Fake watches, stolen watches, used watches… The second wrist watches market is a tough market

Many customers ask us advise in the purchase  of  used watches (or so-called vintage watches or second wrist watches). We decided to explain you why we can’t give you any guidance about watches to be bought outside our stores.

We believe three elements make prestigious watches a luxury product: their aesthetic, the quality of their mechanic and their authenticity (meant also as entirety). A watch can have a value, both in the new and in the vintage market, only if all those three requisites are satisfied. And, beside each of those requisites, there is a risk for the customer seeking a good occasion among the many used watches available in the market. Let’s give a look at all of them.

1. THE AESTHETIC: The external components of the watch seems to be the easiest to be evaluated at the moment of the purchase in order to avoid the fake watches risk. Indeed, replicas are quite easy to find for a watch expert, at least concerning the current productions. But a watch expert is not a watch lover: the latter can be confused by a good replica that seems fully original except for some features inconsistent with such reference  (eg. an open back on a Rolex watch, a buckle without the right logo, etc.). It is important also to pay attention to the ability of used watches resellers to combine original components with fake ones: a beautiful and original Rolex dial, together with an original Rolex stainless-steel bracelet, even  if made for a different reference and maybe coming from stolen watches, could fit apparently perfectly a fake case, giving to a watch without any value the look of a good deal. An example? It is sufficient to give a look at the picture below: many original pieces, even if in bad conditions, together with fake components, ready to be put together and sold.

Un esempio del materiale oggetto di perizia per il Tribunale di Roma e per le forze dell'ordine
Un esempio di materiale utilizzato per l’assemblaggio di orologi usati, in parte originali, in parte falsi

2. THE MECHANICS: a caliber inside a watch can be defined original only if made by expert watchmakers certified by the watch firms after a specific training on their movements. And this is the hottest part: it is often the movement to declare that an apparently good watch has no value because the mechanics inside is a commercial one instead than the original (meaning it is a fake watch). To give you an idea of how hard is this evaluation, it happened once that we understood that a watch was a replica only after testing its functioning: charging the mechanism, the power reserve indication on the dial didn’t move! And that was because the small power reserve hand was not linked to the mechanism below. Unfortunately, in that case, the purchase of this customer had a very high number of zeros…

3. AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY: we got to the hardest part to evaluate, since it considers the overall consistency of the watch. A watch made through assembly many original pieces, coming from watches of different ages or with a different reference, looses all its value. It happened to us that an original watch from the ’20 lost its original gold back, probably sold for need; after the war the watch was provided again with a solid gold back from the same reference, but belonging to a different watch. This solution is not as harmless as it can seem: engraved on the back of the case there was the individual number of the watch, that after such a change didn’t correspond anymore to the movement number. The records of the watches Maisons, accessible to official dealers and, sometimes, to collectors, can unveil issues about vintage watches that could seem excellent investment.

Talking about integrity it is important to mention also the right compiling of the warranty. Each brand has its own procedure: in case it is not respected, this can make the warranty fall. To buy a watch indicated as “new” from a non-official dealer shop of the brand, may imply that the warranty was already filled by a different dealer, or that (even worst) will be filled by somebody else that can make a mistake: will the warranty be filled following all the rules?

4. We add to the previous an additional element: is the watch booty of a theft or a robbery? A good way to avoid the risk of buying stolen watches is to ask the original selling warranty by the brand: it is hard that a thief can get together the watch with its own original warranty. But you should keep in mind that this can be not sufficient: we discovered that an original watch with the individual number changed manually in order to correspond to the individual number of the warranty of a completely different watch.  This trick is easy to unveil consulting the archives of the brands, cancelling completely the value of the watch.

Do you want a conclusion? Keep your eyes open could not be enough to avoid frauds. Before choosing the watch of your dreams, be sure to choose a dealer you trust for such an important purchase.

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