20 Tips For Buying & Selling Watches Privately. The Do’s and Don’ts.

The new and pre-owned watch world has never been hotter than it is right now. With so many cool watches out there, it is hard to resist the temptation of buying new watches. There are so many buying and selling options, online, bricks and mortar, working with dealers, high street stores or private individuals. There is plenty to choose from.

The desire to save a few quid on a watch is pretty tempting – especially with eBay and Chrono24 both offering excellent marketplaces to buy from private individuals. But no matter where or how you choose to buy your watch, there is one common denominator that links them all together. Whether buying or selling, we all want to stay safe, buy with confidence, have peace of mind and stay protected.

Many of the RISKS of buying or selling luxury watches are removed when buying from professionals or, at least they should be. But how do you reduce the risks when buying from individuals when there are scammers and fraudsters, and counterfitters out there?

I’ll tell you.

If you want to protect yourself as much as possible when buying and selling watches directly to private individuals, you need to follow these tips. If you want to find great watch deals, cutting out the middle-man can save a few ‘margins’ and save you some money.

With private sales between members of the community it does open up the opportunity to find the best deals. However you have to get good at dealing with people who are private collectors and private individuals. I know it can seem a little intimidating, especially when starting out but my goal here is to help make this process as safe as possible for you.

It’s worth mentioning that buying watches from the likes of Chrono24 and eBay both do an excellent job of managing this process and help bring protection and peace of mind into the process for the buyer by acting as an industry Big Brother.

When you BUY through Chrono24, they will hold the money you paid in escrow and not pay the seller for several days. This gives you time to check and inspect everything is OK with the watch and be sure you are totally happy before they release the funds to the seller.
This after-purchase breathing space can be very valuable when buying a new watch.

eBay offer their “Authenticity Guarantee” where their version of big brother, is the introduction of a process where the luxury watch seller, if the watch is over £2,000, will send the watch to eBays authenticity centre. They will check and inspect all aspects of the watch before sending it on to the buyer. This offers excellent peace of mind for the buyer and helps deter scammers from selling watches on the platform who are hoping to catch out unsuspecting victims.

These are excellent solutions, from excellent companies, attempting to bring safety and peace of mind to buyers.

However, there are some watch buyers, collectors and enthusiasts who just want to deal with private sellers directly.

Based on my 20 plus years buying & selling watches, and as a professional since 2017, here are my tips on how to best protect yourself when doing a private deal. It’s important to know that these tips I am offering are not conclusive and will not guarantee a successful outcome.
However I am hoping to put the odds in your favour by getting you aware of the risks and helping you avoid some of the possible pitfalls by sniffing out the rats.

You still need to be streetwise, act smart and be on your A-game. You may do all of this and still not get the result you need.

  1. Research the person you are dealing with.

Engage with the buyer or seller. Ask for their full name and what they do for work.
Hop online, Google the person’s name, and based on the information they have given you about themselves you can do a little background check on the person. Your aim is to determine if this person is who they say they are.

This day and age of social media, personal branding and discoverability, it shouldn’t be hard to check that the info aligns with who they say they are. Whether you’re buying off someone who’s posted on a watch forum, eBay or Chrono24 or you just found someone on Instagram or Facebook, there’s ways to connect with people that should bring you comfort.

Ask what they do for a living. Google the person’s name and town and see what pops up.
Often, with luxury watches, you will be dealing with professional people so perhaps they are on Linkedin, or have their own website. Ask for their work email. Better than their gmail or hotmail email. The more discoverable a person is and the easier they are to find, the better.

Who are they? What do they do for a living? Is there plenty of information on this person…? Or hardly any. If you are dealing with large sums of money, you want to ideally know EXACTLY who you are dealing with. If you can’t find much about them, ask them if there is a way that you can verify them online somehow.

Tell them that “It’s always nice to connect in advance so both parties can feel comfortable”.
There is an age old saying in life – not just for watches – You “BUY THE SELLER”. In terms of this blog, you also “BUY THE BUYER”.

If the buyer or seller is decent and genuine, you are halfway there. Otherwise, you are doomed from the start.

2. Try to speak with them

Finding information on the person online is Part 1 of the discovery process. Part 2 is speaking with them directly. Ask them for a video call. Zoom, FaceTime or Whatsapp.
The aim here is so that you can use your judgment on the person and build up a bit of a character reference on them. Can you get a perception of their reputation?

