Shopping for a used luxury watch is exciting; trying to find your perfect high-end watch is exhilarating, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without risk.
Buying Used Luxury Watches – A Buyers Guide
As popular luxury timepieces cost a lot of money, con artists go to extreme lengths to try and scam you out of your hard-earned cash. Plus, with the rapid growth of the market and used watches in general, the number of these scams increases with it. This has also bred a new type of fake watch dubbed the super-clone, a fake so realistic that even some watchmakers can’t spot the difference between the real and the pretend. But that doesn’t mean that all high-end pre-owned watches are fake, and for as many con-artists, there are at least three times as many genuine sellers. That aside, it still can be risky, so here is our handy guide to help you navigate the world of pre-owned luxury watches.
1. Spotting a Fake Used Luxury Watch
In the details – Some but not all counterfeit watches don’t quite get all the little details to bang on as luxury makers have much better tooling and craftsman than those that create fakes, so if there is a detail that is a little off, it could be a knock-off. Look out for things like the logo, branding and other dial details. Check with a loupe if you can and look for smudging, unclean lines and debris as luxury watches don’t have these issues. Another area to look at is the date window; high-end watches will have a cleanly done and clear number, whereas a fake might look a little blurry on closer inspection.
All about the weight – Most high-end watches use dense, heavy materials that weigh a lot – unless they’re Titanium, and this is a sign of quality, so if a watch you’re looking at feels too light, it’s likely not genuine. One top tip is to try and weigh the watch and compare it to the specs listed on the manufacturer’s website; if the numbers aren’t close to matching, walk away.
The movement – This is one of the easiest ways to spot a fake; you want to either open the back yourself or have a watchmaker do it if you aren’t confident. Essentially you’re looking for any details that are off and if the detail work and finishing are iffy. High-end watches tend to have very nicely decorated movements that are well finished and look great; counterfeit creators can’t match this so if the movement looks bad. Leave it. This can be a bit tricky on vintage watches, so look online and see if there are any images of a real movement to compare yours to.
Of course, there are more ways to spot fakes that are more specific to each watchmaker, so be sure to check out our other guides and online as well.
2. Look out for stock photos
Stock photos might look great and show you how nice a watch can look, but when buying a pre-owned watch, you want to be able to see the watch, so you determine what it looks like and if it’s in good condition or not. If a seller is only using only stock photos for a used watch, then ask for some real photos of the watch you’re looking at. If they fail to comply, just walk away. If a seller can’t be bothered to provide the real images, then they’re likely hiding something or possibly haven’t even got the watch they’re selling. If the seller is good, then they should offer photos with no fuss or just offer proper photos in the first place.
3. Ask The Right Questions
Here are a few questions you should always ask a seller and should pose no problem if a seller is legit. If they refuse to answer, that means they’re holding back something – walk away, even if the deal is unmissable. For this example, we’ll be looking at an IWC Worldtimer IW326201 – as an example.
l “Has the IWC been altered in any way, and does it have all its original parts” – You’re asking if the watch has had any alterations made to the internal components or parts such as the crystal. This is important as third-party parts will reduce a watches value and could potentially not be up to par; that is why you want OEM parts all the way through.
l “Does the IWC have the original factory finish” – Like with the previous question, you want the seller to answer “yes” as a re-finished watch could potentially be done poorly, leading to a tarnished watch that now has a much lower value.
4. Ensure The Used Luxury Watch You’re Buying Has All The Correct Documents And Original Items
Another vital task we advise you to undertake when looking at buying a used luxury watch is to make sure that it comes with all the correct documents, the right accessories, and of course, the original box. If all these things are accounted for, that can boost the watches value. The original documents should be what came with the watch from the factory, as well as notes of any service history (if it has any). These documents should let you know if the watch has been serviced correctly and by a proper certified business. So those little pieces of paper can potentially save you a lot of money as well as bolster the resale value. It’s also a good sign the watch is real, too as most fakes don’t contain any service history, so be sure to ask the seller if they have this so it can be included with the watch.
Take this lovely Cartier Tank Francaise 2302 for sale on Chrono24. In the listing, it states that it comes with the original box and papers as well as showing them in the images. This is great as it’s in both writing and visual, so you have some comeback if anything goes wrong.
