Guide to Buying a Watch Online

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Buying watches online can be an intimidating experience for many new watch enthusiasts. You’ll find yourself looking at dozens of different prices for the same model. Depending on what you want, the process can take a bit of research and patience. 

When buying a watch online, stick to the trusted retailers such as well-known brands like Tag Heuer or Omega. You can either buy watches at the official brand stores or choose third-party retailers that are authorized dealers. Or, eBay and Amazon are good places to find the watches you want. 

Watches are akin to jewelry in expense or attempted fakeries. If you want to know where to go to avoid being scammed, keep reading.

Where To Buy Watches Online

It can be very difficult trying to find decent watches online, especially if the site you’re shopping on isn’t very well-known. You could wind up with a product that doesn’t match the description and pictures, or worse, end up being scammed.

This section details the best, and most reputable, online stores that you can find watches. Let’s get started.

Official Brand Retail Stores

Many of the most recognizable watch brands have been reluctant to embrace online shopping. Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet don’t have their own online store. Still, eCommerce is becoming more common among luxury brands.

Going directly to the watch’s manufacturers is the most reliable way of buying one. You won’t have to worry about shipping complications, and it will be easy to include extended warranties in your shopping cart.

The downside is that you’ll be stuck with higher prices. You’ll also have less variety, but that may not be a problem if you’re looking for a newer watch.

Who this is for: If you have the budget to go for it, official retail stores are the easiest and safest way to buy a watch.

Third-Party Retailers

Next in terms of safety and simplicity are third-party retailers. 

Luxury brands have officially authorized these resellers to sell their products, and they’re the only way to buy watches online from brands that don’t have official stores.

Large and well-known third-party retailers unlock more options for a huge variety of watches, and you can take advantage of their sales and benefits. You can also look for small, trusted local stores that have their catalog online.

Many third-party retailers offer their own warranty certifications of authenticity. 

However, you’ll have to be on the lookout for sites that aren’t authorized by manufacturers or even try to sell fakes. This shouldn’t be a problem if you stick to well-known and trusted stores.

Who this is for: People who want to browse through a larger variety of watches and want to get a good deal without complicating the buying process.

Gray Market

Here things start getting more complicated. 

The gray market comprises sellers that offer authentic watches but aren’t authorized by the manufacturers to sell them. Often, these watches start as excess inventory left from smaller stores and then are sold to an unauthorized seller.

The main appeal of the gray market is that you can get much lower prices for authentic, new watches. The tradeoff is that these unauthorized sellers come without a warranty and sometimes without certificates.

Buying in the gray market has other associated risks. You might have to deal with long shipping times and unsafe shipping methods, and there’s the possibility that the watch was stolen.

Who this is for: People who want to pay as little as possible for a new watch, don’t care about warranty, and are willing to deal with risky or annoying shipping experiences.


eBay needs no introduction, nor does the fact that it can get pretty chaotic. This option requires some degree of confidence in your ability to appraise a watch’s value.

Since the price of a watch on eBay is determined by its bids, the final number may sometimes be above or below the market price. For this and other reasons, eBay usually works best for finding rare or vintage watches.

If looking for authentic watches on eBay seems daunting, you can rely on eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee for Watches. When you buy a watch with this badge, they send it to professional authenticators before sending it to you. This will let you browse eBay’s sea of offers with some peace of mind.

Who this is for: People who are looking for a rare or vintage watch and don’t mind doing research and comparing prices.

Forums and Marketplaces

This option takes the most work because there are many internet forums where users buy and sell their watches directly. Here you might find the best prices and the most specific requests. Many of these forums require you to build some degree of reputation on the site before buying or selling. 

This is more often the case in forums specialized in specific brands.

Still, forums are where you’ll find the highest chance of dealing with fakes and scams. A seasoned watch buyer will know how to avoid them, but it can be a challenge for beginners.

Who this is for: Watch enthusiasts that know what to look for and are willing to put up some time and work.

Best Websites for Buying Watches

If you’re starting your journey as a watch buyer or collector, knowing which are the most popular and trusted online stores will give you a headstart. Some of these websites fall neatly into one of the categories we just discussed, while others do several things simultaneously.

Check out these sites:

  1. Amazon: Due to its excellent customer service and shipping policies, Amazon is a trusted site. They sell many luxury brands, and it’s easy to check the reliability of third-party sellers.
  2. Jomashop: Jomashop works as a third-party retailer as well as a gray market store.
  3. Bob’s Watches: A website dedicated to selling and buying pre-owned Rolex watches.
  4. WatchUSeek: Among the many marketplace forums, WatchUSeek is probably the most vouched for by enthusiasts.
  5. Chrono24: This is the larger alternative to WatchUSeek. It also offers some authorized deals from luxury brands.
  6. eBay: There might be no better place to look for rare models as long as you know what you’re looking for.
  7. Any official brand store: Many brands like Bulgari, Omega, and Tag Heuer have their own online stores.
  8. Long Island Watch: This is a well-regarded small business that offers a wide variety of authentic watches for buyers in the US.
  9. Theo and Harris: An easy-to-navigate store that offers handpicked and warranted vintage watches.

How To Tell if a Watch Is Fake or Original

The biggest worry of both new and veteran watch collectors is the possibility of heading into a scam or buying a fake. Tens of millions of fake swiss watches are sold every year, while some counterfeit watches are getting harder to distinguish from authentic watches.

To determine if a watch is fake:

  1. Do some research on the seller and verify its reputation.
  2. Ask for several different pictures of the watch and contrast them with your research about that model.
  3. Be very specific when discussing the shipping methods.
  4. Ask if the watch comes with original box and papers (record of sale). 

Buying Watches Online vs. in Person

For many people, buying a watch in a physical shop offers a unique experience. You get personalized attention and the chance to wear a watch before deciding if it fits you.

Buying a watch in person also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that what you’re buying is authentic. It also frees you of the stress of dealing with shipping and the possibility of it damaging your watch.

However, the online watch market has become the preferred option of many enthusiasts. These are some of its advantages:

  • Better prices: This is especially true if you’re looking for pre-owned watches. However, even authorized retailers will have significant sales price drops.
  • Availability: Some vintage or discontinued models are only available in second-hand online stores.
  • Variety: You’ll have access to a broader offer of watches if you buy online. 
  • Foreign brands: Some exceptional foreign brands, mainly from Japan and Russia, may not be available in your country. Buying online takes away that barrier.

Final Thoughts

There’s no trick to finding the right watch for you, but following the advice in this article will greatly increase your odds of doing so.

If you want a quick and easy experience, stay with official retailers. However, keep in mind that the prices will be higher. You can go to eBay and forums for better prices and a wider variety, but you’ll get lost if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Going to forums and peer-to-peer marketplaces also poses a higher risk of scams and fakes, so be alert and do extensive research before buying.