How To Flip Watches? Step-By-Step Process For Beginners 

June 21, 2024

To flip watches: 

  • Research the global luxury watch market 
  • Learn proper watch valuation, especially limited editions  
  • Find the best deals and rare timepieces  
  • Negotiate for the best price and aim for a 10% to 15% price-off  
  • Authenticate the watch with tools like WatchCSA or Chrono24
  • Evaluate the watch's condition and service history
  • Take high-quality photos and write detailed descriptions
  • Find a buyer (could take about 30 to 60 days)
  • Attend to after-sales concerns because reputation is everything in watch-flipping. 

Richard Fain took a slightly different approach to watch flipping. He claims to have made $100,000 from his $1,000 initial investment by selling watches on eBay. His flipping journey started when he purchased a Tag Heuer watch for $1,000. He joined watch forums to observe their buying and selling practices and learned from expert sellers. He flipped watches so he can save enough to buy his dream watch, a Rolex. Richard sold the $1k Tag Heuer for $1,100. The small profit encouraged him to continue flipping. He was inspired by this first sale and bought more pre-owned watches to sell on eBay. The business scaled when he used his credit card to purchase high-end watches on sale. His inventory grew to 20 luxury watches and made $100,000 in sales. 

However, not everyone thinks this business is a good idea. One Reddit commenter said the profit margin on luxury watches is small, and the biz is very competitive. Tax rebates should also be considered and you can't expect to make quick money with it. The biggest challenge is finding low-priced high-end watches with a high resale potential. Watch flipping is only profitable if you can connect with distributors and dealers in your area. 

This article shares the step-by-step process of watch flipping if you want to try your luck. I'll share 4 important rules in buying and selling watches and tips on how to spot fake ones. Real-life stories of people who tried watch-flipping are also covered in this article. 

Step-By-Step Process of How To Flip Watches

  • Research and understand the market: Focus on popular brands like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe that hold or increase in value. Rolex has an average annual appreciation rate of 5% to 10% over the past decade.
  • Learn watch valuation: Use Chrono24, WatchBox, or eBay to check the current market prices of the watches you’re planning to buy.  Chrono24 lists over 500,000 watches from more than 3,000 dealers worldwide. With this much data, it gives a comprehensive view of the global watch market.
  • Find the best deals: Search eBay for auctions and buy-it-now deals. Join watch forums like Watchuseek or Reddit's r/watches, and search websites like Chrono24 and Bob’s Watches. Keep an eye out for in-demand watches. Join forums and communities where watch enthusiasts participate. Visiting local watch shops and pawn shops also helps you find below-market value and unique pieces. 
  • Negotiate the price: Buy during off-peak seasons and sell during peak times. You can find great deals after the holiday season in January and February. You could also get discounts for repeat or multiple purchases from the same seller.  WatchCSA uses advanced algorithms and a database of over 100,000 watches to verify authenticity. This reduces the risk of buying fake items. 
  • Authenticate the watch: Make sure the watches you buy come with original paperwork and boxes. Use software like WatchCSA to authenticate the watch.
  • Evaluate the watch’s condition: Assess the condition of the watch. Check its mechanism, case, crystal, and strap/bracelet. It’s best to buy from sellers who document their watch’s service history. A well-documented service history can increase a watch's value by up to 20%. A minor scratch on the crystal can reduce the value by 5-10%.
  • Do restorative work: Use original parts if you need to replace some parts of the watch. Non-original parts reduce the watch’s value by 50% or more. Polish the watch to make it look new. However, be careful not to over-polish because it reduces the fine details which could reduce the value by 30%. 
  • Prepare to sell the watch: Take high-quality photos and write detailed descriptions in a professional tone. Include in your description the history, condition, and service records. Detailed descriptions build trust and increase the selling price by 20%.
  • Find a buyer: Sell the watch online, in auctions, and watch shows. Another option is to do a consignment sale with a local jewelry store. The watch show Baselworld, attracts thousands of collectors and dealers. It’s a great opportunity to sell.
  • After-sales: Build credibility in the industry by providing after-sales support to your customers. Be responsive and transparent, and have a straightforward refund policy. Offer insured and tracked shipping for out-of-state and out-of-country purchases. Providing excellent after-sales support can lead to repeat business and referrals. It can be the difference between succeeding and failing in the watch business.

