How do I buy a used watch? Other than walking into an authorized dealer, there are a lot of different options, but basically, you can purchase from a well-known watch website, a gray market dealer, a trusted seller, or a private seller.
If you are new to this, you’re probably going to tend to purchase from a website first - and well-known websites. If you are a novice who is looking for either modern or vintage pieces, you can start with bigger websites like:
- Bob’s Watches
- Crown and Caliber
At Bob’s Watches, you can get modern and vintage pieces from all different brands. You can also trade in a watch, and put it towards another. Bob’s Watches has a strong online presence. Similarly, you can buy, sell and trade new and used pieces with Crown and Calibre. They are newer, but they have grown substantially in the last couple years. Crown and Calibre have a strong online and social media presence. If you are looking for a newer watch, I would recommend staying away from Jomashop. Another big player is DavidSW. He also has a retail store in Orlando called Select Orlando. He is new to online, but he is not new to the forums.
This is probably where, if you are a beginner, you will want to start. These are well-known, established brands. You know you won’t get screwed out of your money, and you're going to get something out of it. The prices are usually higher because these companies are established. They’re well known and trusted. The next level you can purchase a watch from is the gray market.
Chrono24 has a lot of gray market dealers. It’s basically like a Craigslist or eBay (but there’s no bidding), where dealers post whatever watches they have for sale. The problem with Chrono24 is that it is a mix of good dealers, bad dealers and sometimes, fake watches. Prices aren’t the best here either because the seller has to pay listing fees to Chrono24 which is incorporated into the price. You can find anything here, but you do need to do your research to make sure you are dealing with a trustworthy seller.
Trusted grey market dealers that have been around for a long time even if they don’t have the biggest online presence. They sell through lots of word of mouth. These trusted dealers are very big on forums. For example, DavidSW, Takuya, OCRolexGuy, and Aperionvi are all individuals from the Rolex forums (www.rolexforums.com). These individuals have sold so much on the forums, they don’t need their own website, but some of them do have them. They have been doing this for so many years that no one questions sending them money. Price wise, it's competitive on the forums (similar models can be within $100s of each other). So, it comes down to whose service you like better.
So what is the actual process a first time buyer may go through? Say you wanted to buy your first Submariner. Some first time buyers will start on the forums asking: who do you recommend as a trusted seller? I see this all the time, and you will get the same names listed above (DavidSW, Takuya, OCRolexGuy, Aperionvi, etc). From there, you should still research the sellers, compare pricing, and then decide what specifics you want about the watch. Do you want the box and papers? Do you just care about the watch only? What’s the condition? Are you looking for minty (mint or pristine condition)? Or, is it okay if it’s beat up for a better price? If you're looking to preserve your bracelet or need a replacement, check out our watch bands here.
Pre-owned Rolex watches will differ in price based on certain criteria. A Rolex without the box and papers will be cheaper than a watch with its box and papers. A pre-owned Rolex that is under warranty is going to be more expensive than one that is out of warranty. A watch that is really minty will be more expensive than a Rolex watch with dings all over. What you also have to determine is your comfort level with wiring money. You may pay a bit more for Bob’s Watches and Crown and Calibre, but you know what you’re going to get from them. With trusted sellers like Takuya or OCRolex guy, while they are trusted, you might not be as comfortable with sending money to someone who is only a forum seller. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t get your watch - these guys are great. So, it depends on your personal comfort level.
Personally, I have bought and sold watches enough that I will deal with a private or trusted seller. Now, with private sellers, I want to note - this is risky. When you buy from a private seller, you are buying from a collector - the individual owner of the watch. The problem with this is that some people have sold watches before and have feedback from their buyers, but some people don’t. People get scammed all the time, so again, this can be very risky. Prices are usually cheaper than trusted sellers; they can be as much as $500 - $800 less. I go the private seller route, but I also go the trusted seller route. If I go the private seller route, I ask for references. Good questions to ask are: do you have any past dealings, or who you have previously worked with? I will then receive a list of people who I can contact to see how their transaction went. I can research on the forums to see if they have had any other dealings. You get the best deal with private sellers. But, if I can’t find the piece I want with private sellers, i'll go with trusted sellers.
Don’t forget, if you are afraid of online dealings, there are plenty of ADs/brick and mortars that sell used and pre-owned Rolex watches. You may have to pay a bit more of a premium because that seller has overheard (i.e. they need to pay rent, pay staff, etc.), but there are plenty of ADs that have pre-owned sections in their store.
Written by Patrick Bernardez