How to Buy a Watch: Practical Advice From the Worn & Wound Team

With the holiday season very much upon us, many watch lovers are running to boutiques, reviewing forum listings, and refining their WatchRecon alerts hoping to snag something shiny and new (or bead blasted and gently used, whatever you prefer). Whether it’s a gift for a loved one or something for yourself, ‘tis the season for #NWAs. If you’re new to the watch scene, or maybe if you just haven’t gone through the process online in a bit, buying a watch can be a daunting task. They are peculiar little things, and if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s easy to overpay, buy something in less than stellar condition, or, worst of all, wind up with a total fake. 

But fear not: the Worn & Wound team has been around this particular block a few times (far too many times, most likely) and we’re here to offer some advice for newbies and seasoned collectors alike. These are our general rules, tips, and strategies for navigating the watch market safely and efficiently, learned over years of collecting. 

Zach Weiss 

I’m not sure if this is good advice, or even advice at all, so much as a method. Become obsessed. Like, lose-sleep level of obsessed. Learn so much about the watch you desire that when you close your eyes it is all you can see. When you sleep you dream about it. Think about it so much that throughout the day, when people are talking to you about their lives, work, etc, that you are just nodding along, saying “uh huh” while going over the details and stats of the watch you desire in the background. Always have some fact about the watch’s design or history at the back of your tongue, ready to tell the next unsuspecting person. Let the watch infect you on a cellular level. When you’ve reached a point of sickness, you know what the cure is. Buy the watch. 

Or, conversely, be completely impulsive. It’s just a watch 🙂 


Blake Buettner 

I generally try to think of a watch purchase like getting a tattoo: you don’t need to rush it, it’ll be there for the rest of your life. The idea here is to slow down. Walk away from rash decisions. Come back a month later and see if you still feel the same way. Of course, watches aren’t tattoos in that only a few make it beyond the 1 or 2 year barrier. I’m also not entirely immune to impulsive decision making. There are plenty of watches that elicit a “I gotta have that” reaction, but there’s a few things I’ve learned to step back and ask myself before making a purchase decision. Would I wear it? Does it fit with my style? Do I have other watches that fill the same role? Where would I wear it and what kind of experiences would I want to have in it? If it passes this sniff test then I take it to more rational territory. Is it a responsible purchase? Do I realistically think I’ll keep it for the long haul? If not, how easy would it be to sell or trade? 

If it makes it through all that, then I’m forced to reckon with the broader implications of my collection as a whole. Is it going in the right direction? Do I have too many of this style or that complication? When a new watch comes into the fold, I like to take a step back for a 30,000ft view and it is here that I usually make more strategic decisions and get away from the emotion of a single cool watch, and it’s generally the final catch of the purchase filter. 

At the end of the day, not every purchase is logical or sound to the above process. Watches are a luxury afterall and it’s unwise to apply too much reasoning to our collective obsession. Not every purchase needs to make perfect sense or follow some formula. Perhaps just as importantly, not every watch we end up falling for needs to be purchased to be enjoyed.

Thomas Calara

I’m going to go with the 3 P’s here: Patience, Persistence and Pragmatic. I can’t stress enough how much patience plays a role when you’re looking into making a watch purchase, especially when you’re approaching a dollar amount in the thousands. The watch you want, whether it’s new or pre-owned, will always be available at one point in time, or another. So don’t feel bad if you missed out on a particular pre-owned watch released by your favorite online dealer, or if you get outbid in an auction. And if you’re in the market for a new watch, and get put on a waitlist, that’s fine too. Just think of it this way, it opens up the door and widens the timeframe for the second “P”, persistence. 

Be persistent with your research. Once you know the specific watch you want to buy, know the watch inside and out. Understand what to look for if it’s a vintage piece and know what right questions to ask. If you do enough research, you’ll know what those questions are. Also be sure to know who you’re buying from. Ask your fellow IG watchfam if they ever had any experience dealing with said dealer, and do your due diligence in checking all the online reviews. Also on that note (and to Ed Jelley’s point below), don’t be shy when it comes to asking the dealer questions. If you’re curious about something, ask away. You’re forking over your hard earned cash, and any good dealer should understand that and answer any questions you might have.

Lastly, be pragmatic. Ask yourself, how does this watch fit into my collection? Does the watch fill a void? Is it a duplicate? How long have I been waiting for this particular watch to resurface? And if the watch happens to be on the expensive side for you, does it financially make sense to make the purchase in the first place? Now I’m not a financial advisor nor do I play one on the internet, but if a watch is on the expensive side, it’s ok to keep the credit card in the wallet and sit on the sideline for a bit. Which brings us to where we first started, stay patient! Happy hunting, folks.

Zach Kazan 

The best watch buying advice I can give to enthusiasts who are new to the hobby or just looking to get more out of it is from the “Do as I say, not as I do,” category. I’m known in my local watch collecting group and (I think) on the Worn & Wound team as being somewhat, well, deliberative when it comes to buying a new watch. I generally do not give into impulse, and think over buying decisions that amount to a few hundred dollars with much the same level of rigor as those that stretch into the thousands. That said, I think the best thing new collectors can do is to not be afraid of acquiring watches. Be open minded, be impulsive, and be ready to make a whole lot of mistakes. 

Hey, I didn’t get to be so selective overnight. I used to be the guy with new incomings on a regular basis. Lots of watches in, and lots of watches out. That, I think, is how you develop taste, and figure out what it is that you really like in terms of size, style, brand, and every other possible metric by which you’d select a watch. Over time (years!) I found that I had a better idea of what I’d actually want to wear and keep for the long haul, but I only figured that out through knowing what didn’t work

The other side of this is that you have to be OK with letting things go. In the early stages of watch buying, I think you should almost expect that at some point you’re going to want to sell or trade that new watch in for something even newer. And that’s perfectly OK. The very best collectors understand we are all just temporarily giving these watches a home, and that when they no longer spark joy or serve their purpose with us, they’re better off with someone else.

Kat Shoulders

I’m a big fan of hunting for watches on forums like Reddit and Watchrecon. My general rule of thumb is always buy from someone with not only good feedback, but that has had numerous transactions on their account. It’s just not worth it to buy from someone with no feedback no matter how good the deal is. If you’re a newbie to these sites, buy a couple straps, etc to get some transactions under your belt too. Never use PayPal friends and family unless you are 100% you trust the seller, once that money is sent, it’s gone forever. PayPal Goods & Services is the way to go for buyer protection, just keep in mind many sellers will ask buyers to cover the associated fees. 

Ed Jelley   

I’m with Kat on this one. Most of my watch collection has been purchased second hand. I typically look for lightly used pieces, which has helped me save more than a few bucks over the years. Plus, it’s kind of nice when someone else puts that dreaded first scratch into the watch. You have less to worry about, and can just enjoy wearing the watch.

There are some things to watch out for in the second hand market, mainly who you’re buying from. Do your homework and check out the feedback section when buying on a forum. Don’t be bashful – ask for more photos, clarification of condition, or anything else that you may want to know before committing. Watchrecon is an invaluable tool that lets you set alerts for specific keywords. Once I set an alert, it’s pretty much a given that a watch will soon be on the way to my house. I would recommend that if you’re looking for a higher value piece, it’s probably worth it to pop into an AD or buy from a very trusted vintage reseller. 

Related Posts
This is the house account for Worn & Wound. We use it on general articles about us, the site and our products.