With a used (vintage) watch you can bring a beautiful possession into your home. Usually this will not be a cheap purchase. It is not the case that every watch becomes more valuable or barely decreases in value over time, but a good (Swiss) watch from a reputable brand will often retain much of its value. If you buy a used watch, you also want to make a good purchase; one that you can continue to enjoy. Therefore, note the following points when buying a used watch.
Do your research
There are imitation copies of almost every watch brand that matters. The trade in these specimens is very lively. It is not difficult to find these replicas on the Internet. Search extensively for this. Map how many replicas of the brand you have selected are about. If you have a concrete model in mind, first check whether replicas are being built and keep that information handy at all times to compare.
Who is the seller?
From whom do you buy a used watch? Do you buy it from a jeweler or trader or from a private individual? It may help you if you know that bona fide traders and jewelers never sell replicas. You can, therefore, assume that you are safe with them. Who is the seller? Try to collect as much information as possible. If you buy via the Internet, for example via a sales site, then search for the seller. See if you can find reviews or experiences of others with this person.
Are there any documents available?
Many (online) sellers advertise a watch as being genuine. Anyone who buys a watch from a better brand will always receive documents such as a certificate of authenticity. Can the seller provide this? Often sellers will say that they have never had these documents or have lost them. Assume this is nonsense: these documents are crucial for the value of a watch, so anyone with a little sense will handle these pieces with great care.
Does the watch have a visible serial number?
A good watch has – apart from a rare exception – a type or serial number. This is usually engraved in the case. If the copy that you have in mind does not have such a number, then you must be on your guard because there is a good chance that you will be dealing with a replica.
External characteristics that you should pay attention to
Some watches are clearly fake. You will hardly believe it, but you come across specimens with misspelled names and other stuff like that. However, you also have replicas that are virtually indistinguishable from the original ones. What you should do with that, you can read in the next step. First a checklist of what you should pay attention to. These are points that you can spot with some attention and you don’t have to be an expert.
Use of material
Does it match the original? Is the cabinet actually made of the material specified by the manufacturer? What about the band? Bad replicas are usually recognized by bad buttons and / or a bad crown.
A flawless finish defines a good watch. Look in particular at the dial: are all numbers straight, are the indicators and the name and type indications you find here and there correct? Are the fonts used correct? Let the watch go through your hands and view all the details. Take your time.
Quality watches often have (not always, but often) bright material on the minute hands. Check whether this is also the case with the original of your watch. Then look at the copy that you want to buy. Shine for a minute with a flashlight (the flashlight of your phone) on the dial. If the hands do not light up in the dark, then you are probably dealing with a (bad) replica.
Also keep in mind that sapphire glass was not used for older watches. Do you want to buy a vintage watch and the seller proudly tells you about the scratch-free sapphire glass, then you know enough …
Many automatic watches have a transparent back so that you can see the timepiece. The majority of these watches have diamonds that are arranged at points where a lot of friction occurs. These are almost always pink in color and easy to recognize. If you don’t like this one, chances are that you are looking at a replica with a cheap interior. Even if brand names etc. are missing on the rotor, this is not a good sign.
You can also watch how the timepiece works. You can easily check whether the second hand should run smoothly or tick with a fixed frequency. If the copy deviates from the official information, the alarm bells must ring. A timepiece that makes a lot of noise is probably not part of a good watch. And oh yes: a Rolex has never been made with a transparent back. Just so you know.
What to do in case of doubt?
If in doubt, it is wise to have an expert look at your watch. Many jewelers can send your watch to a workshop where it will separate and determine whether it is an original or a replica. This costs money, often a lot of money, so this is a good negotiating point. Regardless of whether you or the seller are responsible for these costs: if the seller refuses such a check, then that is not a good sign: he probably knows very well that he is trying to sell you a fake.