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To Sell, or Not to Sell Your Watch, That Is the Question

By Chrono24

To sell, or not to sell, that is the question. Opinions are split when it comes to whether or not one should part with the luxury timepieces they no longer wear on the regular. There are numerous reasons for selling; for instance, you may want to use the proceeds to buy a new watch, or perhaps you simply need the cash. You can’t eat your watch, after all. Sometimes, however, you may just realize that the thing that was once a coveted object of desire no longer holds the same allure and is relegated to a sad existence in an overcrowded watch box.

On the other hand, many watch enthusiasts would be absolutely heartbroken at the mere thought of parting with one of their prized possessions. Thus, it’s not uncommon to mull over the question: to sell or not to sell?

Our authors Sebastian Swart and Pascal Gehrlein have put together arguments from both sides of the fence for you.

What do you do if a watch isn’t getting enough wrist time?

Sebastian: “I can happily say goodbye to watches that I don’t wear.”

I’d count myself as a hunter and flipper type of watch collector. As such, the phrase “the hunt is better than the catch” makes a lot of sense to me. The search itself often brings me more joy than reaching the final goal. Therefore, if I no longer like a watch – regardless of how much it initially cost me – and it’s been sitting in the box for too long, its fate is sealed: off to one of the well-trodden marketplaces it goes.

But there are many different reasons for selling a watch. Let’s break some of them down.

1. Selling Is as Natural as Buying

When starting a new hobby, a lot of people operate by trial and error. You try things out and experiment, learning all the while. Watch collecting is no different from other comparable hobbies. For example, I’d wager there are very few middle-aged car enthusiasts who still own every vehicle they’ve bought since passing their driving test.

How important is the watch’s story?

2. Greed Is Bad for Decision-Making: Impulse Purchases Must Go

Can’t wait another second? Have to take the plunge right away? Many of you probably know this scenario as well as I do: a manufacturer introduces a new model that meets all the parameters of the dream watch. Even seasoned collectors find themselves clicking the “buy” button in haste. The same doesn’t usually happen in-store, but then again, you don’t always have easy access to every watch model in person. The joy of this type of impulse purchase is typically pretty short-lived. After a few months, the disillusionment sets in and the once-coveted item suddenly loses its appeal. In moments like these, it’s important to remember that watches are made to be worn and loved, so it’s time to let it go.

3. Too many watches? Time for a clear out!

If you own a large number of watches that never see the light of day, chances are you probably shouldn’t have bought them all in the first place. Thankfully, most of us are hemmed in somewhat by financial limitations. If we weren’t, we’d run the risk of buy, buy, buy, accumulating an increasingly expensive roll of watches. It makes sense to take a breath every now and again and reflect on what you truly need from your watch collection. This line of thinking is what inspires many watch lovers to set clear limits on the number of watches they own.

If you are the owner of more than ten watches, it’s definitely worth taking stock, especially if certain models have been lying around collecting dust for some time now. The upper limit for my personal collection is now five watches at any one time.

At what point is a collection too big?

4. A New Project Awaits

“I’m parting ways with this beautiful timepiece to make way for a new project.” You’ve probably seen this sentiment or something like it in a few watch listings. In fact, it almost seems like a trend at the moment that watch enthusiasts are letting go of their once-beloved sweethearts to make room for the latest and greatest. This may be unthinkable to those of you who have deep emotional attachments to their watches, but for the pragmatists among us, the obvious decision is to sell. Why own five mid-range timepieces when you could make it into the top class by selling them off? If you need to finance a new project, it’s time for the old projects to return to the market.

A Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin

5. Price appreciation? Grab the profit and run!

While the reasons for selling mentioned above tend to focus on the emotional aspects of collecting, the profit motive appeals to that deeply human characteristic of striving for more – in this case, more money. Watches have also been increasingly seen as investments in the past few years, in part fueled by the low interest rates set by central banks. As a result, profit was sought elsewhere by investing in vintage cars, real estate, and watches.

If you look at certain models from well-known brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, you can clearly see the effect demand has had on prices in recent years. It’s only in the last few months that the “overheated” market has slowed down somewhat, bringing prices down a bit with it. Of course, this is causing many investors to consider whether now is the right time to buy or sell timepieces.

Treating watches as investments isn’t illegal, even if there are differing opinions on the practice. The investment aspect of watch collecting is likely here to stay, similar to collecting cars or stamps.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual in turquoise experienced massive value appreciation in the past.

Pascal: “Watches are made to stay with us for a long time.”

The next hit of dopamine is just a mouse click away! We’ve gotten so used to the idea that we can just get rid of things that we no longer like or use. The process of getting rid of or selling something can be over and done with in just a few minutes. We jump from one purchase to the next in no time at all. This leads to us not giving the items in our lives, objects that we actively acquired for one reason or another, any deeper meaning or even giving ourselves the chance to establish a connection to them.

At the same time, luxury watches are made to last a long, long time. What other technology today is made to last an eternity?

That’s why I advocate for holding on to your watches, even those that you no longer wear very often. I don’t say this with the same sentiment behind the saying, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” but rather because you probably (hopefully) bought each of your watches for a specific reason. I think one should actively try to remember that reason before entertaining the thought of selling.

Rolex 1603
Rolex ref. 1603

There are a few reasons why it’s a good thing to keep a watch in your possession other than just to tell the time.

1. You Bought the Watch for a Specific Occasion or Emotion

A watch that you worked hard to save for and bought in honor of graduating, for example, is more than just a luxury item. The emotional value it carries is directly linked to the watch itself and isn’t quantifiable. Hold on to feelings like these if you’re doubting yourself. There are few objects out there that are better suited for this sort of thing than a mechanical watch. Luxury timepieces are built to last longer than a lifetime, collecting stories along the way. That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t be proud of an achievement that you haven’t marked with a luxury watch…

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 37mm
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 37 mm

2. Smart Investment

Romantic ideals aside (and some of you are going to roll your eyes at this one), I’ve kept some watches in my collection purely for investment purposes. After all, the value of a watch isn’t necessarily linked to the number of days the watch was actually functioning as a timekeeper on someone’s wrist. A few years ago, I had the chance to buy a watch for below its list price. Fortunately for me, the model has since become very popular. I knew at the time that it wouldn’t be a watch I’d wear everyday due to its very nature, but I bought it anyway. If I followed the logic, “If you don’t wear ’em, share ’em,” I would sell this timepiece. But the positive financial performance gives me a certain feeling of security, and I’m pleased that my extensive research into the model and the purchase decision has proven profitable. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, is it?

Rolex Submariner 14060
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060

3. All Good Things Take Time

Okay, the last thing I want to mention today is that sometimes we just need to give things a bit more time. Acting on an emotional impulse sometimes feels like the easy way, but it’s not always the best thing in the long run. I’ve already made the mistake of selling a watch too quickly and too cheaply due to its relative lack of “wrist time.” I still regret the sale to this day. It’s not necessarily the subsequent change in value that makes me regret the sale, but rather that my style, hobbies, and vacation destinations have changed in such a way that I likely would be wearing the timepiece a lot more if I still owned it. If I had listened a little more to my gut feeling, been a bit more patient, and tuned into the reason I bought the watch in the first place, I would have realized that I could’ve grown into the watch over time. The wait would have been worth it!

About the Author


The team behind the Chrono24 Magazine consists of Chrono24 employees, freelance authors, and guest authors. They're all united by a passion for anything and everything…

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