A little research will tell you if a deal is too good to be true. The price with discounts, but real watches still have a price range that is predictable. If a watch looks like a real steal it may not be you who is stealing. (http://www.chrono24.com/ is a great site to do a manually compare)
2. Compare the product to known genuine items.
Many fakes come from sources that use the same few internal parts and then mark them with a variety of brand names. Unfamiliar buyers may be fooled, but even these watches will not match the legitimate items. Some watch collection’s change fees are usually minor. If the features you buy aren’t going to stay that colour long after you buy them.
Here are some links to popular brands where you can see trustworthy images for comparison:
Check markings, serial numbers, and other details. Makers of fakes often fail to get the details correct. The member may not match the manufacturer’s standard method.
Water-resistance ratings and markings may not match up to genuine watch markings. Even something such as text is in place and is not genuine.
Retouched watch dials? (photo courtesy of http://www.watchuseek.com)
Check the appearance of the crown, buttons, and watch face to be sure they match exactly the image available from the manufacturer. It isn’t cheap or easy to copy these details faithfully and fakes don’t come from high-cost manufacturing experts.
Rolex Crowns (Photo courtesy of http://rolexblog.blogspot.co.uk)
Some sources habitually spell things incorrectly, so read everything on the watch carefully. Find out what collectors and ails by visiting trustworthy blogs and forums such as these:
Chronocentric – Fake and Counterfeit Watches – This is an excellent and informative article on how to avoid getting burned when buying a watch.
TimeZone.com – Forums where watch enthusiasts offer expert advice on verifying authenticity and spotting fakes.
4. Buy only from a reputable source
This may seem obvious, but tales of woe often feature such obvious clues as a seller with it that you can verify through independent third-party ratings. It only takes a few minutes to know if the seller has a good name. Check sources like Amazon, eBay, PriceGrabber, and Yahoo ings. If someone bad buys a good business, the reputation over time. Be sure to do some general web searches on the seller’s name and website. A couple of bad reviews don’t make them scam artists, they brave plenty of bad press from unhappy customers that could serve as a warning to others.
5. Protect yourself during the purchase
Buy from a source that provides a warranty and accepts returns for a refund. Read the policies before you buy and make sure to check the length of time given to return an item and the restocking fee. Use a payment method that gives you recourse if there is a problem. Payment methods have different standards of proof and policies. Know them before your money leaves your hands.
Use a traceable and reliable delivery method and know how they handle loss or damage. You don’t line up at the local post office to fill out a claim form, then wait weeks while they do research. Have the watch delivered to you with a signature required allowing it to be dropped at your residence while you are at work.
6. Warranty and Refund
Check the watch carefully when it arrives. Make sure the packaging and documents match the manufacturer’s authentic materials and that you got it all. Resist tearing everything off and trying it on until you are sure things are right. Look the watch over carefully for any imperfections. Almost nobody manufactures stickers or tags and then discovers a problem.
7. Check the watch carefully when it arrives.
Bring the watch to an expert professional to be sized properly. If the finish is damaged by the handling key have the willingness or resources to replace your investment timepiece for the few bucks they charge to remove a link.
Cover image by @fakewatchbusta
I have worked in the luxury industry for more than 30 years, in London, Paris and New York – starting on the sales floor and then moving into styling and image management, with an emphasis on advertising campaigns for high-profile clients. Companies I have worked with include Hermes, John Lobb, Prada, Revillon/Fendi, Tiffany & Co, Bvlgari, Asprey/Gerrard, Ozwald Boateng Bespoke, and the LVMH and Richemont Groups. My expertise encompasses men’s and women’s wear, leather goods, luggage and footwear, fine jewellery and watches.
My first watch was a Tag Heuer, which I bought with my savings when I was 16. My favourite watch is a Patek Phillip, given to me by my father, for my 21st birthday. Having a passion for watches, over the years I have built up quite a collection, alternating those that I wear to suit the occasion and the way I am dressed. I would like very much to own a Tourbillon Messidor made by Breguet, in platinum.
A watch is a vital part of one’s outfit, from its metal colour and finishes to the colour and texture of the strap – all of which should ideally complement the outfit. Current trends are focused in two directions – larger, sportier styles or jewel-encrusted, in both men’s and women’s styles. The popularity of vintage watches can be explained by the history of the piece and its classic/vintage look, together with the ritual of the hand-wound mechanism which increases the cost of watches manufactured today.
