A Case for Letting Go: Lessons Learned from “Want to Buy” Listings, the Passage of Time, and Mark Cho

I don’t like selling watches. I don’t think I’m alone here among watch collectors and enthusiasts, but when the time comes to let a watch go, it gets my anxiety up. There’s just nothing about the process I enjoy. Being lowballed or tire-kicked on the forums? No thanks. Worrying if a stranger is going to claim you sent them an empty box? Hard pass. And then there’s the existential dread, wondering if you’re doing the right thing, conflating a watch sale with a Sophie’s Choice type of scenario that has real meaning, when in fact, it’s actually just a watch. 

Nine times out of ten, selling a watch is a process that I one hundred percent do not recommend. But at the same time, we all have to recognize that it’s an essential part of the hobby for just about everyone. I recently had an experience selling a watch, though, that made me rethink how I approach the “dread” aspect of this whole deal, as described above. I’m still not sure about dealing with strangers on the forums, but my outlook has shifted a little bit. 

As it so often happens, I found myself looking to replenish the Watch Fund with my eyes on a future purchase. My particular problem here was that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to sell. I just knew that I needed to raise some cash. I found myself browsing through the r/watchexchange “Want to Buy” listings, just to see if, by sheer dumb luck, someone might be after something I’ve got. I actually don’t own a lot of watches, so the chances of a match here are generally pretty slim, and I had not once sold a watch this way, but still I found myself looking, mostly out of sheer laziness. It’s weirdly a lot of work to put together a sales listing, you know. At least it feels like it for me. I get paid to write about watches during the workday, but when night falls and I have to start hawking my own stuff, well, I’m a solo-preneur with no guarantee of ever getting paid. 


Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a post in the WTB section for a watch that I actually owned. Here was a Reddit user, with a handle that tricked me into thinking they might be local, looking for a Grand Seiko SBGH271. “Hey,” I said to myself, aloud, and alone in my living room, kind of embarrassingly, “I have one of those!” I dashed off a quick message, not sure of what might come of it, explaining I have the watch, it’s a full set, and to message me back if there’s an interest in making a purchase. 

At this point, I found myself in a weird limbo period, wondering if I’d just soft-committed to something I’d regret. “I can always back out (like a chump),” I said to myself, this time silently. In my experience, a lot of these Reddit users just vanish. I probably won’t even hear back from this person. 

I bought the SBGH271 in the fall of 2019 (see its first appearance on Instagram below), and wore it a lot right from the beginning. A bunch of watches came and went during my time with it (in fact, it survived a pandemic/boredom driven collection purge in the summer of 2020) but I had never seriously considered letting this particular Grand Seiko go. I reviewed it here, positively, and at a certain point it just felt like a cornerstone of my collection, even as I reached for it less and less. As I’ve explained here many times, I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to watches, but buying this so close to the time I went full time at Worn & Wound almost kind of felt like it meant something. I didn’t buy the watch to celebrate a new job, but it was certainly a reminder of where my life was at when I acquired it. All watches do that, I think. 


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Finding this WTB listing happened back in February, a short time after Mark Cho, a friend of the site, had gone through the process of selling a large chunk of his collection at auction to finance an expansion of The Armoury. In the lead up to the sale, Mark went on a bit of a publicity blitz to drum up interest, and I had recalled his positive attitude about letting these watches go, understanding that it was time, and that he had found a worthy reason to pass them on. For those reasons, and also just because I admire Mark and his good taste, and had followed the auction, his experience was on my mind as I considered a sale on a much, much smaller scale. It turns out all the interviews and YouTube videos were extremely effective, as he explained to me that the auction was an unqualified success. “The financial result was well beyond expectations,” he told me. But he had what I think he’d agree were mixed emotions in the immediate aftermath. “I felt a vacuum after the auction,” he said. “I did not regret the sale nor miss the pieces but I did feel like a little part of me had concluded.”

