“What is my watch worth?” It is the first question asked by anyone with at least one timepiece to sell and the desire to liquidate it. But the pathway from a watch to cash-in-hand passes through knowledge of one’s timepiece, research of prices, evaluation of condition, and patience. Each of these areas requires an examination in its own right before a confident sale can be made, and each of these areas will be discussed in this multi-part review of what you need to know when selling your watch.
Determining Watch Worth & Value
Nothing complicates pricing research more than cursory knowledge of one’s watch. Consider an automotive analogy; if you were to sell a car, you could research its value on Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Motor Trend, and other pricing aids, but even with that wealth of information, your search would be a non-starter if you could not identify the make, model, and year of your own car.
Luxury watch owners are privy to fewer pricing references than car owners, so determining the value of a watch requires even more care. When you ask, “what is my watch worth?” you need to clarify the approximate age, brand, and model of your watch. This process should start as specific as possible and become more general only if confusion persists.
For example: a watch that retains its original boxes, manuals, and bill of sale can be identified quickly. If your watch’s certificate-of-origin or warranty papers (note: not always the same) are filled correctly by their respective issuers, then you can proceed to determining value when selling your watch.
But if the watch is without papers or sales receipt, other tools must be harnessed. Begin with the brand name on the watch, a Google search, and be sure to search the brand name with any numbers or alpha-numeric that may be engraved on the case; this often is a reference number that will pull a prompt and illuminating number of matches from the far reaches of the Internet.
Certain brands including Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Panerai have used sequential serial numbering systems that can aid in the dating of these watches; dating keys are available online for all three when selling your watch.
However, most brands do not use sequential serial numbers or abandoned the practice long ago. For the most part, only watch manufacturers themselves have the data to match a serial number to the production date of a watch. Many brands will recover an “archive extract” with basic information about the model, production date, and reference number of an older watch. Not only can this roughly 100-200 Swiss Franc document assist in answering, “what is my watch worth?” it can add a measure of value by providing manufacturer pedigree to an otherwise undocumented (i.e., no box, no papers) luxury watch.
Finally, be aware that certain brands build the reference numbers of their watches into areas that can be difficult to see. Rolex, for example, had printed its reference numbers between the lugs at 12 o’clock since the mid 1940s. Other brands stamp the inside of the caseback with the reference number of their models. Depending on the brand of your watch, this fact may make an exploratory visit to your local jeweler for inspection a worthwhile endeavor.
The fruits of this investigation should steer you towards several important watch identification resources: watch brand websites and online model-launch press releases for watches built 0-15 years ago; collector fora/message boards, eBay, the chrono24 marketplace and auction results for watches built prior to the widespread adoption of Internet marketing by watch brands.
By leveraging your watch’s accessory set, sales receipt, or just the marking on the dial and case, you can learn vital information about the make, model, and age of your watch. Once a watch has been identified, its owner can more precisely answer the question, “what is my watch worth?” The next installment of this series will review the path from an identified watch to an appraised watch.
Learning & Using Online Resources To Determine Luxury Watch Worth
The identity of a watch offers its owner the first key to answer his query, “what is my watch worth?” Step two involves learning and using the online resources that enable sellers and buyers alike to value watches.
But remember that the car-watch marketplace analogy ends where pricing is concerned. Luxury watches are non-standard in name and numbering practice and spread over thousands of brands, over a century of wristwatch production, and hundreds of thousands of models. This means that nothing as systematic as Blue Book or Edmunds is available to provide pricing guidance for luxury watch owners.
Moreover, it is as necessary to become familiar with your online marketplace references as it is to know your timepiece when selling your watch. Many sites that offer many watches for sale – chrono24 is the largest example – only list the “asking” prices for timepieces. In most cases, these numbers represent imaginative and optimistic ploys by sellers who know that they will obtain far less when transaction time arrives.
Auction sites can offer more accurate pricing history based on past transactions. However, it is important to know the “buyer’s premium” paid in the case of any given winning bid. The common 15-30 percent buyer’s premium often is listed atop the winning bid and expressed as a “transaction” value in the auction sites’ pricing histories. Be certain to read – or email the auction house – to determine what level of “premium” was added in order to reveal the actual value of the winner’s bid.
eBay often becomes the seller’s best resource when attempting to answer the sphinx’s riddle of what his watch is worth. Like chrono24, eBay ranks among the largest permanent online marketplaces for luxury watches. But unlike chrono24, two features of eBay improve its value as a seller’s pricing tool: real inventory and visible “completed listings” can offer much that you need to know when selling your watch.
Real inventory is exactly what the name suggests: watches in hand and ready for sale. This is surprisingly uncommon on chrono24 and even many dealer websites. The hallmark of a “vaporware” watch is a listing with a “stock” photo – usually a press image provided by the manufacturer for online magazine use.
Dealers use these images as placeholders for watches they don’t actually have in stock, and this is one more reason why asking prices for watches with “stock” photos cannot be trusted. But eBay has shipping and turnaround policies that require eBay Top Sellers like our company (tip: always check seller ratings) to load a tracking number within 24 hours of receiving payment. With rules of this nature, Top Sellers on eBay cannot afford to solicit payment for a watch not in stock.
Moreover, eBay offers users the ability to view pools of “completed Listings” by searching for a certain watch model and then using the sidebar filter tools. This feature is indispensible when answering as definitively as possible, “what is my watch worth?” While other marketplace websites, vendor sites, and sales corners of message boards reveal only asking prices, eBay offers the unique opportunity to view recent sales at transaction prices. This is a key insight that owners need to know when selling a watch.
Once a seller has found evidence of real world price “asks” and “transaction values” for his make and model of luxury watch, he must gauge where his particular watch falls in that range. Honestly evaluating watch condition, accessory sets, and the condition of original packaging represents the next step of this process – and the next installment of this guide for those who ask, “what is my watch worth?”