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Selling my watch. Advice I wish had been given to me

Posted by Ross Crane on

Managing the risk of scams, wheeler dealer bravado, and watchmaker jargon can make selling a watch a difficult process. And it's not just newbies who often get it wrong!

The best route for selling your watch will depend on the type of watch that you're selling, how quickly you need the cash, and how hands on you want to get.

This is the guide that I wish someone in the business had given me when I was selling my own watches, before I founded Subdial.

Your watch

The two key factors to think about when selling are the value and the demand. In classical economic theory these two things should be inextricably linked, but that's not necessarily the case with watches. An 18kt Gold, diamond-studded Richard Mille may be more valuable than a steel Rolex Submariner, but it definitely won't be in higher demand!

Dealers generally make compelling direct purchase offers on high-demand models, since they can be confident of the price and time that the watch will sell at / in. For lower-demand watches, there will likely be more uncertainty around the value and how long they will take to sell, meaning that direct purchase offers will low and a commission approach will leave you with a much larger payout.

If you're selling a vintage watch, look for dealers who know vintage and are transparent in how they appraise your watch. "How much do you want for it?" is always a warning flag for someone looking to underpay you. A good dealer should be happy to tell you what they expect to sell the watch for as well as what they are offering you.

Time is of the essence?

Choosing a route to sale generally means making a trade-off between the amount that you expect to receive and how quickly you expect to get your payout. You can walk into a cash converters and get instant payment, or drop in at your local jeweller and see if they will buy your watch on the spot - but you won't be getting the highest payout!

On the other end the spectrum, you can opt for a commission approach (sometimes called consignment sale) where a dealer sells your watch on your behalf and pays you on sale less an agreed commission. Generally, this will mean a higher payout since the dealer isn't fronting the cash or taking on any risk, but you will have to wait for the watch to sell before you get paid.

If you do sell through a commission route, look for a dealer that will return the watch if not sold within a reasonable amount of time (under 100 days). Some companies bury terms in the fineprint committing your watch to them for a whole year and require you to pay if you want to return your watch earlier.

If you sell directly, ask them to explain how they got to their offer price. And it's always good to shop around a little, a few extra quotes can't harm!

Hands on!

If you're willing to get hands on, marketplace platforms like Ebay and Chrono24 can often be a good route to sell your watch directly. 

For lower value watches (under £1,000) they will almost certainly be the route with the highest payout, since once dealers build their fees into their offer you won't be left with all that much at the end of it.

For higher value watches it's worth thinking about the prices you're being offered vs. the fees that platforms will charge and the lower sale price you will achieve as a private seller. Whilst it varies model to model, a general rule of thumb is that private sellers will achieve c.15% lower sale price than dealers. For Ebay you will expect to pay 10% Ebay fees and up to 5% PayPal fees, whereas Ebay fees are capped at c.£50 for professional sellers.




At Subdial we always try to be honest about the best sales routes open to you, even if it isn't us this time around. Great relationships are more important to us in the long-run than a quick buck!

If you are looking for advice around sales routes feel free to drop me an email at christy@subdial.co and I'll be happy to give my honest thoughts, one private watch seller to another.

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