6 Tips For Buying Vintage Watches On eBay

I spend countless hours a week trawling for and buying vintage watches on eBay.

Let’s be honest a lot of fellas out there don’t have a spare four or five figures to spend on a timepiece, some do but don’t want to and that’s completely understandable also. Some time ago I wrote an article called 10 Best watches under $1000 and its been the most clicked article we’ve ever published on TVG. Suffice to say the interest and demand for affordable watches is alive and well!

The fact of the matter is you don’t even have to spend $1000 to get a good watch, in fact, you could spend half of that and get an attractive vintage watch from a known brand that you could pass on to your children (if serviced regularly!). For me, there’s no better place to look than eBay, but as usual, there are things you need to watch out for, so I decided to throw this piece together for anyone who is thinking about buying a watch on eBay.

Firstly I’m looking for two things; unique pieces that I don’t see often or popular models from well-known brands that I can move later down the track. In saying this I don’t recommend buying watches on eBay to make money. Unless you really know what you’re looking for you’ll often get stung. Also buying up watches to sell is dangerous because if you’re like me and you love watches, more often than not you’ll decide you don’t want to sell the ones you’ve bought and before you know it you have a drawer full of watches and no money in your bank account!

Anyhow, I digress, here are my six important tips for buying vintage watches on eBay.

1. If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true: Nothing new here but nothing is more important than this point when buying watches on eBay. If it’s drastically underpriced or unbelievably rare it’s definitely fake. Just move on and chuckle to yourself knowing you haven’t been sucked in.

2. Buy ‘Original’: The words I’m always looking for are ‘Repainted’ or ‘NOS’ (new old stock). When you’re buying a vintage watch you want it to be truly original. Many eBay retailers sell vintage watches that look brand new and that’s because they have repainted or retouched dials, or crowns that are NOS (parts pulled from other models) among many other things. Steer clear of these. Look for watches that are double and triple stamped, meaning the logo appears on the dial, the movement and the inside case back. Originality is the most important aspect of buying vintage and serious sellers selling original examples will always include this in the description.

3. Check the Condition/Movement: Don’t be the fool that buys a ‘parts’ watch or one ‘for repair’ only to be told it was written loud and clear in the description. Enthusiasts all over the world are looking for watches to restore, repair or take parts from so there is a lot on eBay. Make sure you’ve read about the watch’s condition before purchasing. Good examples will have been recently serviced or state their ability to wind without issue. Movements should be photographed and visible in the sale’s gallery. If it’s rusted and tired, take that into account before buying or ask for more information about it.

4. Always look for good feedback and avoid buying from certain countries: There are lots of watch stores around the world that sell stock on eBay, sometimes you’ll find examples that come with a warranty from said store. These sellers will have great feedback and you can be confident in buying from them. ALWAYS look at a seller’s feedback, it will be the deal maker or breaker. Don’t risk sending your hard-earned coin to a questionable seller ever. 99% of the time sellers with no feedback are scams. I’m also wary of purchasing watches from Eastern European countries such as Romania, as well as India, Thailand and also South America. These areas are notorious for throwing together random cases, movements and dials to produce vintage watches.

5. Beware of added costs: Always make sure you’re looking at postage costs, it’s easy to shop on Ebay.com for watches because they are light and can be sent from anywhere in the world. Don’t let that catch you out, copping a $90 postage cost might be a third of what you spent on the watch!

6. Don’t let something go you really want: This has happened to me so many times, sometimes over $2.50 and nothing is more devastating. If you see a piece you love put a bid in that reflects your desire to own it. I guarantee that extra $40 you would have spent is only going to be spent on a round of shots for 3 people you don’t really like next Saturday night. You will be so much happier with your new watch!

Always remember the golden rule when buying vintage watches. If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true! Don’t be a sucker.

The watch in the feature image is a gorgeous Vulcain Cricket which sold for $456 just before Christmas, regrettably not to me.  


James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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