If you’re reading this you’re probably a watch enthusiast or collector, who loves watches and probably likes to buy and sell watches from time to time. In this blog I’m going to share some pro tips for when selling your watch yourself. Some Do’s and Don’ts. I want to share tips to help you sell your watch efficiently and help maximize your potential profits while also selling it as fast as possible.
A watch will sell well, when the crossover between the price of the watch and interest around the watch is right. Or put differently, if a watch is priced too high, it is unlikely to sell, unless interest is very high. If the watch isn’t that interesting, the price will need to be low. You need to get the balance right and having good awareness of what’s going on in the market is important here.
STEP 1 – Collate everything you have together.
You will need all the parts later for the price assessment, description header, write up and photographs.
- Papers – or cards
- Bits and Bobs – hang tags. Booklets.
- Everything that came with the watch. The more the better.
I meet many people who are selling a “watch only” and when I ask about the box and papers, they either lost it or THREW IT AWAY. Wait! What! If you have it, include it all in the sale. If you only have the watch well, it is what it is. I’ll come back to this later.
STEP 2 – Find Out Your Watch’s Model, Serial and other important ID Numbers.
The most basic information you will need for selling your watch is its make and model.
For example Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Patek Philippe Calatrava, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Cartier Santos, Breitling Navitimer and so on. But there are other important identification numbers that you should be aware of too. The most important is the watch’s model or reference number.
You may be selling a Rolex Submariner but there have been dozens of different editions produced over the last six decades, so it is vital to know what your watch’s specific model/reference number is to help pinpoint the exact model. Potential buyers will need to know this as it will narrow down the watch’s production years, the movement used, the size and lots of other important information.
Another useful number to know is the watch’s serial number, which is unique to the watch itself. This can be found on the paperwork of the watch and also on the watch itself. You may need to do an online search to see where to find the serial number of the watch. If you have the papers or card with the watch, then the date of the watch should be on there. The Serial number can help you estimate when the watch was produced by cross-referencing it with production/serial code charts available online. Some brands offer official databases while other databases are compiled by watch enthusiasts.
STEP 3 – Establish How Much is Your Watch Worth?
Researching your specific watch can help you figure out what to expect to sell your watch for and what the current going rate is. Look for sale listings of similar watch models online on eBay and Chrono24 which can give you a rough estimate of your watch’s current market value. However, remember that no two pre-owned luxury watches are identical in terms of condition, service history, contents and provenance. All these factors can impact the final sale price.
Also listed prices are going to be higher than what you ultimately get paid for your watch. Just because someone is asking for £10,000 for their watch, it doesn’t mean that is what they will get. There are deductions such as platform fees and shipping costs to take into consideration.
So even if you see a similar used Rolex Submariner selling for £10,000, it is highly unlikely that you will pocket the full £10,000 for selling yours.
STEP 4 – Do not fall victim to the endowment effect.
This is a phenomenon where people place more value on things merely because they own them. Your watch is ultimately worth what someone is willing to pay for it regardless of how special it is to you.
STEP 5 – Understand how condition, repairs and aftermarket components can impact your watch’s sale price.
Aside from the specific brand and model of your watch, the other main factor that will determine the value of your watch is its condition.
- Is the watch in good working order?
- Is it in nice condition?
- Does it have any visible damage to the case and bracelet?
- Are there scratches on the crystal or bezel?
- Is the leather band torn and tatty or has the metal bracelet stretched and scratched?
- Is the movement still winding and running according to spec?
- Are all the complications working, the date, the GMT, the chronograph, the moonphase and the perpetual calendar?
- Is it waterproof to the original manufacture spec. Do you know this for sure? Has it been recently pressure tested..?
These are all important considerations to understand before selling your watch. I strongly recommend you to always be honest about the condition of your watch to any potential buyers. It’s no use to try and hide any imperfections because they will eventually be seen.
You don’t want an unhappy buyer. Manage their expectations professionally. If there are scuffs and scrapes and dings or dents, show them. If the watch isn’t suitable to a buyer because of its condition, then it is what it is. However if you try to hide it, the buyer will be annoyed and may want to send the watch back or ask for a refund. This adds work for everyone. Extra admin, extra cost, extra lost time and more than anything, annoyance and frustration. This is all massively intensified if sending your watch overseas too.
If selling through a platform like eBay or Chrono24 this will get in the way of you getting paid.
Worst case, if you think a potential buyer is interested but is grumbling over the condition, you could offer the potential buyer to have the watch polished. At their expense or your own.
STEP 6 – Review competing watches
Explore the market to see what watches you are competing against. Look at like-for-like watches, that are in your country and a similar year. See what the lowest/highests prices are. Ideally your watch would be pitched somewhere towards the lower end of the price scale. After all, why would someone buy a watch at a higher price when it is available like for like at a cheaper price?
STEP 7 – Price the watch expecting to be knocked down a bit.
Buyers love getting a deal. It’s human nature. Sometimes if you’re lucky, people just buy a watch instantly. No questions. God bless these types of buyers. Most of the time people negotiate and hustle a bit. Sometimes people low ball. Just expect to offer a goodwill discount.
