Pre-owned watches: a beginner’s guide to buying a second-hand timepiece

Joseph McKenzie, founder of pre-owned luxury site Xupes, explains what to look out for when buying a second-hand second hand


Buying watches second-hand is a good way to save money, but there are many pitfalls to look out for.

When I started buying pre-owned watches to sell, it was clear the market was a minefield. Poor photography, unclear descriptions and questionable origins were just a few points I would have to consider before making a purchase. It was this experience that pushed me to start my own company to establish the way I thought buying pre-owned should be. Although the second-hand market has improved greatly in recent years, there are still some key points to consider before making your purchase.

Research the seller

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Always check online reviews and feedback to reassure you that the seller is honest and genuine. Verified reviews left by previous customers should give you a good idea of how the seller operates. Make sure you check the company out on their social media channels, third-party review sites and Google to get a holistic view. You should also have a look for press the company has received from trusted sources. Alongside this, a bricks-and-mortar showroom and a user-friendly website are also good signs that the business is legitimate. If a seller cannot present the product in person, or at least do so through high-quality imagery, it wouldn’t fill me with confidence.

Always purchase from retailers that offer a transparent returns policy

If you aren’t happy with your purchase, you should be able to return your watch within 30 days of purchase. Something might look great online, but not be quite right when it arrives in the post. A reputable seller will understand this and be able to offer you a full refund or an exchange with no fuss.

Ensure the seller is offering a warranty with the watch and check they are qualified to service it

Some sellers will claim to have serviced a watch, but you need to be sure that whoever worked on it knew what they were doing and used genuine parts. We operate a brand-accredited service centre at Xupes and we often have clients bring us watches that have been serviced by watchmakers that are not up to scratch. Retailers with accredited service centres have watchmakers that have been professionally trained by each brand to work on their watches.

Ask the seller about the origins of the watch

Any reputable seller should be able, and happy, to explain where they purchased your potential new timepiece from. I would expect the seller to operate with complete transparency, also ensuring that they run background checks on their stock to check for records of theft.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Pre-owned watches are more popular than ever and the days of finding something like a Rolex at a bargain price are sadly long gone. It’s essential to research the watch that you are interested in and get a good grasp on the current pre-owned market value. There are some brands and models which we offer a good saving on RRP (generally 30-70% off), but a watch that is priced considerably under the pre-owned market rate will run a high chance of being either stolen, counterfeit or made from a mixture of parts from other watches - known in the trade as a Frankenstein watch. If you wanted to check your new purchase with the manufacturer, or have it serviced, and it turned out to be stolen or counterfeit, you then run the risk of the item being seized or destroyed.

Buying a luxury item is a considered purchase, but if you follow my advice above, you can’t go too wrong.

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Joseph McKenzie

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