A Cautionary Tale On Buying New Watches Online
by John Keil
Though this cautionary example of buying a new watch online is not new, with the current influx (or perhaps “flood” is a better word) of grey market watches to mainstream channels it’s perhaps more poignant today than ever before.
Know who you are buying from before you put your money down!
I probably don’t need to preach that well-worn refrain if you’ve been reading Quill & Pad for a while, but it’s always good to hear again: buying watches through unauthorized channels has its risks. Having worked directly for a brand as a national sales manager, then managing an authorized retailer of more than 20 brands, I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff with regard to watch sales.
One story stands out for me, and in retelling it I hope it helps you know what you’re buying and how to avoid being misled.
Your homework today is to read this!
Back in 2005, I was working with the wife of a good client who was looking to buy her husband a special watch for a big anniversary. Knowing his taste as well as his current collection inside and out, I’d helped her narrow down her decision to an awesome piece: the Ulysse Nardin Marine Aqua Perpetual Limited Edition.
It was stainless steel with a white gold bezel and a stunning blue enameled dial and bezel inlay. Making it even more special, it was limited to 500 pieces worldwide and had been out for almost two years by this point. The model was all but sold out; there was one remaining brand-new example at the Ulysse Nardin headquarters in the U.S. at the time that I knew of.
When the client and his wife came back to tell me that they had found a better deal online than I could provide, I was a naturally little bit concerned about not making the sale. But my greater concern was protecting my client and looking out for his best interest.
I asked my clients for a favor before I returned their deposit: to call the online contact they spoke with and ask a few questions first, including whether the watch was brand-new and if so what was the serial number. They did that and the answer was yes, the watch was new. They also learned the exact serial number.
With that information, I dialed my Ulysse Nardin representative on speaker phone for my client and his wife to hear. Without explaining the scenario at hand, I asked the rep to do me a favor and research this particular watch with its serial number. I told him that I simply needed to know if it was a watch sold through an authorized retailer in the United States.
The answer that came back on speaker phone was, “Yes, this watch was sold to one of our authorized retailers about 19 months ago and it was sold very quickly afterward to a client.” I thanked him for his help and hung up.
I looked up to find Chuck and his wife staring at me wondering how this online retailer had the watch and why he’d been advertising it as new.
I told them that it was quite simple: Ulysse Nardin had delivered to its authorized retailer. The retailer sold it to a client, who wore it for a year and half. The client then proceeded to sell or trade it in to this online retailer. Where it got crappy is that instead of the online retailer selling it as a pre-owned watch, he lied and advertised it as new.
Needless to say, my client ended up with the watch brand-new from me. He never considered buying watches from anywhere else again after that. Lesson learned.
How can this story help you?
- Know who you’re buying watches from. Reputation is all anyone has in the watch industry!
- If you’re buying a new watch, buy from authorized retailers. It is the only way to guarantee that you are getting what is advertised.
- If you’re buying a pre-owned watch, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out the model and serial number and contact the brand for further information.
- If the deal seems too good to be true, trust me, it probably is! For peace of mind, when buying an expensive timepiece, spend the extra few dollars to get it from a trusted channel.
- Don’t be afraid to contact me here or put a question in the comments. We are always willing to offer our best advice to keep you safe and we aren’t affiliated with any brand or store.
What’s important to note is – like many brands these days – Ulvsse Nardin’s watches must be registered through their website once purchased from an authorized retailer.
Going forward, Ulysse Nardin (and, again, many other brands) have detailed accountability for each watch and will be more than willing to help you, the client, either directly or through its authorized retail network.
Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin Marine Aqua Perpetual Limited Edition Reference 333-77-7
Movement: automatic Caliber UN 33 with patented perpetual calendar mechanism settable backward and forward; officially certified as a chronometer by the C.O.S.C.
Case: stainless steel with white gold bezel, 42.7 x 12.7 mm
Dial: blue enamel
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with large date, day, month, year
Limitation: 500 pieces
Price, new in 2003: $24,800
Also published on Medium.