Vietnam’s largest city is a treasure trove of vintage finds—from antique Rolexes to Art Deco furniture. Story and photographs by NANA CHEN
■ VINTAGE WATCHES
Along fashionable Dong Khoi Street stand a few shops offering classic timepieces left behind by French colonialists and American soldiers. One of Saigon’s leading luxury watch purveyors, TicTac (72 Dong Khoi St., District 1; +84 8 829 3519) is run by a family of watchmakers, who’ve started selling off their personal cache. Call ahead to make an appointment to view the collection, which includes exquisite pieces by Bulova, Rolex and Patek Philippe from the early 1900’s that run between US$500 and US$8,000. Many of the watches still have papers of authenticity (warranties are offered for those that don’t), while in-house watchmakers can provide repairs and maintenance. Across the road is Thai Hien (151 Dong Khoi St., District 1; +84 8 825 0526), a small stand where you’ll find Hamilton and Gruen timepieces for men and women alongside antique pens. Down the block is Minh Quy (No. 103 Dong Khoi, District 1; +84 8 822 2907), a slim corridor of a shop with perhaps the most extensive selection of antique watches from Baume & Mercier, Vacheron Constantin and Raymond Weil.
■ ANTIQUE STREET
Formerly called Rue Rheim by the French, Le Cong Kieu Street earned its reputation as an antique marketplace in the 1980’s, when merchants would drive in truckloads of antiques collected from the countryside. With around 50 shops packed to the gills, you’d need an expert’s eye to spot what’s of real value. Still, it’s worth a browse, if only to pick up a cheap souvenir. On the corner, Buu (1 Le Cong Kieu St., District 1; + 84 90 372 6958) is filled with copper and bronze sculptures, glazed pots and wall carvings from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. Old coins make unusual—and portable—mementoes; you’ll find a selection at Quoc Tuan (26 Le Cong Kieu, District 1; +84 8 821 3340), which also stocks vintage cameras and postcards. Looking to redecorate? Tuan Nga Deco Shop (15B Le Cong Kieu St., District 1; +84 8 821 6865) tempts with Art Deco cabinets made of teak, mahogany and rosewood that are easy to disassemble. The shop can arrange shipping. For that finishing touch, step into Phuong Thuy Shop (58 Le Cong Kieu St., Distict 1; +84 8 821 3133) for hand-blown antique French lamps.