Monday, 13 October 2014

Pointers on Buying A Watch in Singapore Or Online ~ New, Pre-Owned or Vintage Watches, from ADs, Non-ADs and Local Watch Forum/Sites

i have bought a number of pre-owned and vintage watches over time and have done a fair amount of watch buys online so thought of pulling together a couple of pointers to help out folks taking the plunge or looking for better deals out there. 

how many would you like to get today Mr Too? [note this is a box of watches at a dealer and i don't own any of em :( ]

If in Singapore looking to buy pre-owned (and in some cases brand new) watches in face to face deals, you could check out these non-Authorised Dealers/pre-owned watch shops (many do have brand new pieces as well)... [a scary truth is that i have transacted(bought and/or sold) with all of the below shops & ADs and other shops not listed] Note I will not be updating these links if they go dead so google is your friend then. My dealings with them went fine but it is no indicator of how they might operate now or your experience with them so caveat emptor. 

  • montres [China Street] and watcharena [Balestier] LINK my post on montres LINK 
  • watchlink [Far East Plaza] LINK
  • Shawn at Heirloom Gallery for vintage LINK
  • Kenneth Chen LINK [site requires registration] formerly from VIP Hotel Balmoral Crescent / Barry Lim LINK [site requires registration]
  • Chuan Watch [Golden Landmark Shopping Centre] LINK
  • JW Watch [International Plaza] LINK
  • HJ Watch [Far East Plaza] LINK / GR luxury [Mandarin Gallery] LINK
  • Passions [Funan Shopping IT Mall] LINK
Singapore-centric online sites(can sometime be buggy though)
  • sgroc [site requires registration] LINK
  • swx  LINK
For grey market dealers, they are able to offer some brand new pieces cheaper than the authorised dealers because they get it from the authorised dealers looking to move inventory in larger quantities or from ADs in markets where demand is low and the pieces can be obtained at better prices. Just noting some of the common reasons. 

If you want new from authorised dealers than go to the watch brand site u r interested in and check out their authorised dealer(AD)/retailer network listed on their sites. For the luxury watch brands here, the main ADs in SG are:
  • The Hour Glass Site link [they have 40month Installment Payment Plan towards helping you get your desired watch... very dangerous :) ], 
  • Cortina [recently finished their jewelry of time exhibition LINKCortina Site and 
  • Sincere Site link
Authorised Dealers will carry a mix of brands. some come and some go depending on terms 
and relationship with the brands

When buying online, take note of the following: 

1) Try before you buy

Try the same watch model if possible before you buy vs making the decision off a pic you saw of it online. if you can't get the exact same piece then an alternative is trying something similar sized or similar model with some slight variances to understand presence of the piece and suitability. if you have owned and tried many different types of pieces(and know their sizes) this won't be too much of an issue for you. 

reaction 1: damn i didn't know it was soo small... [note this is in reference to the size of the watch!] 

reaction 2: damn i didn't know it was gonna be soo big... [note: this is again in reference to the size of the watch! ;) ]

see the middle chap? he is all of 60mm! makes the other sizable watches by it's side look a little puny

2) Pics to assess case condition

for vintage or older pieces with solid casebacks(which most of them do as clear casebacks weren't big in the past), always ask for pics of the watch without it's caseback on to see condition of the case and the caseback. if there's black-ish or other corrosion marks or pitting, I would stay clear and wait for a better example to pop up. it may require some patience though and if a piece is ultra ultra rare and you can stomach the corrosion of the case then it's your call on that... but i would wait... 

it doesn't really matter how expensive the watch is that you're getting... $100, $500, $1k, $10k or more. try and get some internal caseback shots if possible.

you need some caseback shots aye... done! :) 

3) Buy the seller

Folks with many transactions done before without issues are safer bets and better to deal with but again no guarantees as each new transaction is what it is. For watches, once the transaction is done, make sure all things pertaining to the deal are sorted. 

For me personally, for sub-1k watches i have been hitting eBay a fair bit. Most of my Seiko acquisitions were obtained there. Buying off ebay is cool coz of buyer protection. this means if the seller sends you something different from what was advertised, you can open a case and get paypal to assess to get your funds back. buyer protection is crucial for online transactions of course.  

Next onto buying pre-owned watches...

A. Provenance - Provenance matters especially if resale is important... having all the box, certs, papers, warranties, receipt if possible. the older the watch is though the tougher that this will all be intact and for quite a number of pieces greater than 10 years old, a lot of this stuff may be gone. 

my Rollie stuff, not for sale but an example of it having everything... box, guarantee card, receipt(not shown)
purchased from The Hour Glass Millenia Walk 27 Jan 2002
serviced once in 2006 after 4 years as i had really abused it in that time, being my first 'real' watch 
that i wore from board rooms to pools to the sea. the 'parts' noted was the sapphire crystal i managed to damage :)  
i have not serviced it since as it's worn in rotation with other watches i owned over time
checking with Rolex Service Centre if it were to go in today it would cost me S$900+ to service 
vs S$390 in the past... it has more than doubled in 8 years :( 

Oh and don't ask the question, is the Rolex warranty international? 
Yes, it doesn't matter which Rolex dealer globally sold it originally it's covered by Rolex Warranty internationally.
It is likely to be the same for most other established watch brands as well but i can't speak for all of 'em so you can double confirm for other brands.

