How important is a watch dealer?
There's no two ways about it, online shopping has made it easier than ever to buy a luxury vintage watch. As a buyer you’re basically spoiled for choice.
Even so, if you’re looking for an exceptional piece, and - more importantly - if you’re looking for a value for money investment, it’s important to keep a one thing in mind: who's selling you the watch.
Where you buy is as important as what you buy. Before you actually buy the watch, you’re basically opting to ‘buy the seller’ too. Because the internet has opened up the possibility of trading with anyone, the market has its fair share of traders looking to turn a quick dollar. An open market is an attractive one, but the only problem with that market is trust.
In my experience, the buyer seldom knows much about the watch, and too often the seller doesn’t care much about authenticity. It’s a case of the blind leading the blind. These days watches are sold with dials that have been refinished, corrected or replaced, and that means the true condition of the watch remains hidden. It’s like buying a car without knowing what’s under the hood.
Every part of a vintage watch needs to be verified for authenticity, and not everyone can do that. Knowledge is power in this game, and that’s why you need some expertise on your side. A trustworthy dealer will be able to advise you on what to buy, what details are important, and what pitfalls to avoid.
There are thousands of options to choose from online – whether you’re browsing eBay, Craigslist, or any of the more-or-less reputable online buying platforms. With any of these options there’s always that awkward moment when it comes to payment – who goes first? Do you trustingly transfer the money before you lay your hands on that coveted watch, or does the seller trust you enough to ship before receiving the payment?
Then there’s the matter of returning the watch if something is wrong with it (assuming that it actually arrived as intended). Who pays for that? And not least of your worries is the question of fraud. Are you willing to risk a sizeable amount of money when you’re not completely sure of what you’ll be getting, or even who you’re getting it from? Another fact many buyers neglect is that if you return the watch, you will most probably have to pay the duty in the seller’s country.
The advantage of buying from a dealer, especially one that has a brick and mortar shop and a reputation to uphold – is security. If your watch is faulty, you have somewhere to return it, or it can be repaired if necessary. A trusted dealer has reputations to maintain, both with clients and suppliers. And don’t get me wrong, there are trusted Online dealers as well. That works to your advantage.
While some watches on the open market come with a warranty, that’s not usually the case. Brands treat watches bought through the grey market with suspicion, even though they carry the brand name. They’re seen as having questionable provenance sometimes. When it comes to the resale value of your watch, a warranty and provenance are the two most important factors, besides the brand name on the dial and condition.
Before you take the plunge it’s always wise to know what you’re getting into. This is possibly the biggest benefit of speaking to a knowledgeable dealer. He will be able to advise you on all your available options, explain the history and features of a vintage piece, and most importantly, he is a reliable source.
Some dealers will even offer to buy back a watch from you when it’s time to upgrade your collection. That was the case with the very first vintage watch I bought, though I admit, so far I haven’t got to the point where I’m willing to let it go.