Mark Cho, image via The Armoury

In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t have my SBGH271 for a long period of time, but because my ownership experience lined up so neatly with the pandemic and a period of career change, the watch had an outsize impact on me personally that I didn’t really clock until I started to grapple with parting with it. I’ve always been on the record as having an “Everything’s for Sale” mentality about my own watches, but with the SBGH271 I had second, third, and fourth thoughts in a way that I couldn’t quite remember experiencing. Letting go of the SBGH271, for better or worse, would feel like a culmination not only of this small part of my own personal watch collecting “journey,” but a distinct chapter of my life as well. 

Eventually, my new Reddit friend responded. Yes, he was interested, and would love to see some pictures, which I was happy to take. Then he asked a question I wasn’t really expecting: Do you work for Worn & Wound? 

I make it a policy not to advertise that I am who I am on the various watch forums. I will never lie about it, but it would be kind of gross to list a watch for sale and say something like “Hey Why Not Buy From a Worn & Wound Editor?” Right? I feel like that’s the sentiment that would underscore any preemptive disclosure about what I do for a living, and that’s just not a message I’m interested in putting out into the world. In the sales listings, I think of myself as a civilian. 

When I told him that yes, I work for Worn & Wound, my prospective buyer sent me a message right back explaining that he had come across my SBGH271 owner’s review some time ago, and that he’d been looking for one ever since. He even recalled a specific section of the review, which I had honestly forgotten I had written, where I discuss New Hampshire’s uncomfortably humid summers, and how he had escaped the same weather in a neighboring New England state by picking up and moving to the Pacific Northwest. 

Believe me when I tell you that every remaining shred of anxiety I had about letting go of this watch drained out of my consciousness in these moments. How could I not sell this watch to someone who had been inspired, at least in part, to buy it from reading something I had written? We quickly agreed on a price, a digital handshake and transfer of funds took place, and I got a happy wrist shot a few days later from a place with far more comfortable summer weather. 

Something Mark said in my correspondence with him after letting go of my SBGH271 really resonated. He told me that the feeling of melancholy he experienced over parting with so many watches was extremely short lived, and really only lasted until the evening following the auction. “I held a drinks party in Hong Kong for all the auction winners and was able to meet quite a few of the local winners,” he told me. “Meeting even just a few of them in person, seeing their happiness and feeling their passion for the watches they had won made me very happy as well. I was more sure than ever that it was right to let these watches go.” 

I’ve understood intellectually that watches I’ve sold in the past have gone to owners that will enjoy them and value them in ways that I no longer would be able to, but the experience I had selling my SBGH271 made this idea crystal clear. It honestly had less to do with the fact that the new owner was familiar with the review I had written than the more basic idea that he was searching for something very specific, and something I was prepared to help him acquire. There’s something immensely gratifying about putting a watch on the wrist of someone who will appreciate it more than you might be at the time. 

We always talk about this romantic idea of making memories with watches. But sometimes (maybe most of the time) the memory lingers long after a real interest in wearing the watch has subsided. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: the memories don’t go away when you let go of the watch. I don’t know if there’s a “right” thing to do for an inanimate hunk of steel, but it seems to me that giving someone else the opportunity to make their own fond memories with a watch is the right thing to do for your fellow watch collector, if given the chance. 

I’ve always strived for a certain level of anonymity on the watch forums, even before writing for Worn & Wound. I think I’ll continue to fly mostly under the radar, but Mark made a good point about fostering connections during the sales process in discussing his offer to make a custom garment for every auction winner. “Usually the sellers of auctions are quite anonymous,” he said, “but I really wanted to connect with the new owners, and to do so over creating a unique garment is probably the best way I know how.” We might not always have the opportunity to connect with members of the community in these ways, but I think that simply remembering that it is a community, and the potential significance of passing on a watch, is important. If the watch was meaningful to you, there’s a good chance it will be meaningful to the next owner as well. 

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.