Hello all, my name is Caleb and I am a fellow watch enthusiast, connoisseur, and collector just as you are! This is my first contributing article on the Watch Review Blog and I’m going to cover how you can go about getting an amazing bargain deal on a pre-owned high quality watch from pawn shops or thrift stores.
I love that feeling of looking down and seeing a beautiful piece of art just resting on my wrist, tick-tick-ticking away, or even better, that smooth, enticing sweep of an automatic movement. I’m sure you know that feeling.
What a beautiful feeling, right? But let’s be honest, if you’re anything like me you haven’t and cannot see in the near future going into a Cartier, Patek, or even an Omega AD and buying a brand-new watch? And dare I say… you are better off?
Let me explain. We all know that buying new you get that glorious feeling of being the only one to bond with the watch, and it’s new, and shiny, and has that pristine never been touched look. You get to peel all the plastic off and you get to get it sized for the very first time. But then 2 days later you look at the void of money missing, you realize that now that $2,500 watch is worth about $1,800 and you paid an inflated $700 for 2 days experience with the watch. DON’T.
I am not a buy new person. I want that new Omega Seamaster, and in 2 or 3 years, I’ll try to buy one. Or not, because I still won’t feel comfortable personally paying that much. But I do want the SKX. It’s simple, outdated movement, but it’s the SKX. If I don’t fall in love with it I still feel like I’m doing myself a disservice not owning it and experiencing the X-factor it has. Is it my favorite? No. I actually prefer the Orient Ray 2 to it… I can buy the Orient Ray 2 new for less, and still, I’ll buy it used. You can really save lots of money! I’ll tell a story of how, and then I’ll give you some rules, and tips to follow to buy used right, be it to add to your collection or to flip for profit.
I was 17 at the time and worked at a HEB. I made little money but LOVED luxury watches. I wanted anything Swiss, German, Italian, even high-end Japanese and automatic. But I realized I only had about $100 to spend on this dream I had. So, I started researching and found a few less known brands and hit the thrift stores and pawn shops. A week goes by, no luck, two weeks go by… nothing, but then going on three weeks of searching I found it. This pawn broker told me it was some Chinese knock off watch that they didn’t know much about, but it was automatic, so they wanted $60. I took a picture and played it as I wasn’t interested.
I went home and researched the brand in detail, finding the model and the sale prices. I stumbled across a Maurice Lacroix Moon-phase in a pawn shop for $60. I found a few ways to verify its legitimacy and went to check it out. I looked, inspected, and tried it on. It was love. I bought it and ran out like I robbed the place (I basically did). The current values on that watch were about $1,500. I was ecstatic! I wore it for about 8 months, then decided it was time to part ways. I wasn’t interested in eBay listing it as I was young, nervous and a tad lazy. I took it back to a different pawn shop (same franchise) and sold it to them for $800. I could have easily made more, but I was lazy and that took 5 minutes.
This story is just simply a way to share a neat experience along my watch collecting journey as well as lay out a few rules.
My Buying Tips
- Skip the big names: You’re not going to find a Rolex for $500. You just aren’t if the brand is over-hyped it’s overpriced, especially in these buying places. They know someone will come in and dump $3000 on a used Rolex using their layaway program and you’re not getting a good deal. If you buy it for $3000 it’s most likely worth $3200 and it’s not worth the hassle.
- Stick with brands you know: Do you know anything about Maurice Lacroix? No, but you can look it up! If you’re out and don’t want to take weeks to buy, stick to things you know; Seiko, Citizen, Bulova, Movado, Timex, Casio, Orient are all very good ones to consider that aren’t as popular. These watches will generally sell for at or less than $100.
- Don’t buy it if you couldn’t see yourself wearing it: If worst comes to worst and you’re going to take a loss on profit, it’s better to see it as a possibility to add it to your collection. You can’t do that if it’s a Seiko diver and you wear a suit every day.
- Check your favorite 1-3 places almost daily: Sometimes you’ll see that Seiko SKX drop to $40 and if you’re not there fast, it will (not might; WILL) be gone. Checking as often as possible allows you to know you won’t miss the best deals.
4.1 Pawn shops will often discount or lower prices on items that sit on the shelves. Now this is a bit of a gamble but if you see that watch you’re eyeing and it’s for sale for $75 and you know you can sell it for $200…. wait. Watch it a few days. Go in and inquire about it, how long have they had it? If it’s longer than about 30 days, offer what you’re willing to pay. You never know unless you ask!
- Bring cash: Little secret, most pawn shops hate cards because they’re charged credit fees they cannot inflict on you to cover. Bring cash for that deal above and lay it on the counter as you say your offer. They’re more apt to say yes to a cash deal.
- Don’t rush: if you’re in the need for some quick cash, sorry to say but just sell one of your pieces from your collection. I just sold most of mine for special circumstances. It happens, now I get to start over! But, this is not the best way to ‘make a quick buck’. Getting in a hurry almost always means lost money.
- Have fun: It’s thrilling to find that catch, that amazing bargain on that little Steinhart the pawn shop thought was a Stuhrling or some cheap Chinese watch. It’s amazing to know you’re going to get a great deal, or make a killing on resale, but DO NOT RUSH.
- Automatics are worth more than quartz: Their old fashioned but they’re more intricate and more special to look at. Always favor an automatic over quartz.
- Try to avoid: Major flaws, misaligned crystals, bent crowns, over-polishing if noticeable, or anything that just seems overly worn. If it’s vintage it’ll have a nice patina, maybe a few nicks in the crystal and some scratching but if everything is snug and looks good, it’s probably a good bet!
- Don’t be afraid to make your own offer: ALL prices are negotiable. Even the pawn shops that have ‘set prices that drop with time’ find the head pawn broker, they can make you a deal. If they won’t wait until it drops to the price you feel comfortable paying, or consider passing on the shop all together.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away: Often times, if you make an offer and present cash, if they decline simply say thank you and turn and walk away…. DON’T FORGET YOUR CASH! Lol, but seriously, just turn around and walk. If they want that sale they’ll try to call you back. I just recently experienced this; if one pawn broker tells you now, don’t give up, try another shop, or if you’re particular to one shop, come back to another broker. I’ve developed a relationship with a man names Jon who buys most all my pieces I bring him, he even bought an old fashion watch that needed a battery, and at a fair price too. Sometimes it’s about trying to create a long term relationship with the people you buy from and sell too!
Next week we’ll dig into the resale and discuss a few avenues on how to keep or maximize your profits on flips! Stay safe, and good luck hunting!