I’m based in London, and my line of business is music and competition cars. My first watch was a present from my parents in approx 1954 I’m sure it was a Timex… it lasted a surprisingly long time. I have a couple of favourite watches: one is a Rolex Steel Daytona style which I bought at Geneva airport in 1971 when we got paid in real money for a gig (I didn’t see any more money until 1973). The other is a Bremont ALT1-Z/DG model. I love the approach and attitude of the brothers who run the company.
Currently, I’m wearing a Breitling, battery-powered (I still worry about what happens if we are invaded the day the battery goes down). It’s special to me because I got it from a friend who was a pilot in 41 Squadron, who later went on to become a Red Arrow. It has the squadron insignia on the face.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF LONGITUDE, CHRISTIE’S BLOG FOR COLLECTING WATCHES
I’m based in Los Angeles, and I’m a writer, stylist and timepiece consultant. I also engage in watch ‘match-making’.
My first watch was a delightful little watch that ticked as a result of a little boy and girl moving back and forth on a see-saw. My “favourite” watch changes too constantly to pin down. Currently I’m wearing a Parmigiani Kalpa Grande. I am absolutely charmed by minute repeaters and clock watches, and I hope to own one some day.
My relationship with time is rather complex, being that I’m human. I suppose I can sum it up by my philosophy: time threatens to make life’s events seem either too far away or ending too soon. I endeavour to relish the moments as they come.
I have been working in advertising and branding for ten years so I understand the power of seduction and the creation of desirable objects of luxury. My art revolves a lot around status symbols, Rolex being one. For my screenprint entitled ‘Relax’, just by replacing two letters I achieved the concept at first glance of a Rolex, but at a second look you will see this is a statement. Relax: it’s just a status symbol. If you have one, enjoy it; if not, don’t worry.
I am based between London, Paris and New York – where my work appears on billboards and on bus shelters across the city. My first watch was a Pop Swatch; my favourite watch is the Rolex Daytona Everose Gold; and my dream watch is the Rolex Air King – which is subtle and not overstated.
Through my art, I document the time we live in. It’s a social/political/environmental snapshot of our time.
Precision timepieces are designed and built for durability and accuracy. However, there are limits to what a new watch can endure, and as with everything, time and wear take their toll on even the finest timepiece.
Temperature extremes may damage your watch or affect performance. Saunas, hot tubs, and even the dashboard of a car are too hot for most timepieces. The transition between very warm and very cold temperatures can cause damage and is to be avoided. Exposure to extreme cold may cause erratic timekeeping until the watch has reached normal operating temperature.
Nearly all mechanical timepieces are resistant to impact and are suitable for wear during mild sporting activities such as tennis or golf. However, the shock of impact against a hard surface could damage the mechanism, even if the watch is equipped with anti-shock devices.
Avoid exposing your timepiece to harsh chemicals, gases, or solvents. Hair sprays, cosmetics, perfumes, chlorine, adhesives, gasoline, paint, nail polish remover, and household cleaning chemicals can damage the finish of the case and bracelet, damage leather or rubber bands, or even work their way into the watch and damage the mechanism.
Exposure to strong magnetic fields or electronics that emit static electricity may disrupt your timepiece’s operation. Avoid close or continuous proximity to such devices as microwave ovens, televisions, computer monitors, speakers, and mobile phones. Magnetic coin trays or bracelets are also potential sources of trouble. In general, momentary contact is not harmful, but extended contact is to be avoided.
Keeping your watch water-tight is a number one priority. Even a diving watch can develop serious problems if the water tightness is compromised. Only allow qualified experts to service your timepiece. Even changing a battery should always be done by a professional equipped to test for water tightness. If your watch is serviced and not tested for water-tightness, treat it as not water-resistant until it is tested. Adjust the date or time only when the watch is dry to avoid introducing moisture within the timepiece.
Handle the crown gently, but make sure to close it securely after making adjustments. If your timepiece has a screw-type crown be sure to engage the threads properly and close the crown until it is fully closed. Do not force the crown if you feel resistance. Open it and carefully engage the threads before attempting to close it fully. Stop when the corn is fully closed and tight, but avoid using excessive force which could cause damage.
Setting Time and Date
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when setting the time or date on your timepiece. Improper operation can make your watch inaccurate or even cause permanent damage to the mechanism. As mentioned above, never operate the pushes, buttons, or crown if your watch is wet. If your watch has a screw-type crown, be sure to unscrew it before attempting to set the time or date, and to screw it closed securely after making changes to the settings.
