Edward Howkins, Nov 6 2020

The Watch Collectors Club Guide to Buying A Watch Online

The Watch Collectors Club Guide to Buying A Watch Online

This is an introductory Guide to buying a watch online. While the process is often confusing, hopefully these tips should help you buy with confidence, whatever kind of watch you are buying, or channel you have chosen. There are six sections:

  1. Buying from an Official Watch Retailer
  2. Returns
  3. Buying at Auction
  4. eBay, Second-hand websites, or other Bulletin Boards
  5. Buying from Forums and other listings
  6. Fakes and what to do about them

Buying A Watch Online

Buying new watches online is now easy. Unfortunately, it is still not easy to buy direct from some brands themselves. This is because of their distribution agreements with Retailers. Online there are many more retailers than there are in your local town or City so you have many purchasing options for whatever watch you are interested in.

There are also now many online-only watch brands. These companies are specialists in delivering a good online experience, and often invest the lower cost base into their product quality. They also can serve small niches. They are worth checking out to learn about their niche, and to compare to some of the more famous brands you may have heard of. Many go out of their way to ensure they have the highest quality movements and materials, provide great value for money, and often have an approach that focuses on sustainability.

For any online store, some are better than others at displaying the watches and explaining the differences. Some key things to remember are as follows:

  • Try to buy from an Online Retailer located in your own country
  • Ask as many questions as you need via Email or chat portal
  • Look for online promotions and offers.


You can of course return a watch bought online, but you must remember not to remove any of the labels or tags. To qualify for return it must go back with all these things on it. This is also true for returning a watch to a Retail store. If you have clearly worn it and have removed and discarded the security tags, they will be very reluctant to allow a return.

Some new watches have stickers on the case to protect it

Some new watches have stickers on the case to protect it

Buying at Auction

Auctions are a good place to buy second-hand watches. Most auction houses check and grade the condition of a watch, and try to verify they are authentic. This will not stop problems happening, but is helpful. There are many bargains to be had at auction if you do your research. It is also possible to ask a lot of questions, either in person at a viewing, or online. Auction House staff prepare to receive a lot of questions in the week preceding it and are happy to help. Specialist watch and jewellery auction houses exist, and large auction houses have dedicated watch teams.

At General, Jewellery, and Estate Sale auctions there will be less expertise and less ability to check something is authentic, so be careful. This means that there are often bargains to be found at this type of sale, but only if you are prepared to do your research.

One important difference with auctions is that you do not have a right to return an item bought at auction unless you can prove it is not what was sold in the description. This is different to most other channels, where there is some right to return, even if it is limited.

This Jaeger LeCoultre Perpetual Calendar was bought at auction. It needs the year function repairing (see top right of dial)

This Jaeger LeCoultre Perpetual Calendar was bought at auction. It needs the year function repairing (see top right of dial)

eBay, Secondhand Sale Sites and Bulletin Boards

The most important principle for buying anything second hand is simple:

Buy the Seller not the Watch.

What does this mean exactly? It means you should take care to verify that the seller has a good reputation. Any seller on any platform must be able to answer simple questions about the Watch they are selling, and where they got it from.

If you can, search for more information about the seller using Google. If they have a seller page on eBay, that is helpful, but if it is listing, there may be less information. Try and look, another option is to ask about the seller on a Watch Forum and post the listing on there for comment.

You may fear that someone else will grab your bargain, but patience and caution are your friends here. If you don’t have confidence in the Seller, don’t do a deal, even if it looks great. There will always be another watch to buy.

Here are some simple questions you can think about to gain confidence in the seller:

  • Where did you get this watch?
  • How long have you been selling watches?
  • What’s the best price for this watch and do you have anyone else interested?
This Omega Seamaster was purchased on eBay. It's in great condition

This Omega Seamaster was purchased on eBay. It's in great condition

Watch Listings at Auction

Another good guide to the quality of a seller is how much information they have put in the Sales page or Advertisement. If they have included a lot of information this indicates higher credibility and they have done some research. Very simply, the more the better, and if you don’t know what they mean or understand the details the seller has listed, it gives you a good opportunity to ask them questions. Here is a list of things that could be included.

Photos: the more photos the better, and the higher the quality the better. If there are no shots of the inside of the watch, and the movement, contact the seller to ask for them directly. These are crucial for you to check if all is as it should be.

Here is a checklist table for what any second hand watch seller should be able to provide, either in the listing, or in answer to questions:

Here are some pictures showing a useful, authoritative ebay listing, this listing was live on the 04thNovember 2020, and is reproduced here solely for information purposes. Firstly, the seller has included 11 High Quality photos of the Watch, including a shot of a recent service receipt from the manufacture, Omega. Secondly, the seller has provided a full set of details for the eBay-suggested categories. There is also a good description and the Seller has made an effort to identify the watch correctly:

You can use this to ensure the watch details are correct, by checking these details elsewhere, or asking about them on a Forum.

Overall, this is a very helpful listing, and the seller is easy to check out on their eBay sellers page. In this case they are a regular seller on eBay with a high rating.

Here is an example of a poor eBay listing that is untrustworthy. The Seller has not made much effort, the photos are poor quality, and there is no picture of the watch movement.

Buying From Forums and Other Listings

Watch Forums almost all have a “Trading Post” section where people list things for sale or things they would like to find. Each one is slightly different, but the advantage is that the community on the forum will have already tried and tested most sellers. They should have a reasonable level of credibility. While this is comforting, you should still do all the research above, especially if the deal seems too good to be true.

Fakes, and What to do About them

The watch industry is very large. This means it has people within it who want to take advantage of others by selling fake watches as the real thing. This has and will always remain a problem. The other risk is of “Franken” watches, named after the monster in the story Frankenstein. It means a watch made up of genuine parts but one that was not ever sold like that. The different parts came from different watches.

The only way to limit your risk of this is to buy from credible sellers, stores, and places. When in doubt, be patient and walk away, and remember; always, always:

Buy the Seller, Not the Watch

We at The Watch Collectors’ Club want you to get the best value for money you can when buying a watch. That requires research, and some patience. Hopefully our outline and questions above will help you make the right choice, whatever watch you are buying. For more resources that help simplify the World of Watches, please follow us at:

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Make the watch world simple

Make the watch world simple