5. Make Sure The Seller Is Offering A Warranty And Check To See If They Are Qualified To Service it
Some dodgy or bad sellers might likely claim that they have serviced a watch and it has been done to their “high standards”, but you need to be 100% sure that whoever did the service in question, carried out a proper service, did a great job and if they used genuine OEM parts or not. Any great seller that offers servicing as standard should have some professionally trained watch repair personnel that know how to do their job and do it properly. If they don’t offer servicing or haven’t serviced it, then make sure you know a reliable one – just to make sure everything is as it should be. Take Chrono24, for example; on the majority of their listings; it states whether the watch has been inspected or not; you can usually spot this by clicking “More Information”, which is normally displayed under the price.
6. Thoroughly Research The Seller
One more very important thing you need to do when looking at buying a used luxury watch is to do some digging into the seller you’re looking to purchase from. Here you want to delve into a sellers reputation and see if there is anything that sticks out as a warning. Some red flags aren’t that obvious, so here are a few things to look out for.
The first important one is to check their social media if they have any and look for any comments from happy or disgruntled customers. Also, check on third-party review sites, and of course, Google the seller and look for anything you can find, whether good or bad. One more good sign to look out for is a proper location brick-and-mortar store because if you do have a problem, you can always visit. Also, take a look at the seller’s website; if it looks unprofessional and not very good, then you’d likely want to avoid them unless everything else checks out. Look out for a well designed, user-friendly site, as this is a good sign the seller is legit.
Another one of our top tips is to check published reviews from genuine customers; beware of the phoney reviews as some bad sellers will pay users to write overly positive reviews about their services. These are usually easy to pick out as they are very positive with no criticisms. Saying that not all positive reviews are like this, so it can be a bit of a nightmare fishing out the real from the fake. One top tip is to look for verified reviews as they let you know a buyer has actually purchased from that seller and isn’t just paid for. Next up, take a look at different forums as bad sellers don’t usually target forums with positive reviews as most forums don’t allow that sort of thing. So take a look to see if anyone has had dealings with the seller you are researching, and you could find just what you’re looking for.
7. If A Used Luxury Watch Looks Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
This is ingrained into us at a young age – or it should have been, but it’s thought to us for a reason, and that is to help us from getting scammed. If a watch is far too cheap or looks too good for the price point it’s for sale, then it could likely either be a counterfeit or potentially even stolen; neither is something you want. Typical well-established sellers offer these watches at prices anywhere from approximately 30% to 70% off the full retail price – depending on a few factors. So if a watch is outside that, then consider looking elsewhere or do some further digging into the seller.
Take this stunning Oris Aquis Calibre 400, for example. These retail for £2700 new, so pre-owned they should be more in the ballpark of around £2000, so if someone is selling one for £500 or even £800, then something could be off, and it could likely not be real.
8. Ask The Seller About The Used Luxury Watch’s History
Any watch seller that has a solid reputation for being trustworthy and reliable and would like to keep it that way will offer any info on the history with no compliant. Bad and dodgy sellers or scammers will feed you some fairytale story about how the history of a watch isn’t vital and their products are “100% genuine”, if they do this, simply look elsewhere. A watch’s history is very important, especially for a high-end luxury one, as they can be worth a lot less if they don’t have history. A watches history also lets you know exactly where the watch has been if it’s all genuine, and if it has had any servicing done. But with the rise of super fakes, even documents are getting cloned, making it even harder to know if the watch you have is real or not.
Take this Patek Philippe Nautilus Stainless Steel White Dial, for example. This watch sells for well over £70K used, and for that price, you certainly want all the history and documents to be in order.
If you are interested in the watch and wish to buy one, but the history isn’t mentioned, contact the seller and ask if it comes with the watch as it should be documented. If it doesn’t, then you might want to think twice about buying it.
There you go, a detailed list to check over before you think about buying a pre-owned luxury timepiece. If you follow our advice, then you should be able to more easily spot a good deal from a bad one as well as find the perfect seller that offers all of this and more. Keep in mind that buying experiences vary from seller to seller, which is why WRUK recommends choosing Chrono 24 when shopping for your next luxury purchase as they only work with reputable sellers across the globe and have a great reputation for looking after both buyers and sellers alike.