STEP 8 – Manage your own selling expectations.
What’s more important to you, selling your watch fast? Or making more money? Often you can’t have both. In most scenarios you will need to choose one or the other. If you want to sell fast, you will need to make sure your watch is very competitively priced if there are other competing watches. If you want to max-up on your potential earnings, be patient and be prepared to wait.
STEP 9 – Clean the watch before photographing.
When selling a watch, presentation counts for a lot. Make the watch look nice, presentable and wrist ready. Clean it. A nice clean looking watch, that is shiny and sparkly and looking wrist ready, is likely to sell better than a competing watch that is grimy, grubby and dirty. For stainless steel and precious-metals watches that are water resistant, clean the watch using warm water with a drop of washing up liquid and a soft toothbrush then wipe it down with a soft jewellery microfibre cloth.
STEP 10 – Be sure to take clear and detailed photos.
Presentation is everything. So be sure to take clear and detailed pictures of the used watch you want to sell. Having nice pictures will make people want to check out YOUR watch, potentially in a sea of competing watches. Buyers want to see as many details as possible to determine the authenticity and condition of a watch before purchasing it. You will need pictures of all angles of the watch. The front, back, sides, the lugs, the winding crown, bracelet and buckle and clasp. The outside and inside of the watch.
If there are any numbers engraved on your watch, take pictures of that too but make sure to blur out most of the serial number for security. Take pictures of the packaging, documents and extras all together so the buyer can see exactly what is included. Again concealing the serial number for security reasons.
Make sure the pictures are well-lit, clear and high resolution. You want your watch to look good in the photographs to help entice potential buyers. Watch a few YouTube videos on product photography to get more tips here. You don’t need an expensive camera, a modern smartphone will do however you need to think creatively about it.
STEP 11 – Try to make your watch look cool in the pictures.
Use good photography hacks and lifestyle settings. Good lighting is everything. Watch YouTube tutorials on how to take good product photos. As I mentioned earlier, having attractive pictures will help encourage people to click on your listing. I like to include shots of the watch in the hand or on the wrist as well. Maybe a pocket shot. Instagram is full of cool, inspirational photos and ideas. You don’t need to be a content creator or a pro photographer. Just potentially borrow some inspiration and try to replicate it.
STEP 12 – Write a short and concise title description.
This is the short line of text that will appear as the headline. It should include the short form details of the watch. Mention the brand, the model, the reference, the year and any extras such as the size. Include maybe one bonus point about the watch perhaps “excellent condition” or “just serviced” or “rare/collectable”.
Short and sharp information but enough info to make the potential buyer want to click on the watch and read more. For example:
Rolex, Submariner. Date. Ref 126610LN. 2021. 41mm. With Box. MINT.
STEP 13 – Write a useful and salesy write up. Tell a bit of a story.
Whilst you are hopefully selling a watch that someone else will want and is in demand, it won’t harm to remind people what’s cool about your watch. This is where you can expand the write up.
You may need to motivate people a little and inspire them to make the purchase. Write about any interesting facts that may persuade someone to hit the buy button. Why should they buy it? What is great about your watch? What is there to love about it?
There is a saying I love – ‘the more you tell, the more you sell’. Feel free to get a little personal here. Tell people why you personally love the watch. What compelled you to buy it in the first place?
What physical features do you like and was there a fascinating story behind the watch..? Try to get your watch to resonate with the potential buyer through its story. It will help increase the watches “significance” as the story may resonate with the buyer.
I personally like to know why someone is selling their watch. If you feel someone is selling a watch because it is a naff watch – that of course will not compel someone else to buy it! Conversely, if you mention that despite you loving the watch, and will miss it terribly, you are selling because you:
- need the money…
- are thinning your collection down…
- are saving for a grail watch…
- have just moved house and need the cash…
It adds a little personal touch. Still keep things short and concise though. No waffles or hot air.
Try to break your writeup into bullet point style writing. It makes things flow better and makes it easier to read.
STEP 14 – To service or not to service?
Consider servicing the watch before selling it. If you are selling to an end buyer, most people will like the peace of mind knowing that a watch has just been serviced. So spending a few hundred pounds in advance is a small investment into your watch because that few hundred pounds may return several hundred pounds of increased selling price. Maybe even more.
This has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. It can be very expensive to service a higher luxury watch, particularly vintage watches or watches with complications so bear that in mind too. It can be hard to determine if you will get that money back when selling your watch. Some buyers, usually hard core collectors, prefer that you do not service the watch first so they can have it serviced themselves. Compare the value difference with the cost of repairs to see if it is worth it sending the watch in for a service before selling it.
STEP 15 – Be aware of the price difference between a naked watch and a fully packaged watch.
There are three levels here.
1. Watch only
2. Watch with box and papers
3. Full set. Watch with box and papers and all extras and accessories – hand tags, booklets, inner and outer box. Ideally even the original purchase receipt.
Buyers love full sets. A naked watch, which is a watch sold on its own, is not as appealing to buyers as a watch that’s a full set or comes with just a box and papers. You will be surprised at the price difference between a naked watch and a full set. The older and more collectible the watch, the more value is placed on the full set.