Operate the crown gently when switching positions and rotating it to change settings. While durable, the crown and connected parts require careful handling to avoid damage. The date on some watches cannot be set when the display is between certain hours, as this can damage the date mechanism. Check your manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid damaging the watch during the date/time setting.
Check the AM/PM time setting before setting the date to avoid having the date change at noon instead of midnight.
If your timepiece has a quick date feature use it only to reach the date prior to the desired date. Then switch to the regular date setting mode and advance the hour until the data reaches the desired date.
A watch worn daily should be allowed to wind down completely before being wound. Watches worn only occasionally should be wound on the same day each week for the best performance. Never wind a watch while worn on the wrist as this can cause damage to the stem.
Manual winding watches use this method: Grasp the winding stem between thumb and forefinger and gently pull the stem out and away from the watch to engage the winding mechanism.
Rotate the stem forward (towards the 12 on a wristwatch or towards the 9 on a pocket watch) and backward between the thumb and forefinger. Alternately, hold the stem still and rotate the watch body to cause the forward and backward motion of the stem.
Do not exceed a full rotation of the stem in a single motion.
Wind until the turning becomes hard, then stop. Be sure to wind the watch until you feel resistance.
Rotate the stem backward several times to relieve tension within the mechanism, especially in older watches.
Push the stem in towards the center of the watch to lock the winding mechanism in position.
Automatic winding watches are wound continuously by the natural movement of the wearer’s wrist.
However, they can stop if unworn. Generally, all that is needed is to put the watch on and wear it until the normal wrist movement restarts and winds the watch. Some automatic timepieces can also be wound manually, but others cannot. Consult the manufacturer’s documents for your timepiece to determine if the manual winding is possible, and for the correct method if it is possible. It is best to keep a watch wound and avoid having it stop and be restarted, especially if there are dates or other functions which must then be reset. An automatic watch winder is a good investment for a fine automatic timepiece.
Remove smudges and fingerprints from the crystal, case, and metal bracelet with a soft, clean cloth. The type of cloth used for cleaning camera lenses or spectacles is appropriate. Never use tissue, other paper products, or clothing material, as these can introduce scratches on the crystal.
Use the cloth gently and avoid pressing hard on the timepiece surface. Dirt or grit caught between the cleaning cloth and the surface can cause significant damage.
If your watch is water-resistant and less than 1 year old or has had water resistance certified by a qualified professional in the past year it is safe to use a soft brush and slightly soapy water to clean the metal parts and crystal. Be sure the crown is in place before beginning the cleaning and rinse the watch with clear water, and then dry it with a soft cloth.
Leather or other animal skin, fabric, or other natural material bands should not be cleaned with water as this may damage or discolour them. Normal wear will cause gradual changes that are to be expected and which cannot be avoided. Wipe perspiration or other moisture from the band to preserve the appearance as long as possible.
Timepieces should be stored without contact with each other or other items, such as jewelry. It is best to keep the watch in the original box or a case designed for storing multiple timepieces in separate compartments. Automatic watches are best stored in a watch winding device to keep them wound and operating.
Keep watches in a location that avoids extremes of temperature and humidity, out of direct sunlight, and never in the bathroom where moisture can cause damage. A closet or drawer is a good choice. Cigar humidors have been suggested as good for control of humidity and protection from light.
Very valuable watches, such as heirloom timepieces or those with precious stones should be kept in a secure location such as a safe, but always protected from impact and temperature/humidity extremes. Fire safes are not suitable for watches, as they promote moisture buildup. Even standard safes may require dehumidifying to protect the timepiece mechanism.
How do you make sure your watches increase in value?
James Dowling, leading global watch collector and dealer, puts it simply “The simple rule to invest wisely in time is to buy with your heart.”
Mr. Dowling goes on “I was talking to a friend and fellow collector the other day and, as is often the way, we fell to chatting about how collections are formed. After an hour or so, and more than a few glasses of wine, we failed to come to any kind of agreement. Nevertheless, it perked my interest enough for me to set down my thoughts here. Please remember, they are MY thoughts and, as such, worth no more than anyone else’s.”
The Seven Steps To Invest In Vintage Watches
For your first collectable watch, buy something you will wear on a regular basis.
Every collection must have a focus.
If you can afford it, everyone should own a pre-1980s’ Patek Philippe.
Despite item 1, do not buy watches only because you like the style.
Do not ignore quartz and/or Japanese watches.
