How To Value a Pre-Owned Watch

Posted by R. paige on February 10, 1998


I get emails each week from people who are asking my advice as to how much their pre-owned watch should be selling for. This is a difficult question to answer since there are so many factors involved in valuing a modern pre-owned watch.

First off let’s start with the most important factor: condition.

This is kind of like real estate, where the value of 2 like homes are different, due to the real estate rallying cry:
location, location, location.

Well, here in the world of watches this would be: condition, condition, condition.

The general rule of thumb is: the closer the watch is to the condition that it was originally presented in the box new, the more value it has. So to carry this further, if 2 Omega Seamaster Pros are both 3 years old…but one has been worn everyday, and the other has been sitting in the box and only worn once or twice a month for dress, than it would stand to reason that the less worn one would be worth more…assuming all else being equal.

Now to actually put a value on the watch you must work backwards from the current list price, if the watch model is still being made. Here’s where the internet wreaks havoc on the resale factor. Most people come to the internet to find “a deal”…whether it be for airline tickets, computer software or

If you read through the postings, you are given the perception that the modern watch market is heavily discounted on the net…of course I’m approaching this from the USA market…other international markets have a different pricing structure. So if the general perception of a watch company is discounted from 20% to 40% off, then this establishes a “new list price”….

So if the Omega , from above, lists for lets say $2,000…and the general consensus of the “new list price” from the discounting is 35% of
list…then the new list falls closer to $1300…$2000 x .65%= $1300.

If you owned this watch and it was 3 years old, and had signs of wear, and would be in need of a service within a year …then the buyer would be looking to spend about $845…I arrived at this number from the general discounting ratio…35% off the used version. This number of course would vary dramatically based on the condition…but would never approach $1300..which is what it can be bought for new…why would someone pay close to $1300, when it can most likely be purchased new for that amount. The general rule of thumb
is…it should be sold for around 30% to 50% of list, depending on condition and age. Of course, many brands have a much stronger resale quotient….Rolex, Jaeger, Lange…for example.

There are of course numerous other factors which come into play here…desirability of certain models, difficulty in obtaining, rarity of discontinued models, as well as several other factors, which I’ll go into in another post. Warning: I’m not suggesting that Omega is discounted 35% off…I’m merely using this as an example for the post.

Also, a word should be added about Rolex…which seems to be in a category all it’s own. Since Rolex is so strict about the dealers
discounting…using threats of taking an authorized dealership away…the discounting on Rolex has been held to a minimum. Therefore the resale value on Rolex is very strong…but I submit, that if the Rolex stronghold ever gives, and deep discounts become the norm…then the value of pre-owned Rolex’s will follow in the footsteps of the Titanic. So far, this doesn’t look like it will be happening soon…but , the internet is dramatically changing the pricing structure of the whole industry.

Hope this helps.

best regards, Richard