Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Arguably the most common misnomer in horology is "NOS". According to countless online dealers’ descriptions, almost every second watch is described as NOS. Clearly this attribute means different things to different sellers, yet there is no room for misinterpretation: NOS stands for New Old Stock. Precisely, a watch that has never been sold to a customer. Not a watch your uncle bought 20 years ago and has never worn, your nanna’s piece discovered in a shoebox, or a watch you bought on your last trip to Vegas - and forgot about it upon arrival.
NOS comes from only two possible sources: (a) directly from the manufacturer who built the watch decades ago but the watch has remained in the factory’s safe; or (b) from a dealer who acquired the watch from a manufacturer and never sold it. That is the definition of true NOS and clearly everything else is not NOS. Yes, a timepiece can be described as “in NOS condition”, meaning a watch which looks like new, showing no signs of wear or use. However, in these instances one should be careful not to mislead.
NOS stock was common in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when mechanical watches came back into fashion and Swiss manufacturers and dealers opened their safes to clear their unsold stock from the previous decade. One of the most famous examples of such supply was a case when a rather large quantity of Breitling watches manufactured in the 1970’s appeared on the market. Another known event that can trigger an NOS avalanche could be a brand takeover, when a new owner acquires the brand and clears its old stock. In recent years I don’t recall any NOS event on a large scale.
However, there is one country where NOS stock stills appears on the market – Russia. It is no secret that Russians are not fond of Communist past and there is very little appreciation for anything associated with the pre-Gorbachev era, so – with a bit of luck – finding a true NOS pocket watch is still a possibility.