A Guide to Determining Your Watch's Condition
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For any lover of luxury watches, a main concern should be ensuring the timepiece remains in its best condition especially if there is an intention to sell it sometime in the future. The luxury watch market is extremely buoyant with collectors looking to acquire coveted pieces and others trading and selling in investment transactions for additional income, keeping watches for a short period of time before turning them to profit.

The resale or secondhand value of any watch from a classic Rolex to the most modern Apple Watch, is going to depend a lot on their health condition as well as their rarity value and desirability. A watch with a perpetual calendar that doesn’t work or an automatic watch that doesn’t keep time properly is not going to hold its value regardless of the luxury brand name on the dial. 

As well as being a thriving market, watch dealers, buyers, and collectors are a canny bunch and there is a huge expectation that when a watch is advertised, the details are hugely accurate so the condition of items listed for sale needs to be specifically disclosed.

Before you decide to put any luxury watch up for sale, its condition needs to be meticulously checked. 

What is Condition?

Condition can be split into two key aspects, although purists would say there is a third.

These are cosmetic condition and functional condition.

Some say that water resistance comes under functional condition but others regard it to be important enough to be its own category.

Cosmetic Condition

You might say this is simply how the watch looks  – it mostly considers the exterior appearance. 

If a watch is in pristine condition, the metal case will be unblemished and still have its factory polish, the crystal will be completely clear without chips or scratches, the dial and the hands will look like new and the strap or bracelet will look as if it has never been worn. 

Scratches and dents in the metal or crystal will impact on value and how much depends on the metal in question. Dents are considered to be more detrimental than scratches. Scratches can be removed with professional refinishing. It’s not so simple with dents.

Dents can either be like a divot or a plane but both will deform the metal and it can take an exceptional effort to remove them. Dents will impact the watch’s value significantly as the new owner will need to invest in getting the problem fixed. If you want to realize maximum value for your watch, it makes sense to have a professional sort out any issues with the metal. 

Secondhand watches that have been worn for extended periods of time rather than kept locked away are bound to show visible signs of physical activity so do all you can to minimize them.

This has been pretty much a helicopter view of how to assess the cosmetic condition of your watch. To do a thorough job you really have to know your watch. What is the crystal made from, for example, because thermoplastic crystals are more durable than synthetic sapphire crystals. If you have adjusted the bracelet by adding in or taking out links, it needs to be returned back to factory size. It really is a case of getting to grip with every intimate detail. 

The Movement

watch's condition

The movement is the internal mechanism that powers the watch.

A watch that has been well maintained will have a consistent movement with a smooth motion that keeps accurate time.  

If you notice your watch is running too fast or too slow when you compare it to a verified accurate timepiece or if the movement feels a little bit rough or inconsistent, then it needs to be serviced or repaired before deciding to put it up for sale.

Only a professional watchmaker with jeweler’s tools can accurately assess if a watch keeps accurate time which in watchmaking terms means it should not lose anywhere near 20 seconds per day (this equates to an accuracy of 99.98%!)

In checking the movement, the professional will also check amplitude, beat error,  how accurately the calendar works (how close to true midnight does the day indicator move), the motion of a rotating bezel and how well the crowns and lugs work.

How the watch is assessed will also differ for automatic watches and mechanical watches.

Water Resistance

watch's condition

If your watch in question has been designed to be water resistant, it is essential that this feature is tested for its efficiency and to make sure that it meets the depth to which it is advertised to be resistant.

This can easily be done by placing the watch in something like a shallow bowl of water for just a few minutes. The results are very straightforward to interpret; if water gets inside the case of the watch, then it needs to be sent away and repaired.

Of course, this kind of test can be something of a double-edged sword, as finding out that your watch isn’t in fact waterproof anymore means that you have been successful in causing it some internal damage!

It is best to get the water resistance tested by an expert. 


watch's condition

Functionality refers to any feature beyond telling the time such as an alarm, stopwatch, or compass. these features should also be checked to make sure that they are working properly.

For the highest brand luxury watches, those particularly linked with sports, particularly diving and sailing, there are going to be plenty of extra features that need to be checked for their functionality, and it is incredibly important to be thorough with these checks if you are selling the watch because it is these features along with the desired brand and model name that is going to be so sought after.

Overall, assessing the condition of any watch requires a degree of careful observation and attention to detail. If any issues are noticed, then it is always the best idea to send your watch away for a full service, whether you are intending to sell the watch or simply keep it in good condition for yourself. The better condition it stays in, the more functional it will continue to be for many years to come.

When selling secondhand luxury watches, always use a respected dealer like Sell Me Watch. We buy all luxury watch brands across a very wide price range and we guarantee fair prices and impeccable service.