Rar­ity does not equate to value, ex­cept in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances. Just be­cause some­thing is hard to come by does not mean it’s worth lots of money

Hong Kong Tatler - - Watch Advice - Il­lus­tra­tions EMMA HOPE REED

The in­tri­ca­cies of buy­ing a se­cond-hand watch can leave the novice over­whelmed with con­fu­sion and self-doubt. It’s a daunt­ing mar­ket re­quir­ing se­ri­ous re­search, and ques­tions abound: Am I be­ing over­charged? Does that scratch mean I should pass? Is this piece au­then­tic?… Brian Adams asks watch ex­perts at Sotheby’s and Christie’s for their best ad­vice for new col­lec­tors

Lis­ten To Your Heart

The buy­ers of se­cond-hand watches can usu­ally be di­vided into two cat­e­gories: the sen­ti­men­tal­ists and the in­vestors. Some peo­ple want to own a piece of the past, maybe some­thing their par­ents or grand­par­ents wore, that will trans­port them back to a time for which they feel nos­tal­gia. Oth­ers are look­ing for good deals, bar­gains that will pay off with a quick flip through a re­sale, or a watch to store un­til it has ap­pre­ci­ated in value.

Jessie Kang, Sotheby’s head of watches, Asia, says buy­ers should look be­yond the po­ten­tial dol­lar value. “The very first and im­por­tant re­minder we of­ten sug­gest to clients is to buy watches for more than in­vest­ment pur­poses.” In Kang’s view, you should look for a piece you con­nect with, one that makes you want to own it not just for its po­ten­tial, but also be­cause of its in­her­ent ap­peal to you.

If It Sounds Too Good…

It may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive af­ter telling you to buy some­thing that pulls at your heart, but be sure not to be taken in by a slick sales­per­son. Ni­cholas Biebuyck, se­nior spe­cial­ist, watches, at Christie’s Hong Kong, has some words of wis­dom when it comes to that steal of a deal. “If it looks too good to be true, it is. If it’s an un­be­liev­able deal, there is al­ways a rea­son for it. Whether the watch was put to­gether, has a re­fin­ished dial or has in­cor­rect parts, there is a rea­son it is strangely cheap and should not be bought.”

All Things Are Not Equal

Biebuyck also ad­vises buy­ers not to be daz­zled by the ex­clu­siv­ity of an item. “Rar­ity does not equate to value, ex­cept in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances. Just be­cause some­thing is hard to come by does not mean it’s worth lots of money,” Biebuyck warns. “Gen­er­ally, there is a rea­son some­thing was pro­duced in lim­ited quan­ti­ties in a pe­riod: it was not a sales suc­cess due to it be­ing not very good or was of­fered in a con­fig­u­ra­tion that was not fash­ion­able at the time and has not aged well.”

Do Your Home­work

It is al­ways best to know your prod­uct be­fore buy­ing it. The more you know about it, the bet­ter de­ci­sion you can make. But re­search should not be lim­ited to spe­cific time­pieces; Kang en­cour­ages buy­ers to get to know their own tastes and re­sources be­fore mak­ing a pur­chase. “We en­cour­age in-depth re­search about the cat­e­gory they are buy­ing;

and to buy what they truly like and the best they can af­ford,” says Kang.

Use your Head

It’s all too com­mon nowa­days to find shop­pers stand­ing over items in stores check­ing prices against com­peti­tors on their smart­phones be­fore mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion to buy. While there are more dis­creet ways to do this, it is im­por­tant that dur­ing your re­search you shop around, make notes of prices, and ask for an item’s his­tory to en­sure it is au­then­tic. “Al­ways buy smart: com­pare prices and check the prove­nance,” sug­gests Kang.

Con­di­tion is Ev­ery­thing

Se­cond-hand does not mean dented, dinged or scratched. Biebuyck ad­vises buy­ers to take the time to in­spect the time­pieces care­fully be­fore pur­chas­ing. “The pre­mium that is paid for per­fect watches with un­touched dials is now mul­ti­ples of what one in av­er­age con­di­tion is worth,” Biebuyck says. “Col­lec­tors are in pur­suit of the best of the best ex­am­ples, and con­di­tion is prized over nearly ev­ery­thing else.”

Be­ware the Facelift

“Cor­rect­ness and de­sir­abil­ity are two dif­fer­ent things,” Biebuyck ad­vises. “There are some com­bi­na­tions of parts and pati­nas that are very hard to prove are cor­rect that are pur­sued re­lent­lessly by some col­lec­tors, but just be­cause it is at­trac­tive does not mean it was born that way.”

Build a Col­lec­tion

You may be in the mar­ket for one spe­cific watch or per­haps your goal is to amass a col­lec­tion. If you have your eyes on a few time­pieces, or are par­tic­u­larly drawn to a style or de­sign, Kang sug­gests you should con­sider shap­ing your col­lec­tion right from your first few pur­chases. “We would also ad­vise build­ing a col­lec­tion un­der a cer­tain theme, be it about a par­tic­u­lar brand, a par­tic­u­lar func­tion, a spe­cial move­ment, a spe­cial ma­te­rial, left­handed pieces, etc.”

Bite the Bul­let

When the time is right, the time is right. If you’ve fol­lowed the ex­pert ad­vice so far and done your home­work, then you will recog­nise an op­por­tu­nity when it presents it­self. So don’t be afraid to fol­low your in­stincts and take home a watch that is scream­ing your name. “Try to grasp the op­por­tu­nity when you see unique pieces,” Kang says. You never know, the next buyer may be look­ing over your shoul­der just wait­ing for you to pass.

Be Pre­pared to Walk

And if you can’t find the right watch, don’t be afraid to keep look­ing, Biebuyck says. “What is meant to be will be. If a deal does not look like it is go­ing to work out, there is prob­a­bly a good rea­son for it, and it’s not worth spend­ing time try­ing to push some­thing through when it will likely end in dis­ap­point­ment.”

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