How to Sell an Expensive Watch
Everything you need to know
Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Panerai, Patek and more... from £500 to £500,000
You have a luxury watch and you want to sell it.
Whether Modern or Vintage, selling a luxury watch can be a confusing process and without an understanding of the options you are open to being taken advantage of. Making sure you choose the right route involves four steps: know your sales priorities, benchmark price, gauge market demand, and know your sales options.
1. Think about your sale priorities: time vs money
For every sale this is the ultimate trade-off. No matter what route you take, you will have to make this decision.
The fundamental question that you have to ask when selling is how long willing to wait to sell your watch vs. how high a return you want to get. Generally, the longer you wait the higher return you can get.
This is true of Ebay where you have the option to auction vs. list at a fixed price. An auction is much quicker but you will almost always get a lower return than if you list it fixed and wait for the right buyer to come along. It is also true if you decide to sell through an online watch dealer: most will give you the option of consigning the watch – where it is sold on your behalf and you are paid on sale less a fixed commission – or selling it outright then and there. A consignment sale is almost always the best route if you are looking to get the highest return, whilst a straight sale is best if you value time.
Whilst most sellers will want to make the highest return AND sell it in the quickest time possible, it is worth thinking about which of these you would be happy to compromise on.
As a general rule, if you have the luxury of time then spend it wisely to get the best pay-out. If you are committing to a consignment sale with a dealer, be sure to look at the fine print on returning your watch. We've had bad experiences of selling with dealers like Watchmaster who require a year (!) to sell your watch on consignment and require YOU to pay their profit in order to return your watch earlier. A good dealer will have a lower time to sale than this with sensible return fees. They should also be able to give you an honest opinion on how long it should take for your model to sell, so just ask them!
If you are selling through a platform like Ebay or Chrono24, list slightly higher and quickly revise the price down depending on how good the views are. As a rule of thumb, more than 30-40 views a day suggests that people are interested and the price is right! IF it doesn't sell you can always fall back on an auction, safe in the knowledge that you gave yourself the opportunity for the highest return.
2. Benchmark the price
Know the value of your watch, and how much more a dealer can sell it for than you can as a private seller
It’s important to understand the potential value of your watch by doing some research online. Chrono24 has a very structured catalogue of watches which makes it easy to identify similar watches around the world and their selling price; however Chrono24 only shows list price rather than sale price – remember that anyone can list a watch at whatever they please, it doesn’t mean that that is what it is worth! As a rule of thumb, you should identify the cheapest watch of the same model in your region (e.g. North America / European Union) with a similar condition and scope (e.g. papers vs no papers) and deduct 10%. This will give you a good idea of the price that a dealer could achieve on your watch. Private sellers expect c.15-20% lower than dealers.
Another approach is to brenchmark price using EBay. Ebay can be much more difficult to find similar models of watches through because the listings are much less structured. However Ebay has the bonus that you can select ‘Sold Listings’ on your search which allows you to see what things actually sold for (rather than just what they are listed at). Ebay contains a lot of private listings, so sale prices tend to be lower than what a dealer could sell at.
Ebay filters can be used to view 'Sold Items' and 'Completed Items', giving you a much better idea of market value than just looking at List Price
When benchmarking, make sure you are always considering the year and condition of other watches, as well as whether they have original boxes / papers. Benchmarking can be much more difficult with vintage watches where there is much more variability in these factors – try to find an expert that you can trust to give you an honest opinion. A good dealer will give you an honest assessment of your watch, and will be happy to tell you if they think that there is a better route for you to sell through than them.
3. Gauge the market demand
Demand is just as important as value. It will effect the return that you should expect and the time that you should expect it in
The demand for a certain model of watch is almost as important as its value, a truth that is often neglected by sellers. Some watches have such a high demand that they can almost be commoditised and tracked like a stock or share. For example, it's possible to tell within about 2-5% accuracy what the price of a 2017 Rolex Submariner Date is on any given day. However it can be much more difficult to assess market sentiment for less common or less sought-after watches.
Some models have much higher demand than others, and this will effect your expected time to sale. Chrono24 sometimes gives a view of particularly high-demand listings where there have been a large number of views within the last 48 hours
This is particularly true of watches with precious stones, where the materials alone justify a high value but you may have to wait months or years to find someone who is willing to pay you that for it. With watches, just because the demand is low doesn't mean that the value is low. When selling your luxury watch you should consider the market demand for your model, as this may stipulate how long you should expect to wait for a sale.
Dealers will build this into consideration when making an offer on watches. If a watch is going to take a long time to sell, the offer will be lower despite the value being high. Conversely, if your watch has high demand then you should expect dealers to take a much lower margin, since they can be confident that they be able to flip the watch quickly. If you do decide to sell through a dealer, ask them to explain how they have calculated their offer and how quickly they expect to be able to sell the watch – a trustworthy dealer should be able to give you some level of transparency and honesty.
