Owners with one or more watches to sell often wonder, “Where can I sell my watch?” In this, the first of a two-part survey, the major marketplaces on eBay and chrono24 are reviewed and rated for owners who wish to sell watches.

Despite the potential large audience and access granted by the Internet, unease regarding online transactions and seller privacy often lead owners to limit themselves when the time comes to sell watches. The best way to overcome this impediment is to survey the different sales options and review their relative advantages and disadvantages.

The principal avenues for those who sell watches are online marketplaces, collector message boards, and specialist pre-owned watch buyers. While local jewelers remain a potential match in certain cases, leveraging the scope of the Internet almost always results in more options and a potentially bigger payoff when an owner choses to sell a watch.

Online marketplaces such as eBay and chrono24 aggregate large numbers of buyers and sellers. eBay and chrono24 lead all others in volume and prominence, but each carries strengths and weaknesses for owners who want to sell watches with maximum speed and security.

eBay is the older of the two major exchanges, and it hosts the sale of watches ranging from several dozen to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although eBay offers a large potential audience for those who sell watches, the exchange also penalizes owners who only seek to sell several or even just one luxury watch. There are two principal reasons for this: seller ratings and return policies.

Seller ratings are the cumulative result of the number and quality of feedback ratings received by a seller. This system rewards high-volume and honest sellers with demonstrable long-term records of good business practices. However, a solitary owner who simply desires to sell a watch quickly will appear unqualified and suspect when listing a valuable watch with no prior ratings track record. Inevitably, private buyers of luxury watches tend to avoid watches from “lone wolf” sellers without histories.

Second, eBay’s return policies are designed to favor buyers by granting the “benefit of the doubt” and powerful recourse if a transaction turns contentious. Even though a seller may have described the type, condition, and functions of a watch to the best of his abilities, the buyer of a watch need only object to one misunderstanding concerning the watch in order to activate the eBay Money Back Guarantee.

In many cases, a simple instance of buyer’s remorse can be framed as seller deception and lead to a successful appeal to eBay on ethical grounds. Worse still, the buyer has 30 days from delivery to chose a Money Back claim, a process that is designed to place the buyer at an advantage. At that point, the seller is in a no-win situation; return payment, pay for return shipping, and take back the watch, or risk losing access and standing on eBay PLUS a chargeback from eBay on the seller’s method of payment-on-file.

In short, eBay is a large marketplace but a difficult one in which to sell your watch with confidence as an infrequent seller of luxury goods. From a small collector’s perspective, eBay is a much better place to buy a watch than to sell one.

chrono24, another large global marketplace, is the other major option for those who seek to sell watches online. Unlike eBay, chrono24 is a dedicated sales platform for buyers and sellers of luxury watches. In general, the quality of listings, credibility of sellers, and availability of inventory are lower than on eBay where cumulative seller ratings, stricter seller rules, and mandatory shipping timelines force a higher baseline of customer service.

The requirements of chrono24 do not place the same burden on the seller as eBay’s stricter terms, but the side effect is greater buyer skepticism on chrono24. Many watches are listed as “vaporware,” or stock photos of watches not in inventory or available for immediate delivery. Many watches are listed with “stock” photos pulled from manufacturer websites and staged alongside unusually low prices from dealers in developing nations; these listings drag down the reputation of all who sell on chrono24 and tend to give buyers pause regarding the marketplace itself.

Moreover, it is easy to get lost in the sheer volume of chrono24’s sellers and listings, and the search filters are less consistent than those on eBay. In other words, a chrono24 sale could be a long-term effort poorly suited to those who only want to sell one watch online.

To its credit, chrono24 is trialing a “secure checkout” service that involves an escrow agreement between the website, the buyer, and the seller. A 14-day buyer approval period has been instituted as part of the company’s “Trusted Checkout” initiative, but like the escrow scheme, this program remains in its infancy compared to eBay’s sophisticated layers of rules and guarantees.

