Pre Owned Watches – A Buyer’s Checklist

More and more people are starting to buy and sell within the pre owned watch market.

The selection is vast and the deals to be had can be great or well…..dire.

Although the majority of watches on the market are from reputable sources and are what they are supposed to be, there are a portion of the pieces on the market that are not 100% what they should be.

Here is a checklist any buyer should be aware of when considering a pre owned watch.

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1) Is your dealer reputable?

Although many pre owned watch dealers are fully reputable and have a strong reputation for quality that they seek to protect, there are enough dealers out there that are without ethics and will not hesitate to sell goods that are not up to standard.

Usually a little bit of common sense and research will cast light on what you want to know about your choice of vintage watch dealer.

If your dealer is well known in the area and has a large flow of traffic in its used watch trade, it is a fair bet to say they are of a good reputation. Word soon spreads if someone is selling sub quality goods and their vintage trade will be sparse at best. Ask friends, family and co-workers about the dealer and do some research online to see if there are any major compliments or complaints.

Some people will choose to buy pre owned watches from the internet.

This is a mixed bag of tricks.

If you consider buying from a very large and well known online dealer you should generally be fine.

If on the other hand you buy from an online auction site from private sellers, well, that is of course a gamble, not always a winning one, but a very expensive one if you lose and end up with a bad watch purchase experience.

Use care and common sense with online purchases.

2) Know the standards and features of the watch you choose to purchase “used” with regards to if it was a “new” watch.

Most watches are available in a select number of models.

In other words, they may only be available in certain dial colors, metal combinations, and bracelets or straps etc.

There is a huge market in what is known as “after market” modifications such as diamond bezels, different color dials, straps and bracelets, even adding color coatings to the metal of the watches.

This may sound beneficial to have a modification to the watch such as a diamond bezel, but the truth is it actually lowers the value of the watch in almost all cases when modifications are made.

Why? You are probably asking.

Well, if a watch is only available in white, black, and silver dial choices from the manufacturer and a watch has a blue dial with diamond markers, it is not original and has a dial inside that has most likely been installed by a watchmaker who is not certified by the manufacturer and the dial will not be up to manufacturer standards in almost all cases.

Most watch manufacturers use very high quality materials and that is reflected in the price of the watches and they are also installed at the factory of origin. Basically quality assured.

Most after market modifications are not anywhere near of the same standard.

Also, most people who buy pre owned watches do their research beforehand, and dealers definitely know their trade, so if you choose to sell or trade in the watch at a later date, you will be offered a very low value for your after market watch or even outright refused despite what you may have paid for it in the first place.

3) Check the condition of the watch.

Sounds obvious?

Anyone can look at a watch and decide that it looks in good condition at face value, the dealers are going to ensure they do.

They will be buffed out of scratches and looking shiny, they will be in cases that have lights that make them beam and sparkle.

But there is an underbelly to the inspection process.

Metal bracelets can wear down in strength over time with use.

Check the bracelet by holding it by the case on its side so the bracelet is horizontal.

If it sags heavily, the watch has been worn a lot, if it is pretty firm it has been looked after or has been replaced.

This does not apply to all metal bracelets, but it certainly is a decent check to perform.

If the watch has a leather or animal skin strap such as a crocodile strap, then inspect the area around the pins where it fixed to the case to see if it has cracks or looks frayed. Repeat the check for the buckle area.

Check the sapphire crystal. If you have done your watch research correctly beforehand, you will know if the watch is meant to have a raised crystal, or domed crystal, or thick crystal, or even acrylic crystal. If the watch does not have what it is supposed to have you may have a watch with a new crystal in it.

Sounds good?

Not really, because if the watch has had to have a new crystal then either the old one had been broken or was so scratched that it had to be replaced. This is a red flag that the previous owner had abused the watch, this could be a hint at many other underlying problems or fixes that may have occurred.

4) Inspect the warranty offered by the dealer.

Does the dealer offer a warranty?

Usually they are 1 year, but some are two years.

Ask what the warranty covers.

Is it a standard warranty that covers any internal faults or is it an advanced warranty that covers the entire watch inside and out?

Learn the terms of the warranty.

5) Enquire where the dealer usually sources the watches from.

This is not a way to jump past the dealer to find a wholesaler, they are not going to tell you in detail who they get the watches from. They will however disclose if the watch came from a broker or was a trade in from a customer. Watches from brokers are usually best because the broker will examine and clean up the watch before they sell it to your dealer and the dealer will also perform their own checks and clean ups after buying from the broker. Customer trade ins are not in any way bad because the dealer will perform all work and checks before putting the pre owned watch up for sale. But the broker way is slightly better with regards to checks being made.

This 5 step checklist should help you towards having a successful pre owned watch transaction, although not conclusive it is definitely the minimum checks any prospective buyer should perform.

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