Select manufacturers offer Certificates of Authenticity and/or Extracts from the Archives. Manufacturers do not provide watch value estimates.
Certificates of Authenticity are documents that guarantee the authenticity of the watch. They will always require in-person inspection by the manufacturer, and often only available as a part of a service (reasonable, as that will involve taking apart the entire watch).
An Extract from the Archives can be provided without having to send the watch to the manufacturer, rather just numbers on the watch (any of case, caseback and movement) and perhaps photos. As they do not authenticate your watch, they are not the same as Certificates of Authenticity, but can be a useful, albeit expensive, way in many cases to determine the production details (may include description of case, hands, dial, etc.) and date of your watch. In some cases, the Extracts simply document your watch based on images provided, or just information for a serial number provided, and of course do not note whether those pieces were as actually provided on the original watch. And of course, if parts have been changes at any time, it won’t be reflected in an Extract. Keep in mind that the Extract should provide is a description of the watch as it was produced, and only at that single point in time.
I will add a quote from Ben Clymer (from the Hodinkee Radio podcast, Episode 75, starting at ~1hr 12m):
“…to find an authentic vintage Cartier, I’m talking about pre-69, impossible. Like, absolutely impossible. And in many cases these things come with documentation from Cartier archives, which is bananas you know. And then you know…obviously know people from Cartier that say, ‘that watch was never made.’
And I’m like, ‘But I’ve got a documentation from Cartier, Paris.’
‘Yup, that’s why we stopped doing those.’
…It’s not [just] Cartier. Patek, you know, the archives, there are guys we all know that used to pay people in the archives to produce these things. But what’s 20 grand if you are talking about a million dollar watch?”
That comment foreshadowed the blockbuster news in 2023 around the faked Omega Speedmaster. For more details and links, see the ‘Omega’ section below.
The result of this news and comments? Well, it means that an extract is just one more piece of information to leverage when doing your research. Trust but (continue to try to further) verify! When available and the situation warrants, you may with to step up and order a Certificate (or otherwise named), where the manufacture will take apart the watch to confirm it is correct.
Certificate and Extract costs are referenced in some of the listings below, but please make sure to refer to the manufacturer for the most up-to-date cost and service offerings. If you see any errors or suggestions on other manufactures to add, please contact us.
The Extract includes timepiece name, material, reference number, case number/movement number, caliber and register date (does not include the location delivered and/or location sold). A Certificate requires that the watch needs to be be sent to Switzerland for evaluation, and the document provides information on the watch, a picture, and authenticates the timepiece.
Blancpain includes an Extract as a part of their watch service at their vintage workshop in La Brassus. Pricing is based upon the service and/or restoration performed.
Breguet Museum curators, with physical examination of the timepiece, can provide an official Breguet Certificate of Authenticity with all the information available in the registers (characteristics, date sold, first owner, etc.). The Certificate costs 535 Euros.
While I understood that old records did not make their way to the current brand owners, in 2020 Breitling introduced the ability to order a Breitling Certificate of Authenticity (350 CHF). I am still tracking down if customers can order an Extract From the Archives.
Historically our information has come from forums and information contained in Breitling: The History of a Great Brand of Watches).
Cartier does not provide information for any pieces that are not currently sold within their Cartier Collections. So even if the watch was retired a year ago, no information is shared. Bummer!
While there were few details around the Mr.Biver’s reference that Heuer can provide certificates for every watch and certify their history, we have further learned from TAG Heuer that this Heuer authentication can only be done concurrently with service. To arrange this you will need to visit a TAG Heuer reseller, or return it to their TAG Heuer Official Service Centre.
International Watch Company (IWC)
IWC does not offer an Extract from the Archives, but they do offer a Certificate of Authenticity, issues by the headquarters of IWC Schaffhausen. The Certificate requires an examination by one of their watchmakers, and the information included on the certificate will relate to the type, case and movement, along possibly with information about the watch’s features. The service costs $360.
In order to order the service you will need to either:
a. provide the timepiece to an IWC Boutique or authorized reseller, or
b. send the timepiece directly to their Technical Center in Texas (for mailing information, contact IWC concierge services at email@example.com).
Customers can order a Jaeger-LeCoultre Extract from the Archives, which is available within three months. This service costs 260 CHF and is available for watches over 20 years old.
For 1969 and earlier, contact Longines directly for assistance. They have very good support (and free!) for these inquiries.
Historical information about Longines a watch is available via email, an Extract from the Archives provides the information from the archives on official Longines paper, and a Certificate of Authenticity can be issued if the piece is examined by one of their watchmakers.
All of their services are free of charge!
Movado does not offer Extracts or a service to authenticate vintage watches
Omega has had quite a bit of back-and-forth regarding their Extract from the Archives service, and we were disappointed to read in mid-2023 that the service is “Temporarily Unavailable.” However, the reason why became clear shortly thereafter when the news hit around the franken Omega Speedmaster, in which the Head of the Omega Museum and its Brand Heritage Department were alleged to have participated. Ooof. For more details, see the article from Perezcope, ‘Tropical’ Speedmaster 2915-1 – A Record-Breaking OmeGaga At Phillips, which was ultimately found to be put-together. Perezcope refers to a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ in the article, but it appears, at least from images, that it is an Extract instead of a COA which was at issue.
