While there’s nothing quite like visiting a watch boutique or a jeweller’s when you’re shopping for a new piece of wrist candy, shopping for a watch online has never been easier or more fun than it is in 2021.
Not only do watch brands spend a huge amount of time, energy and coin making their ‘online boutique‘ experiences as lavish as their brick-and-mortar options, but you’re also spoiled for choice when it comes to third-party marketplaces, many of which offer truly luxurious customer service. But not all platforms are created equal.
eBay, the big kahuna of online marketplaces, has recently embarked on a marketing blitz trying to push their new eBay Watches service. Just as Gumtree launched Gumtree Cars in order to compete with the big motoring classifieds and Facebook Marketplace has tried to steal some of eBay’s mass-market appeal, eBay clearly wants to narrow in on the luxury watch selling space.
But don’t get suckered in – eBay remains one of the riskiest places to buy a luxury watch online and most watch fans would tell you to steer well clear of the site.
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A quick search on any watch enthusiast forum – or even eBay’s own community page – will quickly unearth hundreds of horror stories of people who’ve been scammed by unscrupulous sellers pushing fake luxury watches.
“If you would Google for stories of people who acquired a fake Rolex, Breitling, or any other luxury watch on eBay – I guarantee you that it will take you no longer than exactly 1 minute to find numerous stories,” Dutch watch authenticator Relleb relates.
“Undeniably, eBay is a truly fantastic platform to sell and buy many types of goods, but unfortunately is in our opinion less suited for selling expensive luxury watches.”
“Identifying fake watches from pictures alone is nearly impossible… Although the company initiated an authentication service in the US, ‘custom’ watches are not eligible, and these custom watches are almost always fake watches. For buyers outside the US, there is no possibility to use this service yet.”
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eBay authenticate any watch selling for over 2,000 USD on the platform, but as previously mentioned, only Americans can take advantage of that service – so a majority of customers are left out. Also, good luck if you’re looking for something from a cheaper brand… Fancy a fake G-SHOCK?
On top of that, there are literally hundreds of watches supposedly from high-end brands like Audemars Piguet, OMEGA or Patek Philippe listed on the platform with an asking price under that figure.
Of course, you need to have your bullshit detector on for something like that – what’s the chances of getting a genuine AP for less than 20,000 USD, let alone 2,000 – but the point still stands that there are cracks in the system. Maybe that Tudor’s competitively priced… Or maybe it’s fu-fu.
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“When purchasing a luxury timepiece, having a reputable company stand behind that product is paramount,” COO and Co-Owner of Bob’s Watches, Carol Altieri, shares with DMARGE.
“When buying from a private party, what guarantees do you have as to the integrity of that watch? When we buy a watch from the public, we go through a 3-step process of ensuring that every watch we sell is factory – no matter the brand – inside and out. We ensure the watch is time tested and good to go for another five years before a regular service.”
“Is this same thorough inspection process done on eBay? Who do you call if you have a timing issue three months later?”
“You should never buy a watch on any site that does not offer a solid track record of selling genuine timepieces,” she continues.
“All watches sold should be inspected inside and out to ensure the integrity of the watch. Would you buy a car without looking under the hood? Pre-owned watches come in varying degrees of condition, so any luxury item should have a return policy so that you can inspect the watch for yourself.”
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“Spending a couple of thousand dollars for a luxury watch online needs a lot of trust: trust in the seller, trust in the marketplace and foremost, trust in the way your money will be returned if needed,” Chrono24 Co-CEO and Founder Tim Stracke tells DMARGE.
“[We] handpick our dealers on the marketplace, only trustworthy ones are granted access to our platform.”
“Whenever there is a minor issue with the shipping or the condition of the watch and you need to talk to someone Chrono24 is there for you in person – our customer service is happy to help in 15 different languages.”
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The reality is this: compared to their competitors, eBay doesn’t do enough to reassure serious watch buyers that their products will be genuine and that they’ll receive quality customer service. The platform is less intuitive to use than its competitors and crucially, just doesn’t feel very premium – and that’s a rather important facet of the experience.
When you’re spending thousands of dollars on a watch, you want the experience to feel as luxurious as the timepiece you’re hoping to pick up. A platform that has high-end watches appearing in the same searches as cheap Chinese electronics, trading cards and second-hand books doesn’t cut the mustard in that regard.
It’s the curse of being a jack of all trades and a master of none.
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Time will tell if the eBay Watches experience improves. One crucial advantage eBay has over its competitors is money and resources – if they throw enough money at the problem, they could become a genuine threat.
Until then, we’re remaining healthily sceptical of buying and selling high-end watches on eBay.