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What is my watch worth?

Ariel Adams, founder of the world’s largest watch site A Blog To Watch, set up his ‘Ask Us Anything’ section due to unprecedented demand from readers asking specific questions about watches and the world of horology. We’ve asked him to expand on some of his most popular questions in this series of articles. Second up, he asks the question ‘what is my watch worth?’

“I get at least a dozen emails a week from people asking me what their watch is worth. Some of these emails are extremely cryptic or otherwise seen as laughably vague. What amuses me most are the people who simply type out an extremely imprecise description of their watch that leaves out details such as the brand, model, or when it was made (without any pictures). Many don’t even explain why they are writing to me in the first place and simply type out a description of whatever it is that they feel is worth something. Are people really that unfamiliar with the concept of appraisal? So much so to even think I am an appraiser, and that I need zero information to do so even if I was one (which I am not)?

Over the last decade, the value of high-end watches has been thrust into the face of the consumer public in a way never before seen. Luxury brands have long since tried to hide how much their products cost, but the consuming public no doubt figures out that your average luxury watch is priced very high. A little research online will further reveal that at auction certain watches can go for incredibly high amounts. I am often surprised that watches aren’t featured on Antiques Roadshow more often.

All of this has resulted in a new era of uneducated horological treasure hunters thinking that their Dad’s extremely average old watch is worth a mint. It isn’t that these people are totally uneducated, but they have no concept of rarity or how to go about appraising and selling their items. If you have a piece of art, you don’t just email a blogger asking how much it is worth. There is the matter of condition, provenance, and of course the quality of the piece. Appraisers even charge money to tell you how much items are worth. So why are watches any different?

Getting a watch valued isn’t as difficult as art though, as watches are more plentiful than say… a rare painting. Sites like eBay and other online auction services offer fantastic research tools for those willing to take the time and understand the competitive market for what they are looking to sell. You can also contact a used watch dealer that specializes in the brand of watch you have and ask them. The bottom line is that there are tons of ways to self-appraise watches without having to ask others.

If your watch is very special, you can contact a more professional auction house such as Sotheby’s or Christies. Most of the time they won’t give you the time of day as your watch more than likely isn’t worth anything, but they do have a rather impressive network of professional appraisers for those select people with a truly valuable timepiece.

I also think that most people with questions about the value of a watch they found at a garage sale don’t want to sell their watches at all. Human nature seems to want to quantify the value of everything we have in our possession. People love the idea that they paid £100 for something worth £1000, or that their estranged Great Aunt left them something actually valuable. Most of the time it is based on the hope we have to get lucky.

If you really want to get your watch appraised and know what it is worth, and simply can’t find anything online, then there are professional services that will do their best to inform you for a fee. There are no free appraisal services, and if there are, they certainly won’t last very long. You get what you pay for most of the time.”