How to buy a pre-owned watch

Ellis Hourshid
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Man buying a watch over the counter
Certain limited edition or popular models will often increase in value when sold later. (Source: The Watch Gallery)

Ten essential pointers from The Watch Gallery experts.

(tip: if in doubt, purchase a classic Rolex model)

1) Buy popular brands

"Popular fine watch brands hold the best value. Rolex sports models do particularly well as does Cartier, Audemars Piguet and Panerai. These are good brands to invest in.”

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2) Choose steel first

With Rolex, a steel black dial Submariner, any Daytona, Milgauss and the less extravagant Datejust models are in constant demand. Stainless steel circumvents possible fluctuations in the fine metals markets, which can influence the watch’s value.


“Minor cosmetic damage is acceptable; more sinister issues such as dial damage (from water or ageing) or bracelet stretching (notorious on Rolex Jubilee bracelets) are more expensive to fix.”

04 | Test the Bracelet

The wear of a bracelet can be checked by holding the case and seeing how the bracelet hangs: the more it droops, the more stretched and weak it is. Best to avoid.

05 | Check service history

“Always ask for the servicing records from the brand and look for timepieces which have their original box and paperwork. Both these things are sure signs of well keeping and authenticity.”

06 | Find a reputable retailer

“If the brand you’re purchasing is not known for authenticity paperwork — Cartier is a good example —then being sure to buy from a reputable source is paramount.”

07 | Go for limited editions

“Look out for limited production pieces. Certain limited edition or popular models will often increase in value when sold later.”

08 | Embrace the benefits

“The main benefit of buying vintage and pre-owned watches is that you avoid the initial depreciation of buying a new luxury product. Just like buying a new car, you’re going to lose a healthy percentage of what you’ve paid. Entering the Swiss watch market with a pre-owned purchase is not only more accessible, it’s financially wiser.”

09 | Avoid polishing

Once you buy your watch, it is advised not to have a timepiece polished outside its movement servicing recommendations. The more you polish a watch, the weaker it can become and it can lose value. And you never know when you might want to sell it on.

10 | Ensure original specs

“The main issue with second-hand watches is third-party repairs and modification. Be cautious of any model that differs from the spec of its most recently released counter part. Diamonds, which have been set post-manufacture, may look nice, but the majority of the market will be wary of investing in watches that have been tampered with. Also be wary of any deal that looks ‘too good to be true’. This sounds simple but is very often overlooked when presented with what seems to be a great deal. The point of investing in watches is exactly that: they hold their value. It stands to reason that if you find a model that’s hugely discounted, there’s going to be something wrong with it.”

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