Online commerce has become a main staple of the economy. You can purchase nearly anything online, from books and car parts to exotic vacations and hang gliding lessons. Even the market for higher value items like fine jewelry and luxury watches has grown thanks in part to the ease, convenience, and the ability to quickly compare items from one site to another.
Buying luxury watches online allows shoppers to see a global collection of watches, creating access to rare and vintage watches that is historically unparalleled. With a huge selection and generally lower prices than brick and mortar retail outlets, online shopping for luxury watches does present a singular set of concerns. How can you know the item you are looking at online is really that vintage Audemars Piguet Royal Oak you’ve been searching for?
The market for luxury watches, Rolexes in particular, is arguably the most fraught with fakes, counterfeits, and the dreaded “Frankenwatch”— a watch cobbled together from parts of various models. To avoid disappointment and potentially large financial implications, we’ve put together a short article on how to avoid some common pitfalls when buying a luxury watch online, and we’ll take a look at a few of the most reputable sellers.
Tip 1: Know the Luxury Watch Market Before You Shop
The single most important factor when buying a luxury watch online is research. First of all, you should educate yourself about watch basics and the watch market in general. Try to get a feel and a general understanding of the major brands and their relative values. Even a modest Patek Philippe will probably be more valuable than the most prized Seiko. Learning the history and the market placement of individual brands is not only fun, but it will help you make an informed decision about what brand value is all about.
While buying a luxury timepiece should ultimately be about the pleasure you will take in ownership, keeping an eye on the bottom line is important. If you eventually decide to sell your new watch, it will be good to know how well it might hold its value. One good way to get an idea about an individual watch’s value is to check auctions sites like eBay for past sales.
Tip 2: Learn All You Can About Individual Luxury Watches
Even more important than information on brands and manufacturers, research into the particular watch you’re interested in purchasing is incredibly important. A little online sleuthing can go a long way toward helping you know both the relative value of a particular model and what sorts of issues people might have had with it. Always have a deep suspicion of a “value outlier.” In reality, you’ll never find an Omega Speedmaster in great condition for $295. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably isn’t much of a deal at all.
Tip 3: Learn How to Spot an Obvious Fake Luxury Watch
Rolex watches may be the most counterfeited timepieces of all time. That proverbial man in the trenchcoat selling Rolexes in the alley has simply moved online, sometimes with very accurate fakes. Many luxury watches are counterfeited, and some of the fakes have very particular issues that are easy to spot, but only if you know what to look for.
A simple example is the Rolex Daytona. This watch was never made with a date window, though you can easily find one. Any watch claiming to be a Daytona that has a date window is what is politely called a “replica watch,” and should never be presented as an authentic Daytona. Again, the internet is your friend here, and doing some research into the exact model you’re after will not only educate you generally, but may offer specific information to help you avoid fakes. Also be sure to check out our article: How to Spot a Fake Luxury Watch.
Tip 4: Buy the Seller Before You Buy a Luxury Watch
Trusting the seller is a huge factor in buying online. While you might not need to worry too much about who you’re buying razor blades from, buying a luxury watch is an entirely different situation. An obvious tip here is to only buy from an authorized dealer. However, while this may be a guarantee that you’ll get what you pay for, you’ll probably pay more for piece, and you’ll be limiting your options, especially when it comes to the pre-owned market.
There are many legitimate dealers who are not “authorized.” Research is key here again, and checking into an individual business is as easy as an internet search. You should be able to find out about a business’ reputation fairly quickly, checking specifically for testimonials and reviews from customers. Of course, there are sometimes ‘fake’ reviews, but a real sense of a business can be gained from looking at a mix of sources.
Contact the seller directly if possible. Through a phone call or an email exchange they should be able to answer any questions you have, and be knowledgeable about the particular watch you’re interested in. If they don’t know that the Rolex Daytona was never made with a date window, shop elsewhere. If you’re contemplating a major purchase, consider buying a more modest watch from the seller first. You can sample their customer service, and check to see that the watch you’re buying is exactly what is represented online.
Another good source of information about dealers is the online watch community. There are online forums and member groups for nearly every watch imaginable, and these can be great resources for learning about both the watch, and the people and businesses who sell them.
Tip 5: Ask About the Shipping of Your Luxury Watch
If you’re buying an expensive timepiece online, you’ll have to have it shipped to you, and you’ll need to insist on secure shipping. Most reputable online retailers will offer free, insured shipping by FedEx or another reputable carrier. Make sure that all the items shipped require a signature at the receiving end of the transaction. You certainly don’t want that new Patek Philippe left on the front porch.
