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Buying a Second Hand or Vintage Watch - Part II

February 19, 2014
Home / The Vault / Buying a Second Hand or Vintage Watch - Part II

In this article, we will look at other points to consider when buying a second hand watch.


9 out of 10 people looking at a second hand Rolex in our store will at some time in the conversation ask if it comes with its box and papers. Let's now look at exactly what this means. Generally speaking a watch will come from the factory presented in a box, usually with an instruction booklet of some sort, a warranty card and if the watch has been certified by the COSC as a chronometer, the "papers" or card displaying this.
(Click here for an article on what "Chronometer" means on a watch.)

In recent years the boxes themselves have become more and more fanciful (to the point that some watch boxes are not practical for even storing the watch due to the size of the box!) however these are always good to keep even if you do store it somewhere other than with the watch. Be careful to store the box in a dry place as mould and moisture can quickly render the box unusable.

It is always nice to get a watch complete with all of its original paraphernalia sometimes including the original swing ticket and receipt, however logic does have to come into the equation.
If the watch is 2 years old you would expect to get a great deal of the original booklets and box.
However if the watch was made in 1963 for example, chances are there will be no box or papers of any sort, and if there is this will be a massive bonus.

Should I buy a 1 year old second hand watch with no papers?
Sure, if the price is right, you feel comfortable with the seller i.e. that the watch is legitimate and not a fake, then buy it. Don't forget that like watches, boxes and even papers are now being faked so be careful everything is genuine.
However even after all of this, some people will only purchase a second hand watch that has its box and papers and that is completely fine and understandable so it really comes down to a personal choice on the watch without papers, but again, remember that watch collecting didn't really get big business until the last decade or so, and another loose rule is that after the year 2000 people kept all of the box and papers, before 2000 not always.

A Rolex Explorer I with its original box, instructions, chronometer paper and even its swing ticket

So overall when buying a second hand watch it will ultimately be up to yourself to decide if you want all of the relevant papers associated with the watch. You will generally pay a small premium on a watch from 2002 with box and papers versus another same model watch from the same year without box and papers, and there is no right or wrong answer as it will be up to yourself at the end of the day.

More on buying a second hand watch coming soon in article III.

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