4. Know your options
Ebay, Chrono24, Dealers, and Local Shops. Work out which option is best for you
You've worked out your priorities, and assessed the market price and demand for your watch. Now it's time to look at your options and work out which one is best for you. Let's look at them one-by-one...
Ebay can be a good place to sell lower value watches and more obscure vintage pieces. The best thing that it offers is an incredibly wide reach, since it spans buyer globally of all shapes and sizes. As a private seller on Ebay, you should expect to achieve a much lower sale price than recognised second-hand dealers do – how much lower will differ from model to model, but -20% is probably not a bad rule of thumb.
On top of this, the fees can add up. Ebay charge a nominal fee for listing (around 35p) and then 10% of the sale price including postage. This charge is capped at £250 on a sale of £2,500. On top of this, if your buyer decides to pay by PayPal you will be charged an additional 3-5%.
All-in-all, Ebay is not a great place to sell particularly high-value watches (e.g. over £1,500) because the lower sale prices coupled with c.15% combined fees mean that you return will be much lower. That said, Ebay can be a great option for lower priced vintage watches (less that £1,000), especially if they are from more obscure brands or in poor condition. Ebay has a lot of regular collectors looking to find bargains, so they may well be happy to snap up an obscure vintage watch even if it isn’t in great working condition.
A similar model to Ebay, Chrono24 allows you to reach a wide range of buyers and collectors internationally. The majority of listings on Chrono24 are from established dealers, meaning that prices tend to be higher, with a greater level of security for buyers. Private Sellers are charged a flat fee of 6.5% on the sale price of their watch (capped at $300) and your listing will be marked as ‘Private Seller’.
Chrono24 highlights whether listings are from Private Sellers or verified businesses
In terms of audience, Chrono24 has a smaller reach than Ebay however all buyers are specifically interested in watches and are expecting to pay dealer prices. Photos are therefore very important – if you sell through Chrono24 make your watch look reputable, perhaps even buying a small watch stand and white background, which won’t be more than £5-10 and will pay dividends in terms of sale price.
Whilst Ebay is best for lower value watches and parts sales, Chrono24 attracts higher-priced buyers who are looking for the end product. From our experience, the Chrono24 team tend to be responsive and much better to deal with than Ebay who can be difficult to get any support from to say the least!
Dealers make their business by achieving higher sale prices than private sellers whilst simultaneously incurring lower sales fees. Depending on the watch, if you find the right dealer you should be able to make a higher return on your watch than selling it directly through platforms like Chrono24 or Ebay. Generally, they will tend to operate two parallel business models: one where they buy and sell watches and another where they will ‘consign’ your watch, selling it on your behalf and paying you less a commission fee when it sells.
Most dealers will have a website through which you can submit an enquiry. Look for a short form, they shouldn’t need large amounts of information to make you an offer, just a good picture and a sense of things like age, condition, and whether it has boxes / papers. Some dealers will take weeks to get back to you, others will hopefully respond on the same day. You should feel comfortable with who you are selling to and the service that they give you. If you want to speak to them by phone ask to do so, and if you want an explanation of the quote that you have received then you should get one.
Comparing quote forms. Some dealers ask for an unecessary amount of information. Often they are just trying to suss out whether you have any idea about the value of your own watch!
A few points that we think are worth remembering with dealers:
- Rates: Consignment commission fees tend to be around 18-20%, anything below this is good relative to the rest of the market
- Transparency: If you are at all confused just ask the dealer for an explanation of the quote that they have given you. You should expect some level of transparency over the value vs. the fee that they are going to take for facilitating the sale. A good dealer will be confident in the value of the service that they provide, not sheepish about it
- Good Service: Look for someone that you can speak with directly should you need to. Selling a watch can be a nervous business and you want to be able to speak with someone knowledgeable who understands your case should you need to
- Shipping: Don’t send your watch off in a random jiffy bag without knowing that it is insured. There is a bad habit of some dealers doing this, putting your watch at risk without taking any liability for it
- Speed: Look for someone that is quick and responsive. We hear issues from sellers regularly who have sent their watch away and are stuck in a long process waiting to get paid without any ability to recall their watch quickly
Selling through a local watch shop is a nice way to get cash quickly. Whilst it is worth having a chat with them and seeing what they will offer you, generally you will get a much higher offer elsewhere, and it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of days depending on what route you take. Local shops feel nice because you get to have a very physical sense of sale, however our honest view is that you tend to pay a lot in terms of your return for that feeling..!
A free quote, no commitment
Calibre Co. buys watches through its sub-brand Calibre Sales.
Get a quick and free quote on your watch. We will always aim to give you an honest opinion of the best route to sell your watch, even if we don't think that it is through us!
Co-Founder, Calibre Co.
This article was written by Christy, one of the Co-Founders at Calibre Co. Please get in touch directly to discuss anything in the article (or anything more widely about watches!)