You are looking for people that are genuine, honest, dependable, professional, trustworthy. People that work efficiently and effectively, with integrity and are proud of their reputation.
Fraudsters will probably try to avoid this. Not all – but some. If someone tries to swerve a video call and squirms away from it, then they probably have something to hide and that is a scumbag alert and a big red flag. Genuine buyers and sellers should not mind.

How hard is it to get them on a call? How do you feel when you speak to them? Relaxed? Positive? At ease? Or are alarm bells ringing for some reason. Do you feel uneasy? Is something not right?

We are all equipped with this wonderful sixth sense to smell a rat, so be mindful of your feelings and listen to your instincts. If alarm bells ring loudly at this point and something just doesn’t feel right, politely say you have changed your mind and start looking for another option.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER OPTION. But whatever you do – don’t set yourself up for failure from the start.

20 Tips For Buying & Selling Watches Privately. The Do's and Don'ts. Prestige Watches

3. Ask to see the watch live on the video call.

Here your goal is at least to know that they really do have watch they are advertising. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that try to sell watches that they don’t have and then when they have a sale – quickly try to source the watch at a price lower than what they are selling it for. Of course you want to be sure the person actually has the watch in their possession.

4. Get a simple agreement signed.

As a private buyer and professional, when I am buying a watch from a private individual, I want to be sure:
They are the lawful and rightful owner of the watch
They came into possession of the watch through lawful and ethical means
They have the unquestionable rights to sell the watch.
The watch is genuine

So I ask them to sign a simple one page agreement. Anyone with something to hide will squirm and try to avoid this. A genuine person shouldn’t have too much of an issue with it.

5. Ask them for photo ID and Proof of address (utility bill).

In our quest to sniff out rats and get them squirming and running away in situations they are not comfortable with, ask them for photo ID and Proof of address. Ideally by a utility bill, gas, electric, broadband or telephone landline. We are trying to secure things with this action so that if something goes pear shaped, we know how and where to go to try and resolve the issue. Dirtbags will probably try to avoid this. If someone tries to swerve this step or squirms away from it, then they probably have something to hide and it’s a big red flag.

Genuine buyers and sellers should not mind. Advise them it is a part of your standard security checks and that you do this with all transactions and it is for everyone’s peace of mind.
HOWEVER – in this step you need to be prepared to respond in kind. They may ask the same of you in return and if they do, you have to be willing to cooperate.

I have done this many MANY times before and it is always a good part of the process.

6. Sending and Receiving Payment.

We want to be sure you get paid successfully when selling, and pay the seller safely when buying. When you are the seller, make sure you only accept bank transfers, also known as a “wire”. Personally – I don’t deal in cash. I don’t like dealing in cash because I don’t like the added hassles and risks it brings. Counting it. Checking it is real. Carrying it. Depositing it.

I personally like nice, simple, clean and efficient transactions. Having cash doesn’t work too well for me. When dealing directly with a private individual, NO Credit cards and NO PayPal. Both are risky.

It’s easier for people to scam and pull creative fast ones. Like saying the watch they paid for was never received. Or say something’s wrong with it and calling their credit card company to complain about the product or service and request a chargeback. It’s just not worth the risk in my opinion.

Part of the reason for the background checks on the person, especially when buying, is because if you are going to wire pay someone, before you get the watch in hand, you really want to make sure that their reputation is worth more than the value of the watch.

What I mean by this, is that a professional person will not want their reputation to be tainted because of a simple watch trade. If they have worked hard to build up a good reputation, then they will work hard to protect it and wont want it tainted in any way. An honest person will want to protect their reputation over a fast buck. If things go pear shaped and could cost them multiple bad reviews that can be seen in the public domain.

If you are buying – then PayPal is very safe for buyers because you will have two layers of protection. One from PayPal and the second from the credit card company you are using.
Credit card payments are also a great way to stay safe as your credit card provider offers buyer’s security when shopping. Many people are not aware but the protection that is offered by your card provider is actually quite solid and will be able to keep you protected if anything goes wrong.
If you are paying Cash or Wire, there is no chance of getting money after the transaction is over. That’s why it’s so essential to deal with trustworthy sellers with a solid reputation.

20 Tips For Buying & Selling Watches Privately. The Do's and Don'ts. Prestige Watches

7. Have a watch specialist on standby to check the watch.

If you are unsure about the watch you are buying or the seller, then have a trusted watchmaker or independent dealer on standby on the day of the purchase so you can visit them when you get the watch. Ideally you will do the deal at the place of the expert so they can check the watch before processing payment.

