It is no secret that the market for pre-owned goods is growing. Websites like Craigslist, Poshmark, and AutoTrader are all evidence of this fact. The market of wristwatches is no exception. Wristwatches are traditionally considered very personal items, but there does come a time when people are willing to part with their timepiece and trade up for a newer, improved model.
Prior to shopping, it is important to understand that the market for pre-owned timepieces is divided into two categories, modern and vintage. Any watch crafted before 1990 is loosely considered ‘vintage’, and any watch built pre - 1980 is definitely considered ‘vintage’. This line is drawn due to the expertise and qualifications it requires to explain and identify a vintage timepiece. This guide will discuss how to purchase a pre-owned modern watch, not vintage.
Purchasing a pre-owned, modern watch has many benefits. For starters, if you have recently eyed a timepiece that you like, but it is no longer in production - you will most likely still find a pre-owned version from a private seller. In this case, your only option would be to purchase pre-owned because the style is not available from the original manufacturer. Secondly, many look to purchase a pre-owned watch for its depreciation. In time (no pun intended) all watches will acquire an amount of depreciation, which means its price will come down significantly making it more affordable for the masses. A pre-owned watch will cost less than a brand new one making it more desirable. Now that you see the benefits in buying pre-owned continue reading on below for the four key aspects to take into account when looking to purchase a gently used timepiece.
#1 Service History
Service history does not play a large role with watches only one or two years old, but it is always a good idea to question service history and request the invoice along with it. Servicing a mechanical watch is quite expensive, therefore it is highly unlikely a seller has discarded such important documentation. However, if no invoice exists, it is safe to assume that the watch hasn’t had much service done, if any at all.
#2 Original Box & Papers
It is highly unlikely that a watch over thirty years old will still have its original box, manual, and papers. Back in the day these items were less important than they are now. Today, a lot of effort goes into timepiece packaging as the box itself is like a piece of art. In this day and age, any watch of value will come in either a leather or wooden box with detailed manuals, proof of purchase papers as well as a warranty card. Try to obtain a complete set of these items when shopping for your pre-owned watch. Additionally, make sure you are receiving the correct box for your specific watch style. Watch brands are known for using several different types of boxes for their watches but as long as it is period adjacent, you should be fine. In the case that you find an extremely special timepiece, one that you can not bare to part with for the right price, go ahead and pull the trigger on your purchase. There is always an exception to every rule.
A wristwatch is meant to be worn, hence the title. While not every timepiece is suited for daily wear, there is a time and a place to wear every watch which means damage is inevitable - even if it is just a tiny hairline scratch. When examining a watch with scratches and/or dents, its important that you ask how the watch received the damage. Exterior damage is one thing, but interior damage can be extremely costly to fix and sometimes ‘superficial’ damages go deeper than what originally meets the eye. If you do decide to buy a damaged, pre-owned watch, make sure that all of its functions still work. For example, corrosion on the hour markers are a good indicator of movement corrosion which is irreversible damage and can not be seen without taking the frame apart. Thus, is paramount that you search for scratches, signs of abuse, corrosion, and any other damages prior to purchasing your pre-owned timepiece. Additionally, it is vital that you calculate the cost of services needed on any watch and add it to the watch’s total price in order to decide if it is worth purchasing in the long run. Only an authorized dealer or professional watchmaker can provide you with an official service cost. When you receive this estimate, inquire if he or she is capable of servicing the watch you are debating to buy. It is also not a bad idea to research whatever watch you have your eye on in order to gain some general knowledge on the purchase. Don’t let yourself get swindled.
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#4 Where to Find a Quality Pre-owned Watch
There are several online platforms where you can find pre-owned watches. Chrono24.com is one of the world’s largest platforms for watches and has seen over 150,000 offers on pre-owned watches from both private sellers as well as professional dealers. Watchrecon.com is another reputable pre-owned watch platform that curates offers on gently used watches from a variety of forums. This site is a major time saver as it would take tons of search time to discover these forums one by one. The best part is that some of these online sellers also have brick and mortar stores which means you can visit the shop and see the watch you are scoping out in person. We highly recommend that you view a pre-owned watch with your own eyes, even fiddle around with it a little. Buying online without the opportunity of inspection is a big risk.
Authorized watch dealers are also known for carrying a selection of pre-owned timepieces. These watches are mainly from clients who have traded in their old models for a newer, more expensive version. An upgrade if you will. Inquire with your local watch dealer about any pre-owned watches they may currently possess. You may also want to check out a watch auction when shopping around for a pre-owned timepiece. Several companies like Sotheby’s, Auctionata, Bonham’s, and Christie’s hold grand auctions full of gently used timepieces. At an auction you will be able to see a timepiece up close and personal prior to bidding to which allows you to access for damages and marvel in its beauty, but keep in mind, so will other bidders. Here you will need to weigh benefit versus cost.
Our last tip, a bonus tip, is to always inquire about a warranty. Younger pre-owned watches still may be under factory warranty. Plus, if you purchase from a professional watch seller, it is common for the timepiece to come with a six to twelve month warranty. Now get out there and find yourself a pre-owned watch worth wearing.