Watches are the ultimate collectible; fascinating, beautiful and a showcase for precision engineering. It is little wonder then, that the market for second-hand watches is booming. Whether you have a passion for vintage fashion, an obsession with timepieces or just a favourite model that you must get your hands on – the pre-owned market could be the answer. It should, however, be approached with a little caution.
Doing the appropriate research, understanding the market and the watch in question is key. This will ensure you not only get a good deal but protects against buying a less than authentic watch.
For online buyers, it’s particularly important you take some time to understand what you’re buying and confirm the seller is reputable. We have brought together our top tips for buying a pre-owned watch below. Read on, for a guide through the intricate world of second-hand watches.
Understanding Vintage vs Second Hand
The line where a second-hand watch becomes vintage is more than a little blurry. For some, it might be pre-1980 or even pre-1990. Given the term is so flexible, don’t accept that just because a watch is described as vintage, it must be old or valuable.
Approach this description with a large grain of salt and make sure you look at the watch as an individual piece. As a general rule of thumb, the older the watch – the more research time and expertise it requires.
Do Your Research
It is essential that you properly research any watch you buy, particularly if you are spending a significant chunk of cash. There are a number of ways to do this and there are many online resources and forums where expert advice on particular brands can be found. Take your time with this research and ensure you have a good grip on value, key design features, and markers of age.
If you have a watch serial number, you will find numerous tables online to help you pinpoint the age and model. Although it’s by no means a hard and fast rule, it is useful to stick to a single brand when starting out buying pre-owned watches. Build a strong foundation of knowledge on a particular niche and move on from there.
Be Wary of Online Only
With a plethora of online auction and sales sites out there, it is easy to get caught up in a watch sale. Within a few clicks, you could find yourself the owner of a very expensive timepiece that you don’t know an awful lot about. Many online dealers will have a physical location where you can view a watch – always do this if possible.
If you can’t view and handle a watch in person, make sure you get detailed images and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions or request further photographs. Any reputable seller will be happy to oblige. For online sellers, it’s also helpful to check their country of origin – some places have reputations for fakery. That incredibly cheap Rolex from Korea should always raise some serious question marks.
Check Out the Dial
The dial is often the most valuable part of the watch so it should be something you pay plenty of attention too. Look for quality of design, age and wear. Remember though, that older watches with some patina and age can be more desirable and valuable to collectors.
Be alive to key features that establish authenticity – these should be clarified through your research. The same approach should be taken to the strap and movement wherever possible.
Paperwork and Boxes
A paper trail can be incredibly helpful in determining the age and authenticity of a watch. It is also going to be invaluable if you hope to resell in the future. The same is true of the original box, although, for older watches, this is often lost to the mists of time.
The paperwork and the box should feel authentic to the age and style of the watch. There may be occasions where you fall in love with a pre-owned watch that you have no intention of ever parting with. For these purchases, the paperwork and box are much less important, although you should always get your hands on them if possible.
Understand Value Expectations
Most watches lose value with age – just like cars. There are some notable exceptions and there are models that have increased in value significantly since their production.
You should have your wits about you when it comes to investing in a pre-owned watch and be comfortable with the level of depreciation likely to be incurred. This all comes down to doing your research thoroughly. As a general rule, the higher end the brand the less significant the depreciation.
Speak to a Reputable Dealer
Most reputable watch dealers will have a selection of pre-owned watches. They may not advertise this fact so it is always worth a quiet word with your favourite jeweller or watch store. This approach can give you a greater level of comfort and security when it comes to investing in a pre-owned watch.
Ask for A Warranty
Just because you are buying a pre-owned watch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a warranty. In fact, many second-hand watch dealers offer a 6 or 12-month warranty as standard. If this is not listed in the sales details then always ask. It can be a red flag if a seller is not prepared to offer a warranty.
Buy a Watch You Love
It’s much more difficult to lose out if you invest in a watch that you love. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a fair price or do significant research but it does mean that buying a watch that matters to you is likely to bring you greater joy. The pre-owned watch market can be sprawling and more than a little confusing – exploring it as part of a passion for a watch or style you love will make your journey through it much more enjoyable.
Buying a pre-owned watch can be a lot of fun. Use common sense, some keen research skills and a passion for beautiful timepieces to guide your way.
We have a fantastic selection of luxury pre-owned watches from prestigious brands such as Rolex, Cartier and OMEGA. Head over to our website to view our collection or visit one of our boutiques in Winchester or Tunbridge Wells and our watch experts will be delighted to guide you through our range.