Prior to and separate of that crazy news, there are individuals that have found issues with Extracts and do not trust Omega Extracts from the Archives before 2010.
In the interim…while Extracts are not currently available, timepieces that are more than 30 years old continue to be eligible for Certificates of Authenticity (COA). For the COA service, watchmakers in Switzerland will examine the watch and establish its authenticity using information from Omega’s archives. They work to confirm it has the correct Omega calibre (and Omega components) and that the head must have all the correct features “corresponding to the information in [their] production documents and service guidelines.”
As reference, the unavailable Omega Extract of the Archives contained detailed information relating to a watch and how it left their Biel facilities, as well as production date (Fratellowatches wrote on the process. There was a CHF 120.00/EUR 110/USD $150 fee for the Extract.
Omega records have unfortunately been lost for periods of time (there seems to be at least one block of time lost). If you try to order an Extract for a piece from this period, you will be notified by Omega that “…in certain cases information has not survived, is unreadable or even missing.” and your order will be cancelled.
One final note on Extract orders – Omega did not allow for requests for Extracts to be sent to the United States via their website form. So, if you lived in the U.S. and wanted an Extract, there were the following options:
a. Contact Omega U.S. Customer Service at 800-766-6342, to talk to a human press 2 and then press 2 (alternate: 877-839-5224). They would send you a form that to complete and return to them.
b. Email OmegaUSCS@swatchgroup.com for the same form as above
c. Visit an Omega boutique
Panerai offers the ability to authenticate your timepiece, but not an Extract from the Archives. To start the process you will need to visit a Panerai Boutique or Authorized Dealer, who will then send the watch to a Technical Center, or contact Panerai via phone or email for shipping instructions.
As of April 1, 2021, a Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives will only be available for pieces that were sold up to 1989 (from 1839), at a cost of 500 CHF. In addition, only one extract will be issues per timepiece for a period of five years, and if multiple requests are made form different sources for the same timepiece, only the first request will be fulfilled. Extracts are only available in English.
Some lots at auction will say “believed to be” or “attributed to” Patek Philippe. This tells us that the seller was unable to get an Extract (or Certificate) for some reason, such as the case and movement not matching, if the case and/or dial is incorrect, etc.
Rolex does not offer a service to authenticate vintage watches
Rolex does not offer a service to authenticate vintage watches
Universal Geneve does offer Extracts if you contact them, if their contact works…sigh…this company is just such a shame now. I am not sure of the cost of the Extract.
The Extract is essentially is a piece of paper that documents in writing the images that you send to them. These Extracts are not generally valued by the collecting community. Universal Geneve does not offer a service to authenticate vintage watches.
Vacheron Constantin offers three different services: a Certificate of Authenticity, an Extract from the Archives, and a Certificate for Insurance Purposes.
Vacheron Constantin’s Heritage Department upon physical inspection can provide a Vacheron Constantin Certificate of Authenticity with a technical and aesthetic description of the characteristics of your watch and indicates its year of manufacture. The cost is $880, plus $75 for shipping and applicable sales tax. Customers provide the timepiece to a Vacheron boutique or an authorized retailer to start the process.
Vacheron Constantin also offers a Vacheron Constantin Extract from the Archives. As with the Certificate of Authenticity, this service includes the year of manufacture, caliber number, reference number, and other technical and aesthetic description of the timepiece. It does not guarantee the authenticity of the timepiece. An Extract certificate costs $160, excluding tax.
Lastly, Vacheron Constantin also offers a Certificate for Insurance Purposes, which provides the watch’s current catalogue price, if still on sale, or the price in Swiss francs when last sold. It does not guarantee the authenticity of the timepiece. This appraisal certificate costs $160, excluding tax. Please note that this “appraisal certificate” is not the same as the value of a vintage timepiece in the current market, which may be more appropriate for insurance purposes.
It is not necessary for the timepiece to be physically examined to provide the Extract from the Archives or Certificate for Insurance Purposes. To obtain these documents, call or visit a Vacheron Constantin boutiques or an authorized Vacheron Constantin retailer.
Zenith offers both Archive Extracts and Certificates of Authenticity.
A Zenith Extract from the Registers takes up to 30 days, and costs from CHF40 – 60 (depending on if you want a hard copy as well)…they actually cut the cost of these by about 65 since 2016. You can see an example Zenith Archive Extract at omegaforums.net.
A Zenith Certificate of Authenticity requires examination by one of Zenith’s watchmakers in Le Locle. You can order this service through one of Zenith’s service centres, boutiques or certified retailers. The cost is 500 CHF, and includes Certificate and reproductions of documents the Zenith teams may find in the Archives of Manufacture in connection with your watch.