The second installment of this series will examine other options for the owner who asks, “Where can I sell my watch?” Part two will review watch sale options presented by enthusiast message boards and specialist pre-owned watch buyers.

PART II: WHERE CAN I SELL MY WATCH?

For owners asking, “Where can I sell my watch,” enthusiast message boards and specialist pre-owned watch buyers offer more fruitful avenues than major online exchanges. While the latter may offer more visitor volume, smaller-scale recourses often provide the best experience for smaller sellers.

Enthusiast message boards for watch collectors are almost as old as the public Internet itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, collector forums such TimeZone and Watchuseek have offered at least one and often several dedicated sales boards where low-frequency collectors and dealers of all sizes can transact directly.

While Watchuseek, TimeZone, and major brand-specific boards such as “Rolex Forums” receive the most traffic, many smaller and more specialized boards focus on less common brands, specific watch types, and vintage timepieces.

The advantage of a message board is that it enables smaller sellers to discover and sell watches directly to customers with an expressed interest in a specific watch model, brand, or type. Moreover, low sales volumes and single-transaction sellers aren’t viewed with the red-flag mentality that puts small-scale watch sellers at a disadvantage on eBay and chrono24.

Message boards tend to help owners sell their watches for greater yields. Since message board sales tend to be transacted between owners and end-user collectors, the potential sale prices are higher than if an owner were to sell his watch to a dealer. And unlike eBay, for example, many collector sales boards do not exact a percentage of the sales price in the form of a fee.

An online sales forum often maintains both formal and informal systems of checks and balances to promote ethical transactions. In many cases, written codes of conduct and seller ethics will be posted; informal buyer protections take the form of intangible “credibility” – generally defined as many posts and long participation records on the forum – and references from other users.

While this system can ease the challenge of buyer confidence for committed collectors who sell and post often on message boards, it can hinder transaction speed for solitary sellers who infrequently sell watches online. In this instance, an owner looking to sell a single watch may use message boards to advertise his openness to an in-person sale for local users of the board who might be able to meet and verify the watch and terms. Alternatively, a seller could improve buyer confidence by advertising his openness a PayPal transaction.

The final major online option for the owner who asks “where” to sell a watch is the specialist pre-owned luxury watch dealer. This recourse tends to offer the quickest and most secure transaction, and dealers are able to offer the kind of trade options that private collectors can be loathe to accept. However, the dealer’s need to re-sell watches at a profit usually leads to lower transaction values for sellers who chose this avenue.

As the popularity of luxury watches grew during the 1990s and 2000s, the number of watches in circulation on the secondary market exploded. Specialists who buy, service, and sell exclusively pre-owned watches emerged to serve this segment. Unlike individual collectors, pre-owned dealers are eager to buy many different brands, types, and sizes of watch. This means that an owner who wants to sell a watch is likely to find a quick match with a pre-owned dealer.

The best pre-owned dealers are large-scale commercial enterprises that have the expertise to quickly appraise watches and the capital to issue immediate wire or check payment. Unlike online collectors who fear scams when they encounter one-and-done sellers without transaction history, the pre-owned dealer expects to transact many purchases with owners who simply want to sell a watch quickly.

Companies that juggle BBB ratings, eBay feedback, Yelp and Google business reviews need to maintain their reputations in order to remain in business; the ideal pre-owned watch buyer should be professional, polite, and open about its process. Most should be able to offer an up-front estimate prior to requesting that a watch be shipped for inspection and appraisal.

Pre-owned dealers need to sell what they purchase, so they tend to offer less money for a watch than an end-user. Collectors buy watches to keep; dealers buy watches to sell, and this accounts for the difference between online asking prices and the offer that a dealer may present.

Finally, dealers keep large inventories that lend themselves to trading. While most private collectors rarely trade – and only if a perfect match is found – the pre-owned dealer will be eager to offer trades. In many cases, dealers will offer better trade values for a given watch than they would offer for an outright purchase.

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