Upcycling Vintage Watches: A Niche Route to Side Income

A collection of vintage watches sit on a brown background.
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A classic timepiece never truly goes out of style. But as a functioning watch, eventually, its time will run out. And you’ve probably seen plenty of thrift stores and antique shops feature vintage watches, right?

Well, those old watches sitting in that case can provide the perfect starting point for your very own niche creative side hustle: upcycling vintage watches. What you find might not be limited edition Richard Milles or Rolexes, but there is certainly a market for them.

So, in this article, we’ll take a look at the joys, benefits and intricacies of upcycling vintage watches. We intend to explore crafty ideas that can contribute to your lucrative side hustle. In addition, we’ll delve into the specifics of adapting your artisanal skills at upcycling vintage watches into a full-on side income.

How to Upcycle Vintage Watches 

There are as many ways to upcycle vintage watches as there are seconds in an hour- if not more. Depending on your level of creative skill, imagination and desire to experiment, you can develop your watch upcycling side gig in various ways.

If you want to stick to the classics, you can visit thrift stores, antique shops and flea markets to carefully select popular models and make sales significantly easier.

Choose timeless styles that you can easily refurbish, replacing basic parts and repairing the watch mechanism itself if the battery has run down. You can market these upcycled vintage watches as timeless treasures, the kind that today’s Gen Z consumers adore. Or, you can even replace the classic watch band with a more colorful, unexpected material, such as an old bandana or scarf that you have sewn into a bracelet shape.

For a more expansive approach, try transforming vintage watches and watch parts into one-of-a-kind jewelry. Bracelets, necklaces, earrings and even rings can display watch faces as pendants or charms. The gears from inside of a watch provide delicate charms that would make a nice charm bracelet. You can even replace the watch face with small cut-out photographs or tiny abstract prints, keeping the watch band intact.

Vintage watches are inherently nostalgic, evoking memories of times gone by. You can work with that effect by creating unique keepsakes made from vintage watches. Fill an old stopwatch with small objects that can elicit sentimental feelings from customers — tiny seashells, black and white photographs or small crystals can create a precious memento. Market these keepsakes as thoughtful gifts for special occasions, or take commissions to create customizable personalized clock mementos.

Three Reasons To Start Upcycling Vintage Watches

1. Flexibility

One of the most prominent advantages of upcycling classic timepieces is the fact that it doesn’t require a fixed timetable, such as being an Uber driver, walking dogs or even doing some light blog writing.

For example, if you are a night owl who loves exploring your creative side after the sun goes down you can put those hours to good use while tinkering with watches. You can learn and work at your own pace, on your own schedule, which is a luxury many are looking for in a side gig.

2. Creativity

From researching iconic watch brands to imagining the possibilities that an old watch can provide as a starting point for your upcycling process, this side gig will spark your curiosity and express your creativity.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to creative ways to upcycle vintage watches, and in this industry, the more creative you are, the more possibilities for sales you can create.

You can stick to the classics, refurbish timeless styles or imbue your work with expansive creativity, dreaming up unusual ways to reuse vintage watches. As an added benefit, you’ll find marketing your products significantly easier due to this influx of creative energy.

3. Scalability

As an artisan craftsperson, your upcycling side hustle can be scaled up or down based on your needs, desires, resources and dedication. While upcycling vintage watches can start off as an occasional small-scale side hustle, you may find that you enjoy the work so much you want to expand your production.

Or, if your upcycled watches really connect with customers and you find that the demand exceeds your initial production capacity, then you have the freedom to invest some of your profits into scaling up the business, all while working from home.

Important Things to Keep in Mind As You Monetize Your Upcycling Skills

While upcycling vintage watches for fun is a lovely hobby, monetizing your upcycling hobby requires careful attention to the business and admin side of your side hustle. Keeping track of finances for tax purposes, establishing a strong online presence and accounting for your supplies and workspace are all key elements to growing a solid business. Let’s dive into some important factors to keep in mind as you create the foundations for your upcycling side income.

Designate a Separate Workspace

Working from home definitely has its appeal, but if you’ve worked remotely before then you know there are some unexpected pitfalls you’ll have to watch out for. Since your vintage watch upcycling business will include promoting your products, you will need to make sure you have a dedicated home workspace for a number of reasons.

First, to make the actual products. If this is a project you plan to engage in regularly, it will make sense to set aside a specific area where you can work on your products whenever you are ready to. If that means cordoning off part of your dining room table to reserve it exclusively for upcycling, then that is a great place to start.

Second, you will need a clean and clear workspace for product photography. Digital retail outlets for creatives, such as Etsy, often require multiple views of a product. While some of your product images will feature models wearing the watches in a studio, you will also need to go outside and snap some photos in real-life environments.

And finally, if your business expands and you decide to start offering workshops, classes, or webinars from home, then you’ll have to move to a more professional space. It’s indeed a big risk, but it can potentially turn your fun side gig into a lucrative business.

Set Clear Goals 

As you establish your upcycling side hustle, set clear goals and objectives that will allow you to track your progress and pave the path for success. Make sure you set clear key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:

  • How many watches you want to sell per month
  • How many new customers you want to attract
  • What are your profit goals for the first fiscal year

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as you’ll have to have objectives for each and every aspect of your vintage watch upcycling venture.

While in the beginning, selling casually may be a good way to get your foot in the door, you can easily experience burnout or lose track of the bigger picture if you don’t have clear objectives to work towards. Likewise, you’ll need to regularly reassess your performance and maybe seek external help with the administrative part of watch upcycling.

Advertise on Social Media 

Choosing the right online marketplace to sell your upcycled vintage watch products is an essential component of connecting with the right customers. Look for digital marketplaces that offer similar types of products to yours. Take note of how your competitors are marketing their products, then emphasize what makes your products unique.

Utilize social media marketing to promote your upcycled vintage watches and attract attention from the right customers. Instagram giveaways, Pinterest challenges and livestreams on YouTube are great ways to spark interest in your products.

Share behind-the-scenes photos and video reels on TikTok or Instagram Reels to reveal the labor, care and creativity that goes into crafting your products. You can even share the process of sourcing rare vintage watch parts and combing through vintage watches at antique street fairs. Of course, you should also make sure to regularly post updates about your new watch-based creations.

Final Thoughts

Riding on the coattails of the current trend in vintage clothing and classic watches, you can make a great side income stream by upcycling vintage watches and selling them online. Just make sure you attend to the business side of your side hustle, and before you know it, you will be shipping off upcycled vintage watch creations faster than the minute hand ticks.

New York contributor Kiara Taylor specializes in financial literacy and financial technology subjects. She is a corporate financial analyst who also leads a group affiliated with University of Cincinnati that teaches financial literacy to Black students and helps them secure employment and internships.