Meet The Experts: Kate Lacey, Vintage Watch Expert.

Meet The Experts: Kate Lacey, Vintage Watch Expert.

For Second Hand September we have interviewed 10 experts in the field, delving into the world of vintage and secondhand. Covering categories such such fashion, furniture and watches we spoke with industry leaders about the boom in this ever growing category. Next up is Kate Lacey, our pre-owned and vintage watch expert.

For those that don’t know you, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am an independent watch specialist with almost 20 years working  in the watch auction industry. I have spent recent years selling pre-owned luxury goods via my own business, The Shrew Shop, but with a focus on pre-owned and vintage watches. 

What was the inspiration behind The Shrew and how did you develop the brand?

I’ve always bought and sold preowned things since I was a young girl, and consequently very quickly after university and conservation college, I started working in the auction industry. I immediately became hooked on watches and worked for several of the big houses but despite my experience, I sometimes found that it was difficult to be heard as a female. It has been a male dominated industry for years.  So when I left the auction world in 2021, I wanted to be able to offer experienced and realistic advice particularly to women buying watches. The business name is therefore a bit tongue and cheek- my namesake Katherine or Kate from Shakespeare’s  ‘ Taming of the Shrew’ is given her derisory ‘Shrew’ nickname as she had the audacity to speak her own mind. This resonated for lots of reasons.

Why do you think consumers are gravitating towards pre-owned and vintage?
For starters, it’s very hard to get hold of some newer models from retailers, or at the very least it’s a huge long waiting list. Vintage watches not only and very often offer value for money, but the appeal of vintage is also that you can find unusual and fun designs that often aren’t even made anymore, so you get something that’s really special. Consumers now know that ‘vintage’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘antique’ or old- it means something with an interesting story, some design history and therefore a bit more cachet.

Vintage watches have exploded in popularity, which styles are the most sought after?

"I think people assume that the vintage watch market has been around for years, but it really hasn’t."

Watches really only emerged as a collectible market over the last 30/40 years which really isn’t a long time when you think about how much the market has matured.

The preowned market, which includes more modern and independently made pieces, has certainly exploded exponentially in more recent years. The usual blue chip brands are popular across both categories ( Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega, Audemars, Vacheron etc) and if you decide to start with only one watch, this is a good place to start.

There are still models within each brand that are more sought after than others- with Cartier, 70’s and 80’s models are increasingly sought after and even the Must de Cartier ranges are seeing high prices on the secondary market. Rolex have numerous models that are popular and always have been. Audemars Piguet are definitely sought after at the moment.  There are opportunities to find plenty of unisex options to suit everyone in various sizes and price points. 

The collection is beautifully curated. How are the pieces acquired and authenticated?
Thank you. I am lucky enough to be offered watches both to buy and on consignment, but I also  tend to keep half an eye on auctions as well as keeping up with the watch community through blogs, events and instagram. 

Authentication comes with experience; it’s a process of detailed vetting analysis and reference to visual knowledge built up over time. I have become part of a wide network of experts, all with specific areas of focus who regularly consult with one another. I also use the Art Loss Register to check provenance.

How best to care for a vintage watch?
A watch will probably be with you for life if you want it to be, so long as you make sure it’s serviced every couple of years. This goes for both quartz and mechanical watches.

"Try to avoid having anything ‘cosmetic’ done on your vintage watches if you can avoid it - the more original the dial and case finish the better."

If you buy a vintage watch, condition affect can affect the value, but it is important to recognise it is unlikely to be flawless- it helps to be slightly more open minded about the condition of watches- obviously always try to buy the best condition piece you can but a 1970’s watch is bound to have taken a few knocks over the years. I work with a brilliant  watchmaker James  (Harris Horology) who helps me inspect pieces when they come in. 

What would be your dream vintage watch?
TI’d like to have a few styles in rotation. Within reach one day might be a yellow gold Rolex Day-Date with a days of the week in any language and with champagne dial,  perhaps a steel Rolex Oyster Quartz,  a vintage Bulgari Tobogas or a vintage Cartier Bamboo….later down the line, perhaps an F.P. Journe Chronomètre….it’s quite a long list…

Follow Watch This Lacey on Instagram @watchthislacey
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