When buying the watch, If you can get sight of as much of the purchase paperwork as possible, so hopefully you can see it was purchased from an AD or reputable industry professional, this is a good first step.

Paperwork of course can be easily forged. But what we are doing here is reducing risk.
So once you have purchased the watch, if you have any doubts about its authenticity, send it over to them and check that it’s authentic so you can make informed decisions immediately after the purchase.

The last thing you want is to go to sell the watch several years down the line and find out you have have been wearing a fake all this time. Take photos and videos to send them so you have physical evidence rather than just your word. You can also see if it needs any service by having the Pro check the movement and maybe time graph the watch and check its water resistance. Again – we are building peace of mind here.

8. Document what’s going on.

Make sure you document important matters with photo and video evidence.
Whether buying or selling, it doesn’t do any harm to take 5 minutes to photo and video the watch before shipping – if selling. And on receipt – if buying.

Take videos showing the watch in good working order if selling. Show it’s keeping time (I send a little video on a timegrapher). Show the condition. Show the serial number if you can. Show it matches the books. And even if this is just for your own personal use, file the videos away in Dropbox so you have them as proof if needed if anyone tries to pull a fast on you.

You want to avoid a ‘your word against theirs’ situation. Having photo and video evidence helps mitigate against that.

9. Insure your deliveries.

Whilst most couriers and national delivery companies like Royal Mail and USPS offer a basic standard ‘lost package’ insurance to cover lost packages, I sleep well at night knowing I have a third party independent backup. I’ve shipped a vast amount of packages around the world up to now with no issues so far, but having the cover is a wise thing to do.

I personally favour DHL with backup cover from a company called Secursus (NOT AFFILIATED or sponsored). Others prefer Fedex or UPS or Royal Mail, but I have found my pairing of DHL and Secursus to be a winning formula for me.

Be sure to follow their shipping rules in terms of documentation and boxing / protecting the watch in the shipping boxes. It’s worth it because if this package gets lost if something happens, you get paid out the full amount. Couriers only cover up to a limited amount £3,000-£5,000. If you are shipping a watch that is £7000 or £20,000, you are exposed.

If it’s a really high value watch, I will normally hand deliver it or arrange a special private courier. You could also potentially send the package to the recipient’s local courier depot location (DHL or Fedex or UPS) for the buyer to collect as a way to eliminate risk of the receiver saying “it never turned up”.

Always choose express / priority delivery. The less chances for the package to get misplaced, sent to a wrong depot or being routed via 3 different depos and taking much longer to arrive. It’s worth it for the small extra cost. Lower the risk where it is in your control.

10. Stay safe if meeting in person to exchange.

If you are buying, more of the risk is on them as they have the watch. When I say this I assume you are not paying cash, because if you have cash then the risk is shared and you are also exposed. If you are selling and no cash is involved, then the risk is with you as you have the watch and this could potentially be taken in a calculated robbery. We want to put the odds in our favour as much as we can to ensure safety.

One of the beautiful things about watch buying and selling is that you can pretty much execute the entire business process online nowadays without needing to meet, pick up, drop off.
However, if you do want to or need to meet a buyer or seller in person, to collect or pay or drop off, think ahead and be savvy with the process. Think smart and be streetwise.

If you are buying and you want to see the watch in person, or, if someone is quite local to you and you want to meet them and get a deal done, then you control the meeting place. Arrange to meet in a predetermined public place, ideally where there is access to public cameras.

Meet in a shopping centre, a nice hotel or a central coffee shop. Perhaps even in your high street bank or local police station. Not a park or a car park. You want the comfort of people and cameras around you.

If, for whatever reason you feel uncomfortable just ahead of the meeting, trust your gut instinct. Don’t be lured or tricked into something you are not fully comfortable with.

If meeting in a coffee shop or hotel, you could ask a friend to be inconspicuously sitting at the next table having a coffee – just to keep an eye on you.

20 Tips For Buying & Selling Watches Privately. The Do's and Don'ts. Prestige Watches

11. Be mindful of payment limits of phone App payments.

You want to avoid long, drawn out, unexpected waiting times to send or receive funds.
Here in the UK sometimes Bank apps limit daily payments to £5,000, £10,000 or £25,000 max per day. Everyone is different here. It’s not one rule for everyone.

Even online, via a PC and telephone banking have limits. They are usually higher than the phone app but a limit nevertheless that you need to be mindful of. I have gone with buyers to a high street bank before, so they can do higher value exchanges in the bank in person.

