Tips for Buying a Preowned Watch

Should You Buy a Preowned Watch?

Luxury and designer watches are certainly nice to own, as they are attractive fashion accessories, accurate timepieces, and in some cases, obvious status symbols. These are all nice attributes, but designer watches also come with a huge drawback – they are expensive, and for many buyers, their prices are cost-prohibitive. It’s fun to own nice things, but if you can’t afford them, then you cannot have them. That’s basic economics. There is a way, however, to acquire a luxury timepiece without spending a fortune, and that would be to buy a preowned watch. There’s a thriving market for preowned watches, especially among luxury brands, such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Hermes and Ulysse Nardin. These brands are known for being very expensive and for being very desirable, yet one can often purchase a second hand model for quite a bit less than the price of a new one, and in the case of the brands listed above, saving thousands of dollars in the process. There’s more to purchasing a preowned designer watch than simply finding one and paying the price, and if you aren’t careful, you may discover that the timepiece you thought was a bargain is actually a disaster.

We’ll outline a few things that you should consider before you buy a preowned watch.

preowned watch - Patek Philippe Grandmaster ChimeDo brand research – Some brands are made better than others, and as such, they are more likely to hold up well and continue working over time. Rolex watches can run for decades, for instance, but many “designer” brands are actually inexpensive timepieces that are sold primarily as fashion accessories and while they may carry the status of the brand name, they are not necessarily durable watches that have been built to stand the test of time. If you’re going to buy a used watch that’s several years old, you want to have some idea as to whether it’s likely to last.

Do pricing research – New watches are like cars; they tend to depreciate a lot as soon as you buy them. Some brands depreciate more than others, and some don’t depreciate much at all. A few will rise in value over time as they become rare and collectible. Before you decide to purchase a preowned watch, you’ll need to determine the price of a new one. Be sure to check a number of retailers, including brick and mortar stores and online sellers. Once you have some idea as to what the model sells for new, you can then investigate the price of second hand versions. If the difference in price is significant, it may be worth your while to purchase a preowned watch instead. If the difference is minor, say, 15% or less, you might be better off buying a new one, as you’ll also benefit from the manufacturer’s warranty.

Research the condition – Does the watch work? Has it been modified in any way? Does it have any third-party parts? Ideally, you should have the timepiece checked out by a reputable jeweler before you buy. They should be able to tell you if the watch has been tampered with in any undesirable way, or if it has had any parts replaced with parts that are not approved by the manufacturer. There are a few companies that sell second hand watches that have been modified, such as by adding gemstones where the original had none or by using high-tech processes to change the color of the case to some color that was not approved by the manufacturer. These things may not be of concern to you, but if a high end timepiece has been modified in any way, most manufacturers will refuse to service it. You don’t want to pay a lot of money for a preowned watch just to discover that you can’t have it easily serviced should something go wrong.

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mechanical watch movementAre parts available? Some manufacturers only make replacement parts for their watches for a few years before discontinuing them. Others provide parts for their products indefinitely. If you are buying a high end preowned watch, you definitely want to make sure that it can be repaired should something go wrong. It may be working correctly now, but what if it breaks in a year or two? A bit of research in this area now can save you a lot of trouble later.

Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust silverIs the watch genuine? This is the question that haunts many buyers of preowned luxury watches. You can’t just ask the seller; they’re always going to tell you that they’re offering the real thing at a discounted price. That’s fine, but if you’re paying $5000 for a preowned Rolex, you want to make sure that you’re actually buying a genuine Rolex, and not an inexpensive replica. Many luxury brand watches have been counterfeited, and the replicas have become quite well made and sophisticated. It may be difficult for anyone other than an experienced professional to determine if a watch is genuine or not. As with the maintenance issue above, you should definitely ask the seller to permit you to have the timepiece examined by a qualified professional. If the watch is indeed genuine, they shouldn’t have a problem with such a request. Be wary of anyone who suggests that such a request is unnecessary. Buyers are fooled every day by sellers offering counterfeit watches at prices that appear to be too good to be true. You don’t want to be one of them.

If you do your research, find a good quality preowned luxury watch and are able to establish that it’s in good condition, working and genuine, you can, indeed, save a lot of money on your purchase. Your best savings are likely to come on fairly expensive models ($1000-$10,000) that are less than five years old. Older models can sometimes begin to appreciate, particularly if they were part of a limited edition that has sold out and begun to become scarce. With some research, some patience and some diligence, it’s quite possible to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a beautiful timepiece and no one who sees it will be able to tell the difference. That’s between you and your pocketbook.

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