Aside from the excitement of the hunt and the kill (finding a great timepiece and jumping on it), buying watches online is usually a simple and straightforward process.
If you haven’t made a purchase like this before, however, it may seem a bit daunting.
There are so many options and pivotal points that can make or break a sale.
How do you sort through everything and what specifically do you need to look for to ensure your purchase is everything you hope it will be?
On this page, we’ll go over some of pivotal points and the questions you should ask yourself throughout the buying journey that will help you feel more like a seasoned collector even if this is your first timepiece.
Are You Choosing the Right Timepiece for You?
Chances are if you’ve made it to the point where you’re buying watches online, you’ve already decided which one you want. That’s a good start but reflect on it for a moment.
- Did someone else tell you this is what you need or did you choose it?
- Does it suit your lifestyle?
- Does it have the features you need?
- Have you looked up the cost to service it and can you afford to maintain it?
Is the Timepiece You Want Listed Elsewhere?
If you’re going with one of the most popular entry-level luxury timepieces, chances are it will be listed dozens of times over and at multiple price points too.
New vs. Used: Luxury timepieces are designed to last generations, so purchasing a pre-owned timepiece can allow you to purchase “more watch” for less money or avoid depreciation.
Pricing: Low prices can signify the timepiece is damaged, needs servicing, or isn’t authentic, but this isn’t always the case. If you see a good deal, find out why it’s priced so low.
Uniqueness: Purchasing your first luxury timepiece is a rite of passage. It says, “You made it!” The real question is, are you buying watches online to tell this to the world or because you’re rewarding yourself for a job well done?
Or maybe both?
Everyone will be able to spot your Rolex from a mile away, and that may be important to you if you’re making a declaration to the world.
However, if this is your treat to yourself, then you may want to consider stepping off the beaten path and selecting something less common.
What Condition is the Timepiece In?
Listings will often give default conditions: New/ Mint, Like New/ Near-Mint, Good/ Some Wear, Fair/ Heavy Wear, Poor/ Salvage.
Unfortunately, all ratings are subjective. Some people will rate a piece as “good” even when it has scratches to the crystal, while others will consider this “fair.”
Some will consider a piece to be “like new” while only considering the aesthetics and not the mechanics.
Go over all the photos of any timepiece you’re considering and make your own assessment.
Then, ask the seller to describe the overall condition of the timepiece if this wasn’t already done in great detail in the listing.
You’ll also want to confirm what repairs have been made to the timepiece and if authentic parts were used each time.
When was the Timepiece Serviced?
Some brands can go a decade without being serviced, while others can only go a couple years.
If you’re purchasing from a jeweler or dealer who has personally serviced the timepiece in advance of the sale, it should be functioning flawlessly and not showing signs of wear.
However, not every seller will service prior to the sale. If this is the case with the one you’re considering, and it hasn’t been serviced in several years, you should plan on having it done as soon as you receive it.
On a side note, you may be able to use this to help negotiate a lower price, so stick the info in your back pocket for when you’re ready to haggle.
Reducing the price by the amount of a servicing is a fair request, though not all sellers will honor it, especially if the price is already low.
Does the Timepiece Appear to Be Authentic?
Do your homework on the timepiece. Check the brand’s website and guides for details and images, then cross-reference what you find with the description provided and the seller’s images.
Authenticity is rarely a concern as most people who buy and sell fakes know that’s what they’re doing, but sometimes a replica does slip past one or both parties and it’s a costly mistake when it happens.
A more common issue is with the latest trend toward base models.
Some manufactures have begun crafting pieces which look very similar to their high-end models but lack many features or are quartz rather than mechanical.
This is easy to overlook if you’re not checking out the specs.
Are You on the Right Platform for Your Needs?
There are tons of places to search when you’re buying watches online. Each comes with benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to become familiar with all of them before you decide where to make your purchase.
Individuals: Individual collectors often list pieces on watch-related forums. This method was more or less born of necessity.
Collectors were gathering and talking shop anyway, so they naturally started listing what they had to sell. Many forums restrict who can list items, but the transactions, themselves, are handled exclusively between the buyer and seller.
You generally won’t have access to protective measures, ratings, or tools to make the process safer or more secure.
Marketplaces: Marketplaces will often provide a greater selection and competitive pricing.
There are many sites where a multitude of sellers can list their items. In these cases, it’s essential to find out who you’re buying from and do your own diligence.
Depending on the marketplace, you may be connecting with individual collectors, watch dealers, and other groups of people.
A marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook can be a boon if you want to buy locally and see the timepiece in person, but these exchanges can pose risks to personal safety if you don’t take precautions. Other marketplaces, like Value Your Watch, have built-in transparency features and offer extra services to make the transaction safer.
Online Stores: Jewelers, watch dealers, and those in consignment will often run online stores.
In these cases, you’re connecting with a store representative when you make an enquiry.
If a store has been in business a while, it’s easy to verify its reputation, which makes buying watches online a bit safer.
However, you may not have as much selection or as much room to negotiate as you might with a marketplace.
Does the Seller Check Out?
There’s an old saying that goes, “Buy the seller.” If a seller has a good reputation and has been in business for a while, chances are you’ll have a good experience with him or her.
If you’re on a platform that lets you check the seller’s reputation via a rating system, this is a good start, but you should also run searches for the seller’s name or business name to see what turns up.
It’s also a good idea to do reverse image searches on photos of the timepiece and the seller, if one is displayed.
This can help you uncover even more details about the seller and will also show you if the images of the timepiece appear anywhere else online.
It’s not abnormal for a seller to list in multiple places, but you’ll obviously want to be wary if details don’t match up or come from any source other than the seller you’re connecting with now.
Are you Protected as a Buyer?
It’s incredibly rare for sellers to offer a warranty, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If one is offered, find out what it covers and how it works.
Returns are another sticking point, but some sellers will accept a return within a short period of time.
This can help protect you if the timepiece arrives and it’s not as described.
Is Escrow Available?
Selling and buying watches online is much safer with escrow. There are a few ways this is done.
In some cases, it simply involves a third-party holding and processing the payment.
This way, the seller is protected from bouncing checks and similar issues, while the buyer has recourse and can get his or her money back if the item doesn’t arrive or is fake.
When it comes to luxury timepieces, you probably want to go with an intermediary that physically inspects and holds the timepiece too. This way, authenticity is guaranteed as well.
Is There Room to Negotiate?
Once you’ve examined the timepiece from every angle and are certain it’s the one you want and have done your homework on the seller, it’s time to make an offer.
You absolutely can make the purchase outright for the listed price—sellers love it when you do that! However, you can also try your hand at negotiation.
Again, this only works at the moment you’re ready to buy, so never open with questions about getting a lower price.
Furthermore, asking for the seller’s “best price” is typically not effective. Most, especially seasoned collectors and professionals, will refer you back to the list price. Instead, try phrases like:
- “Can you accept $3,500 for it?”
- “I want to buy it, but it needs a full servicing and that is going to run $500. Can we knock that off the price?”
- “I noticed the crystal is scratched and I’ll have to replace it. Will you take $5,000 for it instead?”
- “A seller on XYZ site is offering the same model for $500 less, but his doesn’t come with the box and papers like yours does. If I purchase yours, can we split the difference and take $250 off?”
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