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Making the Case for the Pre-owned Luxury Watch

By Paul Altieri
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In that far off mystical land of Money-No-Object, everything we own would be sparkly and shiny and brand spanking new.

In the same way that we all know nothing smells quite as good as a new car straight out of the showroom, is there anything to match the feeling of being the first person to snap the clasp on a box-fresh luxury watch?

However, just as you can practically see a new car’s value plummet with each tick of the odometer, high-end luxury timepieces also suffer from a predictable, if not quite so dramatic, depreciation once they’ve left the shop floor.

It is rare for cars to retain value.

Just like most typical cars, with a few exceptions, most cars will depreciate. The story is the same with watches.

The discrepancy in cost between brand new and second hand has been driving a huge upsurge in the secondary market for the luxury watch market in the last few years, together with a few other excellent, and much less mercenary, reasons.

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Pre-Owned Versus Brand New

Let’s get the financial benefits out of the way first.

When a watch goes from being ‘new’ to being ‘pre-owned’, it inherently depreciates.

Pre-owned Luxury Watch

There are watches that sell at a higher price than retail. One example is the Daytona ref 116500.

While that’s a bummer for the first owner, it’s good news for the savvy collector, who can let the other guy take that initial financial hit before buying the watch for a fraction of its original price. It means a wider world of more exotic pieces is open to you than would otherwise be possible if you had your heart set on only buying brand new.

Also, unlike cars, which (with a few ultra rare exceptions), drop off a fiscal cliff and just keep dropping, fine watches will generally lose a certain amount of their value and then level off. Buying pre-owned, when the worst of the depreciation has been shouldered by someone else, means there’s much less of a sting if you decide you want to sell your watch on again in the future.

Depending on a number of factors, such as rarity or the desirability of the brand, you could even find you’re selling the piece for more than shelled out on it.

Exclusivity

Another great reason for opting to go the pre-owned route is there’s a much stronger chance of you ending up with a watch that no one else has. Various models drop out of production at different times, and the piece you’ve coveted for years might no longer be available as a brand new buy. The second-hand market then becomes the only place you’re going to find your favourite watch, and the extra effort it takes to track it down, plus the shortage of supply, makes it more unlikely you’ll meet anyone with a matching wrist.

What To Look Out For

As with anything involving high-value items, the soaring popularity of the pre-owned watch market has brought with it a soaring reputation for fakes, scams and various shady carryings-on. Where there’s profit to be made, you can be assured that the less reputable element won’t be far behind.

Just as you wouldn’t (we hope!) buy a car or house without first doing a significant amount of research, it’s vital you approach the process of buying a pre-owned watch cautiously.

With counterfeit pieces being made that are now so convincing even trained watchmakers are having trouble spotting them, you have to be able to trust your vendor implicitly. Watches that come complete with the original box and papers are always preferable, as are those with a documented service history.

Real or fake rolex.

Here are two Rolex Watches. While this is a very obvious example, there are many replicas difficult to identify.

Even if the watch you’ve set your sights on is the genuine item, that doesn’t mean all your potential problems just disappear. When buying a used car, a gleaming paint job has disguised many a lemon and will do nothing to prevent the transmission dropping out the bottom five miles down the road. Similarly, just because your genuine pre-owned timepiece looks great, you don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface, and if you’re buying online, there’s no way to check.

From borrowed, inferior parts to water corrosion on the movement, this is another reason to steer clear of anything that seems too good to be true and stick only to recognised and well-established dealers.

At Bob’s Watches, all of our watches are certified as 100% authentic and serviced only with genuine Rolex parts, with a full refund guarantee.

Wear and Tear

When you’re buying a pre-owned watch, its age and type should tell you a lot about the number of dents and scratches you should expect to find. A 20-year old Submariner, for example, will likely have had a harder life than a 5 year-old Milgauss, and that will be reflected in the wear and tear on the case, as well as in the price. You will have to decide for yourself how many scuffs and scrapes are too many, but always try to take emotion out of it. Any damage you can see on the outside could very easily have been felt on the inside too.

Pre-owned Luxury Watch

Some watches can increase in value over time with highly desireable “defects”.

Careful examination is paramount as is, again, the reputation and reputability of the dealer.

It’s also worth remembering that, compared to a brand new model, older watches will take more looking after and it’s a good idea to have them serviced more frequently than their modern day counterparts.

Summing Up

The advantages of buying a pre-owned luxury watch are pretty clear. An increase in buying power opens the door to options that would have remained otherwise closed, along with the chance of landing yourself a rare gem that you’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Choose carefully, research thoroughly and you can end up with not only a stunning timepiece but a very sound investment as well.

About 

Paul is the company's Founder and CEO. He is responsible for all the day to day activities from purchasing, receiving, marketing and sales. Paul is a graduate of Boston College 1979 and resides in California with his family.

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