Tip 6: Learn the Watch Seller’s Return Policy
If an online retailer isn’t clear about their return policy, you should avoid them at all costs. Find out exactly what might happen if you buy a timepiece that you’re not completely satisfied with. Some retailers offer guarantees of authenticity, and generous time frames for returns, while others have more conditions and strictly limited return policies. Inquire about who pays for shipping on returns. In some cases, shipping fees are non refundable, and the disappointed buyer can even be stuck with restocking fees, sometimes as much as twenty percent of the purchase price.
Tip 7: Consider The Value of Pre-Owned Timepieces
Unless you are completely enamored with the thought of a “fresh from the factory” watch, spend some time looking into the world of pre-owned luxury watches. Of course, knowledge is key here, and many factors affect the value of the individual timepiece, such as condition, age, brand and model popularity, and having the original paperwork and box.
If you have done your homework and trust the seller, you can save considerable amounts of money by buying a pre-owned watch online as opposed to a new one from a brick and mortar jewelry store. And if you are embarking on building a watch collection, be sure to read our article: How to Collect Vintage Watches.
Now that we’ve laid out some of the considerations when buying a luxury watch online, let’s take a look at a few of the biggest online sellers.
Buying a Swiss Watch at Bob’s Watches
Although Bob’s Watches deals primarily with Rolexes, they do sell a number of other luxury watches like Cartier, Patek Philippe, and Panerai. Their inventory is both large and constantly changing, and includes new and used models.
Bob’s offers an “Authenticity Pledge” that assures buyers that every Rolex they sell is 100% authentic Rolex and Rolex parts. That said, Bob’s is NOT an authorized Rolex dealer, as they deal only in pre-owned Rolexes. But every watch they sell has been thoroughly inspected, and any watch that is later found to be not completely authentic may be returned for complete refund.
All shipping is handled by FedEx Overnight and fully insured at no cost to the customer, most within 24 hours of ordering. Bob’s offers a “no questions asked” return policy for three days, as long as the watch is in the same condition as it was shipped, and includes all boxes and paperwork. Shipping and insurance fees are the responsibility of the buyer, and buyers must inform Bob’s before returns are shipped.
Buying an Expensive Watch on eBay
Although online auctions sites are fraught with their own set of issues, they can offer some great deals on luxury watches, and eBay is no exception. The advice to “buy the seller before you buy the watch” holds true here, and you should look into an individual seller’s reputation by checking their feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings, and comments.
You should also be able to contact the seller directly to ask any questions you might have about the piece you’re interested in. Sellers should be expected to provide serial numbers, photographs, and any documents that accompany the watch.
Individual sellers set their own return policies on eBay, so be sure you inquire about returns and shipping details, especially who pays in the event there is an issue with your purchase.
Buying a Luxury Watch at Watch-U-Want
Watch-U-Want specializes in selling used luxury watches. With a guarantee of both authenticity and complete customer satisfaction, Watch-U-Want enjoys positive consumer ratings and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. Pre-owned watches are carefully selected from a global network of dealers, and the well trained staff is both knowledgeable and passionate about watches and customer service.
Watch-U-Want differs from most online retailers, as they allow you to ‘trade up’ your old timepiece for something different. All watches sold by Watch-U-Want undergo complete functionality and timing tests, power reserve measurement, and water resistance testing.
All watches shipped are fully insured, either by FedEx 2nd-Day or other premium carriers, and they are fully insured by underwriters experienced in handling jewelry, works of art, and other valuable items.
All items that are not special order pieces may be returned for a full refund less a 15% restocking fee within 7 days of purchase, though the restocking fee may be waived on higher value watches. Buyers must receive a shipping authorization before returning an item, and all watches must be in original condition, including all documentation and packaging.
Buying a Luxury Timepiece at Jomashop
Jomashop has been a trusted seller of a wide selection of luxury goods for over 25 years, and their online presence in the luxury watch market is formidable. They offer an Authenticity Guarantee that stems from their practice of buying from authorized dealers, ensuring that all their products are authentic with original parts and serial numbers, with no refurbished or replica products. As they are not authorized dealers, there is no manufacturer’s warranty, though they offer their own, which varies from one to five years depending on the timepiece itself.
In the event that a return is necessary, unworn watches in their original packaging may be returned for a refund within 30 days, subject to a Return Merchandise Authorization. Shipping is handled by UPS or the USPS, and all items are fully insured and will require signatures. Return shipping and insurance is the responsibility of the buyer.
Where to Sell a Luxury Watch Online
If you own an expensive luxury watch that you would like to sell for a fair and substantial cash offer, contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today. We are widely recognized as the best place to sell a watch in the country, and our watch buyers specialize in limited-edition Swiss timepieces with appraisal values into the five and six figures.