What is a Franken watch? Understanding ”Franken-Watches”, or “Frankensteined” Watches is one of the more complicated issues that surrounds collecting vintage watches . So-called for their mish/mash of components, these watches are particularly difficult to identify as a beginner, and account for many cases of misrepresented timepieces – whether intended or not by the seller. Unlike outright fakes, Frankensteins are generally assembled and modified from a variety of different timepieces (and aftermarket components) to form a finished product. Whereas fake watches are generally modeled after regular production models (have a look on Canal Street to see just how many fake Rolex Daytonas you can find), Frankensteins are often modeled after rare and hard to find timepieces – which makes it harder for anyone but the most expert and experienced collectors to identify. Additionally, they all use a number genuine components (most often the case), so they are at least “part” real.
Furthermore, not all Franken-Watches are built from the beginning with the intent to be deceitful. As vintage watches age, many components such as hands, crowns, and crystals may become unavailable from the original manufacturer. Over time and through servicing, many of these components may be replaced by a watchmaker simply looking to provide a finished product for his client. As they pass through subsequent owners and more and more components are replaced with aftermarket replacements or “borrowed” pieces, the watch stops being genuine and essentially becomes a Franken.
Lastly, some watch owners purposefully modify and customize their timepieces with the specific intent of differentiating it from the original product. Different case finishes, such as PVD, for example, have become increasingly popular, along with non-branded “sterile” dials and stylized hands. These modifications are very popular with diver’s watches in particular, and while they are obvious to most, if someone is trying to pass one off as original, stay away. Modified watches can be cool, and for many they are a way to attain an “homage” to a piece that be may unattainable, but they should always be presented as such.
Spotting a Frankensteined Watch can be difficult without expert knowledge, so the moral of the story is simple: When you’re looking to buy a vintage timepiece, be sure to do business with a trusted and reliable source that will stand behind their product!