You can buy boxes and accessories online, however make sure you know what you are doing. Avoid fakes or incorrect boxes. If sourcing parts separately, it’s best to disclose this in your listing to cover yourself. If you are selling just a watch you will have to work a little harder to make the watch look interesting in your photos with nice style shots.
STEP 16 – Be mindful of tatty leather.
Be aware of the condition of your leather strap. No one will want a watch with a tatty, stinky, dirty, worn leather strap. Consider replacing the leather straps and buying a suitable replacement strap to make the watch look more desirable and appealing to a buyer.
Even if it’s a non-branded strap and not an OEM one, it will enhance the look of the watch.
Just be sure to mention in your listing that it is an aftermarket strap and not a genuine brand one. Don’t buy a copy or fake strap. It’s not worth it despite the temptation of the cheap price.
Either buy a nice, quality, leather strap and mention it in the listing. Or source a genuine brand one. But be warned these can set you back quite a bit.
STEP 17 – Where should you sell your watch online?
Right now I am really liking what eBay is doing at the moment. Their Authenticity Guarantee is a really cool, world class feature that is out to protect both buyers and sellers. This part of their service doesn’t cost the buyer or seller a penny. Their selling features are excellent and they are really working hard to position themselves as the go-to place to buy and sell luxury watches with good protection, good features and competitive pricing. Chrono24 is another obvious place. You can also try selling on social media. At watch events. Forums. Online groups or down the pub.
Offline Options To Sell Your Watch
Going to brick-and-mortar establishments were traditionally the only option people had to sell their used watches. These included places like pawn shops, vintage consignment stores, jewellers and auction houses. These days, you can still sell your watches to companies like these but they may not give you the best deal for your watch. If you insist on dealing with a person face-to-face, I would suggest calling them up first (or contacting them via their website if they have one) to find out how much they would be willing to pay for your watch before physically going there. But a word of caution, it is not uncommon to get an inflated price over the phone only to get a much lower offer when you show up with the watch in hand.
Another “offline” option is to sell directly to a private buyer in person, but will normally have an online conduit in the middle. This has its own set of challenges including safety and trust with minimal personal protection should the transaction go south.
What is the difference between selling, consigning, auctioning and trading in?
Before deciding on where to sell your watch, figure out if selling, consigning, auctioning or trading in is the better option for you. Some watch companies offer just one of these methods while others offer all of the above.
- Selling your watch outright will get you paid the fastest but the payout is usually the lowest.
- Consigning a watch is where the watch company will list it for you and only take a commission fee once it sells. This will normally get you more money but it can take much longer.
- You can also auction your watch but it can be risky as there is no way to determine the final sale price – plus there’s also a commission to pay.
- Trading in your watch will usually get you a reasonable price but there is no money on the table here, just credit towards the other timepiece you want to purchase.
STEP 18 – Be aware of hidden fees.
Before deciding on how and where to sell your watch, be aware of any fees, commissions or additional surcharges. Don’t forget you are responsible for shipping and insurance costs, unless of course the watch is collected in person. Check to see if there are any applicable taxes or customs too. These costs will all have a direct impact on your final take-home amount; so it is important to find out what they are to make fair comparisons.
STEP 19 – Shipping your watch.
Selling the watch is one challenge. Getting it delivered is the next challenge.
This is a big subject so I have a dedicated blog on shipping watches. It’s a long one but it is a critical part of the journey in ‘selling watches yourself’.
The main points here are:
- Is it a domestic buyer from a person in your country and so a domestic delivery?
- Or an overseas, international buyer with international shipping?
Domestic is quite straightforward, UK to UK for example. International shipping can be quite tricky. There is a lot that you need to get right.
Package up you watch securely. Use more protection that you feel is actually necessary. Take pics and videos of your watch before sending it out for evidence. Don’t cut corners on shipping options. Use the premium/express one. The extra cost is worth it. Don’t go economy. Go express or priority. Always select the tracking and signed for feature.
Use a reputable courier. Your local postal service will have an option scale to choose from. Choose the best possible one. We have Royal Mail. The US has USPS. I personally always use a courier. I like DHL but others will prefer Fedex or UPS.
Find out what insurance amount they will cover up to then take a backup insurance with Secursus for extra peace of mind. Trust me, it is worth it.
STEP 20 – Return policies
Once the watch has been shipped and the buyer sees it “in the metal”, what if they are not happy with it? The condition. The size. The weight. The fit.
What is your return policy? Do you accept returns? Or not? Who is responsible for paying for the return shipping/insurance to get your watch back?
Learn about where you stand here. Some middle-man marketplace platforms will enforce their way of working upon you. Do some further reading to see where you stand in this respect. If your potential buyer is coming across a little tricky, try to narrow down the risk of a return. Ask – “what might make you not happy when you get the watch” and see what they say…
If condition is important, send more pictures and have a video call. If “size, fit, feel or weight might be an issue” then perhaps tell them to try one on at a local jewellers before they buy from you. Ideally, you want to avoid returns as it can make matters complicated. So work professionally to try and prevent it.
Do you have any tips you can add? Please drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you.