Quest for a Coke at the Miami Beach Antique Show

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After trying to clasp the watch around my “gorilla wrist,” I realized it just wasn’t going to go. I told Ali, the person helping me, “I need another link, maybe two. Do you have them?” “Not here, but we’ll get them.” I was at Matthew Bain’s booth at the Antique Show in Miami Beach.

“And you’ll do that for the price you quoted?” 

“Sure.”

Finally, eyeing the beautiful, bright red and black bezel one last time, I said, “I’ll take it.”

And just like that, my thirst was slaked. The Rolex GMT Master I’d been dreaming about would adorn my wrist within “two weeks,” Ali assured me. I thanked her, and also Morgan and Alison, who’d also helped with the transaction.

The Original Miami Beach Antique Show is a huge trade show that’s also open to the public. Booths carry antiques of all sorts, but this is no flea market. This is where the dealers catering to the Gucci set come to shop. But, cool as they are, ten foot long museum quality models of 1900-era passenger ships are not why I was there.

No, I was there for the vintage watches.

“…Paul Newman Daytonas? Scores and scores. Submariners? Like somebody spilled chicken feed in the cases. Audemars Piguet? Don’t even ask.”


 

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You see, the Miami Beach Antique Show is probably two thirds vintage jewelry and watches. Since my wife and I have a side hustle selling fine jewelry by appointment, the show has been on our radar for a decade. In fact, this is our third visit in five years.

Now, the first thing I do when I get to a trade show is make a quick dash through the entire show, just to get the lay of the land. The Miami show is typically all about high end watches. Do you want a nice final year Rolex Explorer 1016 with clean white lume and in excellent condition? Found one. Several, actually. And Paul Newman Daytonas? Scores and scores. Submariners? Like somebody spilled chicken feed in the cases. Audemars Piguet? Don’t even ask.

What, this? This is nothing.
Eric Wind.

Well-known folks from around the vintage watch business were there, too. Reference book publisher Giorgia Mondani was there with her husband Daniele and little daughter Mia. I’d met Giorgia and Daniele at this show five years ago. I finally got to meet Eric Wind, formerly of Christie’s and now out on his own with Wind Vintage, after we’d followed each other on Instagram for a few years. And my wife and I had a nice chat with Kevin Zavian of PBS Antiques Road Show fame. We’d also chatted with him in Vegas a few years ago, and he graciously claimed he remembered us.

The best one though, was eyeing Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer’s doppelganger standing next to me at a booth. “Ben, is that you?” I asked. The guy was slow to turn to me. When he finally realized I was talking to him, he asked me if I’d mistaken him for another good looking guy.


By the time I shook hands on the deal for the GMT Coke, it was early evening. I’d been through the entire show, looking at black & red GMT Masters. I saw hideous examples, and beautiful examples hideously priced.

“At other booths, the crowds were so thick there was little chance to get next to the cases to view the watches. When that happened, I moved on. There’s always another dealer just down the aisle.”

One ref. 16760, the one they call the Fat Lady/Sophia Loren, was in such pristine condition for a 30-year-old watch I wondered if I’d encountered a surreptitious polish job. Still, buy and hold for a year, and it’s a fair bet I could make a few thousand dollars. There are those who believe steel Rolex sport watches are a better bet than the stock market these days.

But that’s the spendy stuff. There are more modest pieces to be found as well. Alex from ROC Diamonds showed me a Speedmaster 1045—the one with the TV dial and Lemania 5100 (Omega 1045) movement—and an ancient Tutima/Glashutte chronograph that were so sweet you could taste sugar after handling them.

“If you’re looking at one-of-a-kind items, when you see them, apply one simple rule: ‘Get it or regret it.’”

And Mr. Alfonso Corona from Guadalajara, Mexico was kind enough to let me take numerous photos of his case, which was packed full of the brands vintage collectors relish: Angelus, Lemania, Wakmann, Heuer, Omega, Tissot, Enicar, Vulcain, and more. The big brands aside, if you couldn’t find it at his booth, you probably didn’t want it.

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At other booths, the crowds were so thick there was little chance to get next to the cases to view the watches. When that happened, I moved on. There’s always another dealer just down the aisle.

Are there lessons to be learned from the Antique Show? Certainly.

If you’re looking at one-of-a-kind items, when you see them, apply one simple rule: “Get it or regret it.” More than once we’ve gone back only to find a desired item sold ten minutes before we got there.

But if you’re looking at commodity items—like my Rolex GMT Master Coke—you’ve got time to shop. Yes, you may miss the fabulous deal (“get it or regret it” applies to fabulous deals), but there are other fish in the sea.

But the real lesson is this. If you’re into vintage watches, you owe yourself a trip to Miami Beach in late January. Seriously, get yourself down there and enjoy some great Cuban inspired food, South Beach Art Deco architecture, and drool over watches you may not see anywhere else.

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