and other unusual models from brands like Audemars Piguet, Chopard, and Piaget. Contemporary Panerais and Hublots have also been known to make occasional appearances, which means that the patient shopper may be well rewarded with a sizeable discount off a lightly worn timepiece that was launched not too long ago.
Attractive price points aside, vintage watches have an X factor that's missing from some newly launched timepieces. It's that irresistible old world charm that comes from life itself, or it could just be the patina – doesn't matter.
Regardless, a vintage watch isn't just a pleasure to wear but also a pleasure to acquire because whether you got it legit from a historical antiques dealer or off the wrist of a two-bit salesman, there's always a story to tell.
Nostime Vintage Watches
Techno Center 1F #114 Saewun Square Inui-dong 112-1 Jungno-gu
Tel: +82 70 8222 6445 Mobile: +82 10 5047 6445
Amply stocked with all the best luxury watch brands on the market, Nostime has an excellent retail set-up and although its site is not e-commerce enabled, shipping is free. Still, when it comes to vintage watch shopping, it's always better to look at the pieces in person before committing to the purchase.
A boutique-edition Cartier Vendome ladies hand-winding watch in 18K yellow gold to the tune of US$2,300.
Han Sung Antiques, Itaewon
57-35 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu
Tel: +82 2793 8288
This humble store is flanked by a shoe shop and a beauty salon but the posters of iconic watches placed out front is enough to warrant a browse. The owner, a Mr. Kim, has been running this place for over 40 years and not only do they sell but repair mechanical watches too. Expect the usual assortment of sport and classic Rolexes.
Check out the selection of vintage Omegas and Rolexes.
34 Insadong-gil Gwanhun-dong Jongno-gu
Tel: +82 2735 2700
That this is a shop specialising in vintage timepieces should be palpable upon arrival, as the interior looks as dated as the exterior, but charmingly so. The myriad antique clocks and watches displayed all around make sure of that, but the contemporary assortment is just as appealing. Everything from Patek Philippe to Longines find their way here.
Go for iconic models that are no longer in production.
33 Jongno 3-ga Jongno-gu
Tel: +82 2764 2726, +82 2744 6107
Make time for this specialist watch dealer and you will not regret it, even if you're a rookie buyer, because here's the place to find an exceptional array of brands from the mainstream to the obscure. More importantly, prices are fairly competitive; a Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116710LN will set you back around US$7,300, which is slightly below list price.
A Patek Philippe Ref. 3802/200 in 34mm 18K yellow gold with a white porcelain dial priced around US$11,500.