B. Condition - As close to what it was when it was first sold. no replacement parts or re-touched up parts eg. the dreaded re-lumed markers. never polished would be good too if there aren't any serious dings as it retain the original case finishing and lines. most watches that have gone in once for a full service would likely have been polished then.  

What are u looking for? 

  • Sharpness of the case
  • Bevelled lines not missing
  • Not over polished or had too much metal taken away
The challenge here is that many sellers aren't able to send good enough pics to assess these so if the purchase is pricey enough eg. in the>40k range[or whatever your tolerance is], travelling to the seller may prove to be the better thing to do.

C. Servicing Matters - How long since its last service and who serviced it? 

Always try to get verification on when it was serviced last. Eg someone selling you a watch that was serviced last 8-10 years ago likely means the next servicing will be coming up soon on your dime. 

Check how long the warranty lasts as well. Some pieces may have been sold with an extended warranty(eg. boutique sold watches) so get it in the service centre before the warranty ends if anything needs a fixin. 

In terms of who serviced it, authorised is still best but can be costly. if non-authorised then make sure it's a reliable enough servicer that you personally would trust to use. if it's not then it casts a bit of doubt on the piece as in the course of servicing, parts that weren't from the original brand may have been replaced in the movement. eg. Tag, Panerai or IWC eta based movements replaced with generic eta parts. 

For my post on servicing -> LINK

D. Authenticity - To be safe, authenticate your watch before purchase if possible especially if it's a commonly replicated watch. Official service centres are best for this. 

[Note: For the dealers with shops or very established sellers, there is less need for this but it depends on each individual's relationship and trust established.]

Interested in Vintage Watches?

There are a lot of great vintage watches out there but what is said above on condition is extremely key in assessing the vintage watch you are keen on getting. for some vintage Rolex, certain aging features or patina actually give the watch it's value and the last thing you want to pay for is a service dial or replacement superluminova dial for the original tritium dial as an eg. 

havin it original is the way to go

The great thing about vintage though is the value for money buys. Watches with good to great movements eg the Lemania CH27 and Valjoux 72. Some brands may have interesting mechanical pieces from the past but you will have to tread carefully eg the likes of Universal Geneve, Movado, Zenith, English pocket watches and others.

i went through a 'find some interesting watch stuff off ebay' phase once. it was fun hunting for decent buys, looking at movements in old watches and seeing if there were worthwhile finds. somehow or another, i kinda knew that what i did buy may get very little wrist time but I still trawled through results pages looking for some good value pieces vs modern equivalents. 
some vintage pieces are popular though and have kind of settled at certain price range. for these, it comes down to your assessment of it's value when coming to a buy or not to buy decision.

ok a valjoux 72 but not found in a cheap vintage ;)

hope the above pointers help you in your hunt/purchase for a pre-owned timepiece and that's it for this post. happy watch hunting! cheers, raph 


Henry said...

Hello Raphael
This is Henry from Sydney. I just like to first point out how great your blog is. I have been following watch blogs from the US, UK and HK in the last couple of years and find you blog really unique and informative. You also have great photos taken with excellent skills and equipment.
Secondly, I think all your posts are well researched and you have a very refined taste on watches that must be developed over many many years. Please keep up with the fantastic work!

raphael too said...

Hi Henry my thanks for your kind words! i am glad that you enjoy the blog and I hope to keep on going for awhile :) Cheers, Raphael

tan said...

//////////////////hi /raphael great write up. any chance you have any new recommended grey dealers that you would recommend?

raphael too said...

as mentioned i've dealt with all of these dealers before and all my dealings were fine so you can assess them. i've dealt most with montres/watcharena so they would be my first recommendation. with grey market dealers though, most times it's whether they have the watch you are looking for as their stock is dependent on different factors vs regular ADs. hth. cheers, raph

limlim said...

Hi Rapheal,

I bought a Hublot Big Bang from a reputable pre own dealer in Singapore. Why I call them reputable because they have 30 years history in the industry,

The watch came with box and warranty and also receipt from the shop.

After a couple of months, there was some problem with a screw and I sent it back for them to repair. Which the owner did. And provided me with a receipt for the part that he changed.

However, after almost 1 year, It came to light that this watch is not genuine after I sent it to Hour Glass to send for service as I felt something not so right about the movement.

Can you advice me on what I should do now?
Thank you.


raphael too said...

Hi there, sorry to hear about your problem and I would not be able to provide advice in this case as I am not a lawyer or know of what legal recourse one would have in this situation.
Just out of curiosity, was the screw that was fixed one of the case or external screws and not a screw within the movement?
The receipt of the part changed was from their shop or from Hublot official service centre and was the actual service done by them?
If the shop is selling fake watches as the real deal and not willing to make things right and took measures to maintain the falsehood, than it should be informed to as many people as possible to steer clear of it.
Checking authenticity is important for easily replicated and commonly replicated watches.

limlim said...

Thanks Raphael,

The screw is one inside the movement. The repair was done by the shop themselves thus I am wondering how can they not know that this watch is not authentic.

Perhaps they are honestly unaware which I doubt given their long history and reputation.

I will bring the watch back to them and see how the are gong to handle this.

limlim said...

Thanks Raphael,

The screw is one inside the movement. The repair was done by the shop themselves thus I am wondering how can they not know that this watch is not authentic.

Perhaps they are honestly unaware which I doubt given their long history and reputation.

I will bring the watch back to them and see how the are gong to handle this.

raphael too said...

Hi there, hope they will do the right thing and it must be tough for you. hope all will work out.

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