Venturing into Watches

Over the next few editions we will be guiding you through the routes to creating a watch collection that will hold you in good stead – both financial and stylistically

Column by The Watch Atelier

Over the next few months we will be outlining our suggestions for both Classic and Vintage watches that we feel every potential watch collector should aspire to. There have been countless articles and lists written offering advice before – but we hope that this will be the definitive..!

In this first instalment we cover the whole acquisition process. Firstly, really consider what type of watch you are interested in buying – this seems a fairly obvious snippet of advice, but if you are not totally focused on your target you will potentially come out second best.

So, be it a dress watch, chronograph, divers watch or sports watch – do your due diligence, learn the history and crucially research prices. Also, learn the terminology – for example; watches have wheels, not cogs or gears. We have prepared a guide to help you.

It is recommended that you buy your timepiece from a reputable dealer, auctions house or online retailer.  eBay is an option, but is fraught with potential pit falls, so unless advertised by a reputable dealer…best avoided.

There are numerous specialist dealers and auction houses out there for you to consider – in fact almost too many…So make your decision based on these vital facts:

Geographical location, it is by far the best policy to see the watch rather than simply view it online – obvious enough really.

If you are contemplating a dealer, either traditional or online – ask the company in question if their watches are serviced/overhauled before sale?  Some do, some don’t. Buying a mechanical watch that has not been very recently professionally serviced can be a high risk strategy.

The auction houses often represent a convenient route for both modern and vintage pieces. The main international players are Antiquorum, Bonhams, Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s — although smaller UK houses such as Fellows and Watches of Knightsbridge are also excellent sources.

If you’re planning to buy at auction, it is advisable to start by attending a sale with no intention of bidding. Go the first time purely to get a sense of what goes on. Therefore, when you are ready to take part in one with a view to purchase you will be well armed and aware of what to expect.

Before you go – study the catalogues small print to familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions. Be sure you understand the “buyer’s premium”, this varies from company to company and can be as much as 25 per cent of the hammer price…. This means that your £100 winning bid will be translated into a final price of £150 including VAT. This can make a serious difference when you start bidding in the thousands or tens of thousands

Try to avoid getting into a bidding war. Remember – there is an odd satisfaction in the knowing head shake when declining to bid any further….it implies you know more about the true worth of the lot. When buying at auction it is best to assume the watch will need servicing. Service costs are often overlooked when a bargain is being proffered – don’t. By way of an example, to have your newly acquired chronograph serviced properly will leave you around about £450 plus lighter and this is often excluding any parts that maybe required….Oh and this whole process can take a couple of months as well – joy!

One should also bear in mind that mechanical watches should be serviced every three to four years – regardless of how often it is worn. We will examine the whole service procedure fully in a later edition.

Remember, too, that there are rarely any comebacks if you buy from auction (although lot descriptions must be accurate and are legally binding). Avoid anything non-original, heavily restored or in poor condition. The current market is hot, so the majority of buyers only want those watches that are mint and unmolested.

If you don’t want to buy at auction, you could try a specialist pre-owned or vintage dealer, but expect to pay for their expertise. Most reputable watch dealers sell pieces which are in immaculate condition and which have usually been freshly serviced. You might even get a year’s warranty and the offer of a buy-back or trade-in.

Certain dealers specialise in particular makes. David Duggan in Burlington Arcade, for example, is one the UK’s longest-established dealers in pre-owned Pateks. Somlo Antiques, also on the arcade are highly regarded for vintage Omegas. Firms such as The Vintage Watch Company and Kleanthous are renowned for their vintage Rolex’s.

A third option to add to auction houses or traditional dealers are online retailers. These have flourished over the past ten years. One of the leading exponents are Watchfinder, which was established in Kent in 2002. Over the last 14 years they have sold a staggering £203 million worth of watches… and have a stock of over 3,200 watches covering more than 50 brands. With each watch being fully serviced and guaranteed they are well worth serious consideration. Interestingly this online business has now opened four traditional retail outlets – so customers can view certain watches pre-purchase.

The internet is perhaps the biggest instantly available source of vintage watches. But it’s a place where only the brave should venture. Unless you’re 100 per cent confident about who you are dealing with online — an established business such as Watchfinder or other reputable dealers — the perils of the world wide web are best avoided unless you want to risk something that’s fake, non-original, poorly preserved or with decidedly dubious provenance…

OK – so another question to ponder – “with box and papers” or “without box and papers”.

Ideally your watch will be sold along with both its original box and paperwork, this helps to verify its originality and date of first purchase. Having what is known as the “complete set” will also be extremely helpful if you ever want to sell your watch.

However… so long as the watch you are acquiring has been professionally authenticated buying a watch box and paperless can offer a reasonable saving on the purchase price. The lack of which isn’t uncommon and if you intend your watch to be a keeper really don’t worry. With vintage watches it is extremely rare to have the box – people just didn’t keep such things back then.

Whilst it is extremely unlikely you will encounter one if you follow the above routes – fakes are everywhere now, some are very, very good – others entertainingly awful… just be mindful of the “too good to be true” bargain.

So, there are the fundamental common sense areas to consider pre-purchase, watches are both a joy to own and can genuinely be a good investment – they are also addictive….be warned ! riddle_stop 2

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