Never buy a watch just because you think you can make money on it.
Just because no one else collects something should not stop you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I choose my collectable watch?
A: Choosing a collector’s watch There are three things to contemplate when choosing a collectable timepiece: budget, source and make. I make no apology for putting the budget first, as it is always the major limiting factor, and as collectors’ watches are available at prices from £50 to £50,000 it is always a good idea to know in what area to start looking, so as to avoid undue disappointment.
Q: What is the Market Like?
A: I shall choose to divide the market into four distinct areas:
£50 to £500
£500 to £2,500
£2,500 to £5,000
All the watches above £5,000.
The first group will be older models of watches of which you will probably never have heard; however, there is nothing wrong in this. However, when buying any watch it is important to make sure that it has been recently serviced. Any dealer offering a guarantee on their watch will have had to have the watch serviced; but you must realise the cost of servicing a £50 watch is, more or less, the same as servicing a £5,000 watch. So there will be very little value left in the watch; it is for this reason that we do not recommend buying in this area.
The second group will include many names you have heard of in steel, silver and sometimes in gold; most watches (particularly in the higher end of this price bracket) will be perfectly usable daily watches with just that bit more style than a new watch at the same price. Therefore this is where any collector should begin. Putting it simply, you can afford to make mistakes in this area (not that many, I will admit). So my suggestion is that you should try and buy your first watch in the lower levels of this band.
Buy your first watch in the third group only if you are very specific about the way your collecting is going – if, for example, you admire a friend’s Patek or Rolex collection and have decided this is the way you wish to go. Frankly, I do not recommend it because collecting is about your vision, not copying someone else’s.
Anyone who chooses to begin their collection in the fourth (and highest price) group has, quite literally, more money than sense. Any collector will make mistakes when starting and making mistakes at this level is going to cause considerable fiscal pain. Also, the other point worth considering is that starting at this point leaves you very little room for upward expansion.
About James Dowling
James Dowling has been collecting and trading in collectible Rolex watches for over 25 years. He began collecting wristwatches even earlier and soon decided to focus on early automatic watches (Harwood, Wig-Wag, Autorist, etc.). “Of course I also bought an early bubbleback, the first automatic from Rolex, and quickly realised that the bubbleback was the only one of the whole bunch that actually worked for any length of time. It was this first impression which started me on the Rolex trail.”
Since then James has gone on to co-author the recent book on the history of the company “The Best of Time; Rolex wristwatches” with his American friend and colleague Jeffrey Hess; the book has had excellent reviews and is now on its third edition. He writes on Rolex, and other associated topics, on a regular basis for a number of magazines throughout the world; for the Japanese magazines Time Spec, Watch a Go Go and Rolex Fan (all published by World Photo Press); for the US magazine The International Watch & Jewelry Guild Bulletin; for the Australian magazine Luxe; and for the British edition of Esquire. He is a member of the IWJG (International Watch & Jewelry Guild) as charter member number 63, the WTA as founder member 155 and of the NAWCC (National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors) as member number 94620.
In 1997 James was hired as a consultant to Christie’s auction house in London to help catalogue the Ravenborg collection of Rolex watches. This was the largest single-owner single-make sale the watch market has ever seen, and it raised well over a million pounds sterling. He has also worked with Sotheby’s helping to catalogue specialist Rolex pieces. At the end of 1999, James was asked to give the Dingwell-Beloe lecture to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (founded 1631); he was the first wristwatch specialist ever to be accorded this singular honour.
In 1997 he became editor-in-chief of Watchnet.com and in 2001, when Watchnet merged with Timezone.com (the world’s largest watch website), he became editor-in-chief of the combined sites. He is also the moderator of TZ’s Rolex forum, the most visited of the 30+ forums on the site.
Like all collectors, James soon arrived at a point where he needed to dispose of watches in order to upgrade his collection; in selling these surplus pieces he began to learn the niceties of watch dealing and before long he had become a member of the London watch-dealing fraternity. Seven years ago James gave up his booth on London’s famed Portobello Road, which he had inhabited for over a dozen years. He travels widely to buy and sell watches, usually racking up over 150,000 miles each year in his frequent-flier account. He sells mainly to U.S. and Far Eastern dealers and has made a speciality of working with individual collectors helping them build tightly-focussed collections (one collector has over a dozen Princes, another has more than 30 Bubblebacks).
James’ website is an extension of this philosophy, as he hopes to be able to show his watches to a wider audience www.ukwatches.com