Now that you know the core factors that can make a watch a worthwhile collectible — rarity, condition, complexity and brand — let’s get into the finer details of amassing your collection.
The first rule of collecting watches is to never buy something on impulse. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What you want to do is carefully discern exactly what kind of watch you’re looking at, what quality it’s in and how much you feel it’s worth. Unlike other purchases you may make, this is not the time to simply buy now or to bid on a whim on some website.
This is the time to research the product.
Once you’ve come across a watch that you like, you need to immediately look at all the images and read through the descriptions carefully. Online websites are notorious for counterfeits, broken watches and everything in between. Often the best deals are found on private auctions since many of those sellers don’t realize an item’s true value, or they’re just looking to sell it quickly because it holds an unpleasant memory, for example.
When doing your research, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
Is there any oxidization, rust, damage?
Does it appear to be worn? Are there scratches and, if so, how many and how bad? Are there dents, chips, engravings?
Is it gold? If so, what karat? Is it plated, solid or filled? Look for the markings to give you proof.
Are there missing pearls, stones, etc.?
Does it match the period the seller claims it’s from?
Is it water resistant? (If so, you want to be extra careful and ask the seller what their return policy is should you find out the seal is broken.)
Has the watch been serviced? Do the parts appear to be originals or replacements?
Once you’ve examined the pictures and done your research, determine the watch’s value by using this simple grading standard, which I often use:
AAA = Excellent Condition
AA = Very Good
A = Good
B = Fair
Anything below A is not worth your time or money. Forget it and move on.
There are three other areas you need to consider to determine whether the watch is worth the buy:
The case: In Britain, gold and silver watch cases are hallmarked before sale.
The marks can reveal valuable details about the history of the watch, including where and when the watch was made, and who designed it. You can find an example of these markings in the images to the right and below.
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