Five things you need to know before buying a vintage watch

In an age where a smartwatch can send a text, control your TV and book you in for spin class, Australia's old fashioned luxury watch market is surprisingly still going strong, if official reports are anything to go by – evident in the fact brands like Hublot, IWC, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin continue to open glitzy showrooms in a bid to capitalise on local demand.

Yet alongside the market for new timepieces is a buoyant reseller market too which is opening up new avenues for established and aspiring collectors to access a plethora of brands and styles at varying price points.

Unfortunately, Master Watchmaker Nicholas Hacko says unscrupulous dealers are selling subpar timepieces at full freight prices. It's his belief that by swerving social media and only buying from a real bricks-and-mortar stores, you can avoid being duped.

"Make sure they have an Australian registered business name and a valid Second Hand Dealer's licence," he advises. "You can carry out an online business identity check the Australia Business Register.

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As a watch seller himself, Hacko recommends being wary of any watch advertised as "Rolex style", "Italian made", "aftermarket", "non-genuine" or "enhanced" and make it clear to the sales person that you are only interested in 100 per cent genuine watches.

"Only buy a watch if it has been recently serviced by an authorised service centre or a reputable watchmaker who guarantees his work and the watch's performance, in writing, for a full calendar year."

That said, online portals, e-stores and social media offers those outside of larger cities the ability to participate in watch swaps and trades.

Chris Essery, founder and brain behind watch forum Horology House says buyers best educate themselves if they're to get a sale they're going to be happy with and offers five guidelines to buy by.

1. Do your homework

"There is no substitute for hard research," says Essery, who advises prospective buyers to arm themselves with information on the model or brand they're considering.


"See what similar models and styles are going for by checking groups and forums." Watchuseek, Rolex Forums, Chrono24 and WatchRecon are good resources to get you started. But treat these as guides not gospel.

2. Stick to specifics

"Don't pretend to know," says Essery.

"The world of watches is complex and one way to help mitigate any misstep is to narrow what you're looking for or at."

Understand the variables of vintage watches such as casings, finishes and aftermarket parts. Recognise that some watches are cut and shut jobs. Much like cars, some watches are put back together using many different watches of the same or similar models. Modern watches, especially popular models like IWC, Rolex and Omega are prone to rip offs and fakes. Some are very hard to tell apart even for those who know what to look for.

"Know the signs and get up to date photos." He adds.

3. Become a detective

Mitigate some of the risk by buying from reputable stores and sellers.

"Ask around, drop questions into groups," Essery suggests.

"Perform a Google search, check phone numbers and websites, analyse reviews."

Stores are far less likely to offer dud watches but you can't guarantee someone isn't trying to pull a sly one. Understand that there is no guarantee and considering yourself your own best judge of character.

4. Negotiate like a gentleman

Negotiating prices is a tricky business. As with any sale, understanding what is above and below market value will do much to steer any conversation between buyer and seller.

Be respectful, avoid tyre kicking and be concise and prompt with your back and forth online. "Keep your head clear when you buy. Don't let emotion override you and prevent you looking at the product carefully."

5. Be smart with money and postage

Different sellers prefer different payment methods. Stores will accept cards of course but online sellers often prefer PayPal or bank transfer. Note, neither offer guarantees in case of a dispute.

"Make sure you feel comfortable," Essery impresses.

"If you don't, back out quickly and respectfully."

If you're trading in cash, do it in public and on mutual ground. Ensure you have any delivery tracked and signed for. Agree on insurance with the seller ahead of time and don't forget to account for GST or import fees.

Buying second-hand can be a great way to nab a bargain on hard to find models but when you're not buying direct from the brand you must realise that you are not afforded all the security you may be used to. But, by understanding what you are buying, where and from whom, you can better your chances of a solid gold Rolex kind of sale.