I’ve had people buying a watch and paying from different accounts his/hers and paying over different cards. All because the bank wouldn’t let them pay the total amount and it wasn’t even a high value watch. I have experienced awkward and uncomfortable waits for many hours before both on my side and their side to send and receive funds.

12. Be mindful of banking security checks.

Even if everything about the deal is genuine and above board, and the buying and selling is all going through with good intentions, sometimes banks can slow down or even prevent the transactions from going through. This could be because of security issues being flagged on either side. The person sending the money and even sometimes on the end of the person receiving the money. I would suggest calling the bank and letting them know that a large payment is being paid out, or being received. Advise them of the day and time it is happening for the purchase/sale of a watch and the transaction is genuine and with consent of both parties.

I have had uncomfortable “hours” before where either on my part or their part, payments have been made but not received because of delays on either side. It can be a bit awkward finger drumming the desk, refreshing apps or online pages and calling and waiting. Just be aware that this can sometimes happen. Whilst we want and expect things to be instant – it isn’t always.

12. Remind sellers to bring all the extras that come with the watch.

It can be easy for a seller to forget to bring parts of the watch.
Here is a handy checklist (not applicable to all watches but to many).

  • Watch (of course)
  • Inner box
  • Outer box (this is often forgotten)
  • Papers / warranty / guarantee
  • Booklets that accompany the watch
  • Purchase receipt
  • Swing Tags / Hang Tags
  • Any other accessories (some box sets come with eye glass, screw driver or cleaning cloths)

You want to be sure you receive it all so be proactive here. Ask and check.

14. Ask questions about the watch.

Ask specific questions about the watch you are planning to purchase. * The only exception is if the store is an Authorised Dealer.
The questions you should ask:
1. When was the watch last serviced?                                 

2. Who was it serviced by? Any service paper work?

3. What wrist size will the bracelet fit – check it fits your wrist (know the size of your wrist)

4. Are all spare links included?

5. Has the watch been polished?
6. Does the watch come with a warranty?
7. Any visible defects?

You will minimise the potential misinformation about the watch by asking these questions. Also, if there is some imperfection, ask for more close up pictures, even videos to understand the true condition. It’s better to ask too much than too little in order to avoid disappointment and to make sure your expectations are met when you open the box. Ask if there can be a return policy. When dealing with a private individual this is unlikely and things are normally “sold as seen” with “no returns”. But it’s worth asking.

20 Tips For Buying & Selling Watches Privately. The Do's and Don'ts. Prestige Watches

15. Switching.
Sorry to have to mention this but you need to be aware of it. It’s a real thing and you need to be vigilant, alert and on your A game. You need to be aware of things being swapped for things that you are not expecting.

Fake cash for real cash if dealing in cash – but – please don’t. Also the genuine watch you have inspected at some point being switched for a copy watch, – that on the surface looks the same, but it is a horrible HORRIBLE fake.

Sadly, this is something you need to keep an eye out for and is a process normally carried out by professionals.

16. If they arrive at your office by car – take the number plate of the car they arrived in.

This is just a small note but is really worth doing. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. It can help you track or locate the person down if things go sideways.

17. Get a video of the watch’s serial number.

If buying, ask the seller to send you a video stating the date they are sending it, of the serial number of the watch, aligning with the serial number on the paperwork. This needs to be a match.

18. Check it hasn’t been reported lost/stolen.

Once you have the serial number, pay to check the watch has not been reported lost or stolen with The Watch Register. You can do this as an individual and you can do one off checks.

19. Get paperwork confirming evidence of the transaction.

If you are buying, make sure you get a physical and digital receipt for the purchase. You want proof of payment and as you are dealing with an individual, there won’t be a system generated invoice or card receipt. Worst case, these could be an email from the person confirming you have received payment in full and confirming the amount.

If you are selling, be sure the person signs a delivery note. Now don’t laugh but get a picture of the person with the watch. This is good evidence to have.

20. If you are unsure or lack confidence to deal with private individuals, buy from a trusted seller.

Personally I think the best way to buy safely and avoid all risk is to deal with very well known, highly reputable professionals with plenty of feedback and registered company details.
Unless you have experience with buying, with people and with watches, I don’t think it’s worth the gamble and the ‘roll of the dice’ for the sake of a small cash saving.

But hey, I would say that as I am a professional in the industry! Or at the very least, enjoy the peace of mind offered by eBay and Chrono24.

If you have any tips you can add, please drop me an email at marcelo@prestige-watches.co.uk. I’d love to hear from you.