Luxury watches are expensive by nature. They are, after all, aspirational objects that are not only crafted from fine materials to exacting standards but they are also a way to signify personal success and taste. However, that certainly does not mean that you should overpay for a luxury watch. There are plenty of ways to save money when purchasing fine timepieces—if you know how.The published price of a watch for sale is just the start of the story; the final bill can quickly escalate depending on what type of seller you are dealing with and what kind of hidden fees are piled on.
At Heritage Watch Dealers, we are driven to “Find the best watch, at the best price…every time” and we have spent years guiding clients towards the best deals. As professional private dealers, we have intimate knowledge about how watches are priced and what kind of expensive pitfalls consumers can fall into when trying to buy high-end timepieces. As such, we’ve put together a handy guide of things to be aware of so you’ll never overpay for a luxury watch again.
Factors That Impact The Price of A Luxury Watch
When shopping for a watch, especially a pre-owned luxury watch, there is a multitude of factors—some more obvious than others—that will influence the final price. For instance, the brand and model of the watch undoubtedly impact its value; however, there are more details to consider such as fashionable colorways, desirable reference numbers, and if the piece is a limited edition or not.
When a watch was produced is also important to its price. Generally speaking, watches that are over 30 years old are categorized as vintage, which can come at a premium depending on the brand. For example, many vintage Rolex watches are highly sought after and can cost dearly. On the other end of the spectrum, sold-out current watches, such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, come with hefty price tags in the secondary market.
One of the most significant issues that will determine a watch’s value is its condition. Yet, this is not as clear-cut as it sounds. Collectors prefer watches that are as near to original as possible, without any replacement parts like newer crystals and dials or updated components like hands and hour markers painted with newer luminous material.
While a polished and refurbished watch may look fresher at first glance, originality will always be valued more. Tying into the condition of the watch is the availability of the original box and paperwork (like warranty cards or service records) to complete the set. Complete sets are desirable and can therefore increase the price of the watch.
The location of where the watch is bought or sold can also affect its final price. When buying internationally rather than domestically, issues such as currency exchange rates, money transfer fees, customs duty, shipping costs, and international insurance will all increase the final cost. Shipping and insurance costs are also relevant to domestic purchases and it’s worth finding out if the seller or the buyer, will be paying for these expenses.
Types of Sellers And How That Influences Prices
The price of your watch will vary significantly depending on the type of seller you buy from. Online resellers like Bob’s Watches and Crown & Caliber typically have high overhead, therefore cannot offer substantial discounts.
Private parties selling on platforms like eBay and Chrono24 have to incur high transaction fees, which they of course add to the price of the watch. While private sellers on Craigslist do not have to pay a listing fee, the likelihood of a buyer being scammed with a counterfeit watch is high—which is ultimately very expensive.
Authorized dealers (ADs) are obliged to follow the pricing structure of the brand they are selling. Moreover, it is not uncommon for top-tier timepiece brands to prohibit ADs from offering any type of discounts whatsoever. Not only is buying from an AD one of the most expensive ways to procure a watch, but most watches also depreciate immediately and substantially the minute they leave the boutique. Plus, it’s becoming common practice for ADs to only give access to highly popular watch models to clients that are willing to spend thousands of dollars on jewelry or other timepieces in the store—talk about overpaying for a watch!
Professional private dealers, such as Heritage Watch Dealers, have an appealing combination of access to the best deals in the dealer-to-dealer wholesale market and low overhead. Therefore, private dealers can pass on those significant savings to their customers. The lifeblood of a private dealer’s business is clientele trust, and pricing transparency is key to building that relationship.
Where To Research Luxury Watch Prices
To get a general idea of the current market value of a specific watch, most people’s first instinct is to research sites like eBay, StockX, Chrono24, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and so on to see how much similar watches are listed for.
However, it’s important to recognize that these prices do not give the full picture of the final cost. When you factor in other fees (shipping, handling, taxes, fees, etc.), the price can skyrocket. Conversely, it’s also crucial to see what watches actually sold for rather than just what they’re listed at. For instance, on eBay, you can filter results to only display “sold items” and on StockX you can filter results to show “average sale price.”
Alternatively, for a clear picture of the price of the watch you want to buy, you can fill out our “Watch Finder Webform” and we’ll get back to you with the price and payment terms.
How To Assess Watch Condition Before Buying
The quickest way to overpay for a watch is to buy one in worse condition than what you paid for. That is why it is vital to assess the condition of a watch before pulling the trigger on the purchase. Request pictures of the watch from all angles, ensuring the seller supplies clear high-resolution images of the case, caseback, bezel, dial, crystal, bracelet, and clasp. Compare these pictures to other online images of the watch model you want to ensure everything lines up and nothing seems off.
It’s also a good idea to ask for videos of the watch including footage of any complications (like a chronograph or dual time zone) in operation, as well as having the timepiece display the current time and date (to ensure that the seller has the watch in hand). Another method is to request timegrapher results to verify if the movement meets COSC standards.
Transaction Fees and Payment Costs
Depending on the platform, websites charge a variety of fees for trading watches. These charges can vary substantially depending on the website. Naturally, sellers will add these costs to the price of the watch, essentially becoming a “hidden fee” for the buyer. Some examples of these fees include:
- eBay: insertion fee + final value fee (9.15%)
- StockX: payment processing fee (3%) + transaction fee (9.9%)
- Chrono24: 6.5 commission fee for the seller + 7.5% surcharge for the buyer
Finally, how you will pay for your watch can increase the final price too. Paying cash may save you on charges but the lack of security may cost you dearly in the long run if you’re not happy with the watch. PayPal charges 3% for money transfers while credit card processing fees can run as high as 3.5%. Wire transfers are the least expensive method, with banks typically charging around $25 - $30 for domestic transactions.
From the watch itself to seller type to extra charges, there are so many variables in the watch buying process that can ultimately lead you to overpay for your desired timepiece. The best way to avoid this is to depend on professionals like Heritage Watch Dealers who operate with full transparency so you understand upfront what exactly you’re paying for.