Questions to ask when buying a watch. A guide for beginners.

As a new collector coming into the hobby, it can feel daunting at first. There’s a lot to consider when selecting your next purchase, especially if branching out to the vintage / preowned market. Over the coming months I’ll be doing a series on watch buying advice, with this first post covering some common things to look out for when buying second hand. Buying preowned can be a great way to get into luxury brands like Omega and Tudor, because you’ll often find near new examples for 20 – 30% off retail. In saying that there’s added risk in not buying from an Authorised Dealer, so here are some questions to ask the seller if it’s not already covered in the listing description.

Does the purchase come with box and papers?

This is one of those things thats more important later on when you’re looking to sell. There’s a psychological aspect to having a ‘full set’ complete with box, tags and papers. This is obviously very important for collectable pieces, but even if you’re trying to sell a Steinhart, having a full set will ensure you get the best sale price.

For luxury pieces this also serves a way to validate the place of purchase, as the warranty card will be stamped with the Authorised Dealers information and the purchase can be confirmed with the AD directly.

If someone is selling a watch they’ve purchased from the grey market, just ensure you’re comfortable with the dealers warranty process and terms. You’ll need to obtain a digital copy of the proof of purchase if you ever need to go through the warranty process, so ensure to ask for this as part of the terms of sale.

Also ensure the watch is priced accordingly. As grey market stock can be obtained for less than retail, the preowned value should be reduced also.

What is the purchase date of the watch?

The date of purchase allows you to validate the remaining warranty period if applicable. This is important for grey market stock, as often the dealer will provide a shorter international warranty. You can check this by looking at the terms on the dealer’s website. Some dealers have specific warranty information per brand, so be careful to check for this.

Purchase date can also be an indicator to check if the watch has been serviced within the recommended service interval.

Has the watch ever been serviced, if so by whom?

Ideally a luxury watch should be serviced by an AD, especially if you want to keep your warranty. If this doesn’t apply to your situation (more affordable watch, vintage, out of warranty), then find a good reputable watch maker thats backed by lots of positive feedback from the watch community. An example of this would be John from Omega Watch Repairs in Melbourne. I wouldn’t hesitate taking my Omega to him. He’s actually a master watchmaker and has decades of experience.

Has the watch been over polished?

I think this is one of the biggest risks in buying preowned. For this reason, it’s always good to get as many high res photos as possible. Compare with factory images of the watch if needed, to look out for any inconsistencies in the case shape or finishing. Are the edges sharp? How about the transition between brushed and polished finishes? Are the lugs consistent with each other, or is the shape of the case starting to get worn down? This can be difficult to prove in photos, but a few good high res photos in natural light should help.

Request additional photos

Are all angles and aspects of the watch photographed? Ensure that the crystal, bezel, bracelet, clasp, case back and anything included with the purchase is photographed and included as part of the photos in the listing.

Are they flexible on price?

Before offering someone 50% less than the asking price, actually confirm if the seller is open to offers. If they are, consider a reasonable offer. On a $1,000 listing, an offer of $850 to $900 is reasonable in my opinion, however be prepared to receive a counter offer. Don’t offer $500. It’s just rude.

Final things to consider

Never rush. Don’t go over your budget. Be patient and wait for the right watch for you and your circumstances. This is the hardest thing to do, especially if you’ve got the tendency to go with your heart over logic. There’ll always be another watch, so don’t panic if you miss out!