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Buyer’s Guide For Preowned And Vintage Watches Part 2: Shipping, Paying, Insuring

Buyer’s Guide For Preowned And Vintage Watches Part 2: Shipping, Paying, Insuring

As long as you follow certain rules, buying a watch can be associated with a lot of positive experiences, as well as finding new friendships with others who share your passion. Once you have found your dream watch and agreed on a price, there are a few challenges you may face in regards as to how to conduct the transaction. Therefore, this Part 2 of our guide will take us through the shipping, handover and important legal aspects that can arise during the purchase of a pre-owned watch.

Decades ago, you could simply ship a watch out and expect the payment to arrive. These days, however, this is not advisable. Nowadays, the rule is: “money before watch”. While this hardly poses a problem when you are purchasing a watch from a verified dealer, the challenge is how to carry out a transaction with a private, unknown seller.

Buying from a registered business

You should always insist on receiving a formal invoice when buying from a registered business. In Europe, this invoice secures you 14 days return without any issues. In addition, it is important to have an invoice, as this will serve as protection against any issues regarding the watch that may arise, as well as being crucial in the case of legal procedures. 

1. Shipping, insurance and payment

If you are buying over long distance, a personal meeting is obviously not easy. Therefore, you will have to accept shipping as means of transport for the watch, without having met an individual from the business.

Your watch should always, without exception, be fully insured when shipped. Depending on which country you transact with, there are different shippers that the seller can choose from. It is impossible to list all the shippers in all countries, but here in Europe, some of the more prominent shippers include Ferrari from Milano and Brinks.  For international shipping, you can pick Intex, for example, although they have actually set a value limit. Alternatively, Google can assist you in finding the best shipping option. 

Buying from a dealer will always mean that you have to pay in advance. You generally have the following payment options, although many dealers may exclude certain options depending on associated cost:

  • Wire transfer
  • Paypal
  • Using an escrow (third-party) service, such as Chrono24 Trusted Checkout
  • Do not simply send cash to anyone. Furthermore, be particularly be careful using Western Union
  • Credit card (Mastercard, Amex, Visa)
2. Personal pickup 

For years now, buyers and sellers have carried out transactions in the watch business with a personal handover. The advantage of this is that one can inspect the watch in person, and even check it over for possible defects or damage. In addition, you can put the watch on the wrist and get a feel for it. This is not possible when you get the watch shipped.

3. Customs and taxes

As long as you buy your watch within a customs union, there will be no taxes nor customs to pay. An invoice will either be based on difference taxation or include VAT.

4. Right of withdrawal

A withdrawal from a watch transaction is generally possible with a registered dealer. In Europe, you can withdraw within 14 days without any reason, and the dealer has to accept your return of the watch. Depending on your country, the legal right of withdrawal may differ. We will aim to write about the laws of withdrawal in most countries in a separate article.

An escrow service – what is it?

As the Cambridge Dictionary states, an escrow is “an agreement between two people or organisations in which money or property is kept by a third person or organisation until a particular condition is met”. In terms of this guide, then, an escrow service is a service that can provide a secure transaction for both buyer and seller when purchasing a watch. The money of the buyer is taken care of by the escrow agent until they have received and approved the watch. After his approval, the buyer’s money, in possession of the escrow, will be paid out to the seller.

Using an escrow service for your watch-transaction requires you to know that the service provider is reliable and honest. Possibly the most reliable and honest provider is „Trusted Checkout“ by Chrono24. In order to be able to use it, the watch has to be presented on its platform. Personal experiences have proved this escrow service to be very reliable, as it protects both the buyer and the seller.  Aside from this particular escrow service, however, you should be wary with your choice and research it in advance.

Buying from a private seller

1. Shipping, insurance and payment

When buying from a private seller from far away, it is quite a challenge to make it a safe transaction. You need to make sure that you actually receive the watch and that the watch is in the pre-described condition. A private seller will never ship a watch before it is paid. This, of course, requires for a lot of trust from the buyer.

The fact that you have to wire money to a private seller who is unknown to you presents a security issue. For one thing, you cannot know for sure if they will ever ship the watch to you.    

Furthermore, a partial payment or shipping beforehand is not an option. Therefore, a buying contract is recommended. This should carry all the details of buyer, seller and watch, including its serial number. You should only send a wire transfer to an individual you can trust. This requires a certain amount of research, and you should check with other people who may have transacted previously with your seller or if they have any public feedback in a forum or other platforms. Talking over the phone is very helpful and allows you to assess the trustworthiness of the seller to a certain extent. No matter what, make sure that you are being cautious. Should you have any doubt, refrain from the seller and find somebody else.

2. Personal pickup

Personal handover is favourable, yet should not be done without prior attention. A personal meeting with a watch-seller is generally a wonderful experience, not least because you get to know the person behind the watch. You will most likely share common ground with the seller and leave with some great memories. Maybe you can even make a better deal with the private seller as you get to know each other in person.

However, remember that you do not have a right of withdrawal in a private transaction. Should the watch turn out to have issues, you will likely to be left on your own. Yes, you can take the seller to court, but you never know the outcome. Nevertheless, in a private transaction, a personal pickup is always preferable to sending money beforehand. 

3. Customs and taxes

This has been discussed above in the dealer section

4. Right of withdrawal

From a legal point of view, you do not have a right of withdrawal when transacting with a private seller in Europe. This might differ globally. Bear in mind that it can be very difficult to return a watch in any country, not least in the case where you do not have the full or even true identity and/or address of the seller.

5. Escrow service

This has been discussed above in the dealer section


1. Buying from a registered dealer offers more security.

2. Inspect the watch and find qualified assistance by a good watchmaker.

3. Chrono24 Trusted Checkout is a very reliable escrow service.

4. Buying from a private seller excludes the right to return. Buying from a dealer gives you a 14-day return right.  

5. Customs and taxes are charged when buying outside the customs union.

6. Buying from a dealer and getting an invoice is safe and you do not need any further contracts. Buying from private seller definitely should be done, and you can use a buying contract downloaded from the internet. In addition, make a copy of the seller’s ID card. 

7. Sending a wire transfer to a private seller is not necessarily a safe transaction.

Swisswatches Magazine – Guides