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Don't be afraid of vintage watches. They are just as reliable as contemporary watches. However, that doesn't mean you wash the dishes or snowboard on the Colorado slopes with a vintage watch on your wrist. Use a little common sense. Proper care doesn't mean leaving your watch on the coffee table for days on end or in your car's console. It means treating it with respect. After all, vintages watches are old. If you treat and care for your vintage watch as you do your other jewelry, then you have a watch that will last a lifetime.
Choose a vintage watch with a good reputation. You can't go wrong with Rolex, Omega, Longines or Cartier. They were the standard of fine watches of their time and remain so today. If an Omega owner spots a vintage Omega on your wrist, she will know that not only do you recognize quality, but also you have a taste for retro chic. Choose a vintage pre-1950 men's watch. Vintage watches of that era are much smaller than contemporary watches. Vintage men's Art Deco style watches have a masculine quality but fit perfectly on a woman's wrist.
Treat your vintage watch the same way you would treat a diamond necklace. Don't do dumb things like wear the watch while swimming, jogging or planting tulips in the garden. A vintage watch, by virtue of its age, is not waterproof. It won't keep out perspiration, water and dirt. Treat it like casual or evening wear at functions that require nothing more than lifting a glass of wine.
There's no need to give your vintage watch special treatment when you are not wearing it. Throw it in your underwear drawer. It's a dirt- and dust-free environment. Your silk and cotton unmentionables will keep it from getting scratched.
Give your vintage watch a good rub down with a polishing cloth every time you pull it out of the drawer to wear. Rub the crystal -- the glass or plastic covering -- with the cloth to clear away surface scratches. Polish the case that holds the inner workings. Also use the cloth to buff out stainless steel bracelets. Leather bands don't need attention. There's is nothing more show-offy than a vintage watch that looks new.
Wind your watch once a day whether you wear it or not. It keeps the movement's gears lubricated and prevents them from drying out and attracting dirt.
Have your vintage watch serviced every three to five years. That means having the mechanical movement, which regulates and runs the watch, taken apart and given a "bath." Take the watch to a reputable watchmaker with experience in servicing mechanical movements. This task costs about $100, as of 2010. Regular servicing means the watch will likely last longer than you.