There are now multiple ways to buy a watch online. There’s a whole plethora of websites dedicated towards connecting dealers, private sellers and buyers and as you can expect they have varying levels of success. Today we will go over the major websites and options available to collectors. This includes, the dealer’s own site, Chrono 24 and eBay which accounts for the vast majority of purchases. We will provide a summary table at the end but for now we will start with the largest market, eBay.
eBay is one of those sites where you can find anything. Everything from kayaks to Kodiak cameras and as such there is quite a thriving watch buying market. Basically, every brand is represented at every price point so if you are looking for a particular reference eBay is a good place to start. There are issues with eBay though, the first and foremost being you won’t necessarily be working with a watch dealer. Lots of private sellers use eBay which isn’t inherently a bad thing but does open you up to risks. When you are dealing with a private seller you have less protections than a company. A company is registered, many will have a physical location and phone number and there will be an option for recourse if something goes wrong. Chisholm Hunter, Watch Finder, Watches of Switzerland and others will have physical locations, phone numbers, emails etc which will make it easier to solve issues. Private sellers can disappear into the ether and leave you stuck with a defective or fake watch. eBay has been making strides in the right direction though, they have an authentication process on any watch over £1,500 so you know it’s genuine. This comes at a cost though, it is harder to get a deal on eBay as the fees can become extortionate. Fees can easily hit 15% which dealers have to accommodate. So while you get security and options you will struggle to get a strong discount.
Chrono 24 however has noticeably lower fees, sometimes as low as half that of eBay. The trade-off there is that you have no authentication programme. This isn’t an issue if you are dealing with a trusted seller but if this is your first time buying you do have to be careful. Chrono 24 does hold the money in escrow when you purchase it and only releases the funds when both sides are happy but the onus is on you to authenticate the watch. If you buy a watch and are unhappy with it while the money is held you can get your money back, no harm no foul. If however you discover there’s an issue with the watch after the money is released you will receive no support from Chrono 24 to sort the issue. This makes dealing with trusted sellers very important. The variety is there, Chrono 24 calls themselves the worlds watch market and they are kind of right. There is a huge number of watches for sale and far more collector orientated watches. Similar to eBay every brand at every price point. So, you get less security, lots of options and a mediocre discount.
The final option is buying directly from the seller or dealer. This takes the most forms and so I am going to focus on the two most likely, buying from a private listing and buying from a dealer. Buying from a private listing or any private seller directly is the highest risk option. There’s a myriad of things that could go wrong, from being sent the wrong watch, a broken watch, a fake watch or just not being sent anything. Not that there aren’t trust worthy private sellers but there is a risk associated with private sellers. I would recommend avoiding anonymous accounts, and if possible, buying through a platform rather than direct. Whilst you can save a lot of money buying directly from the seller you do open up yourself up to a lot of risk. Buying directly from a dealer is different though, whilst the selection of watches will be smaller you will be able to get the best deal when buying direct. The dealer will have no listing fees and as such will have far more room to negotiate and get to the lowest price. The trade-off is security, you have to trust who you are buying from as recourse is lower than a sales channel. If you think about it this way, when you buy from a dealer on eBay you can get help from the dealer and eBay, when buying direct from the dealer you have to trust the dealer as they are the only people who can help. So, mediocre selection, good price and variable security.
High Fees so higher price
£1,500 authentication process and backing of eBay if you struggle with the dealer
A huge selection of watches
Lower fees than eBay so should be a touch cheaper but still more than going direct
Chrono 24 will hold the money in escrow but it is up to you to authenticate it
Similar to eBay it has a huge selection
Dealer Direct eg. Watch Finder, Watches of Switzerland etc
Noticeably less expensive than ebay or Chrono 24 as the dealer will have no fees for selling
Buy the seller, if you trust the dealer, you have lots of security but you have to trust them
Limited selection to what the dealer happens to have
Private Seller Direct
Should be the cheapest by a long way as they don’t have to worry about business costs or associated fees
Very risky, you have to make sure the person you are dealing with is 100% above board
Very limited selection
Whilst ultimately you will have to decide what you think is the best option for yourself buying directly from a trusted dealer is the goldilocks zone. A good price, with good security and a decent selection to chose from. The key word is trusted, remember you are buying the dealer and not the watch.