Watch Collector Chris Salih’s 4 Important Rules For Buying and Selling Watches

flip watch
  • Understand every detail about the watches you plan to purchase. Knowledge with watches helps you find undervalued watches you can flip for profit.
  • Buy watches you can afford and are willing to keep if you cannot sell them.  Do not go into debt for a watch you intend to flip. You should be happy to keep the watch as a collection in case you can’t sell it. 
  • Selling a watch is much harder than you think. You can incur additional costs if you use money-transfer platforms like eBay and Paypal. 
  • Offer excellent after-sales service, and be open to returns. This practice builds a good reputation. However, managing returns can also be challenging. Some buyers may return watches in worse condition or simply because they changed their minds. Watch traders should maintain the right balance between honesty and good customer service. Reputation is everything in this business. 

How To Determine the Worth of a Vintage Watch?

flip watches
  • Identify the manufacturer of the watch. Focus on collectible brands like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe. Lesser-known brands can also be valuable. 
  • Use the serial numbers to determine the watch's age. For some brands, it can be harder to determine the age of the watch. In this case, you might need assistance from the manufacturer. 
  • Evaluate the aesthetic and functional condition of the watch. Original parts with minimal modifications have a higher resale value. 
  • Determine the current market value of the watch. Use online resources to compare similar watches. Consider the year of manufacture, material, and overall condition to estimate the watch’s value.

Tips To Spot Fake Watches?

  • Weight and Feel: Authentic watches are made with high-quality materials, so they feel heavier. Fake watches might feel lighter because they’re made of cheap materials. 
  • Logo and Branding: Check the logo, brand name, and any engravings. Authentic watches will have sharp, clear, and perfectly aligned markings. Fake ones have poor-quality print and engraving. 
  • Movement: High-end watches have smooth and sweeping second hands. A genuine Rolex, for example, has a second hand that moves at 8 ticks per second. A replica ticks once per second. Genuine watches have a complex and precise internal mechanism.  Swiss-made ones have over 100 individual parts that work harmoniously. 
  • Serial Numbers: Genuine watches have unique and well-engraved serial numbers. Rolex engraves serial numbers between the lugs at the 6 o'clock position. These can be verified through their official channels. 
  • Materials: Authentic watches use high-quality materials like sapphire crystal for the watch face, stainless steel for the case, and genuine leather for the strap. Fakes use cheaper glass, lower-grade metal, and synthetic straps.
  • Price: If the price seems too good to be true, it is probably fake. Authentic watches are expensive because of their materials and craftsmanship. Be careful with watches that are sold for a much lower price. For example, a brand-new Rolex Submariner retails for around $8,000 to $10,000. So a listing for a few hundred dollars is likely to be fake.

Watch Flipping Experiences on Reddit: the Good and Bad

This watch flipper clearly has a lot of experience in the business. He suggests buying cheap pre-owned watches so you can make a profit. He buys them by the bag at thrift stores. His strategy is to change the batteries, clean them, take good photos, and sell online for $50 to $80. He made at least $6K to $8K doing this side business for a year. 

This one is quite successful in his first attempts at watch flipping. He bought an old Omega Speedmaster for $2,100 and sold it for $3,900 after revamping the watch. 

Another suggested that watch flipping is more of a hobby than an actual job. It's okay to do it on the side, but don't expect it to replace your 9-to-5. 

This commenter said he tried, but failed. The reason is that there's always a new problem that arises in revamping old watches. It's an expensive hobby and you won't make a big profit in the beginning. 

Is Watch-Flipping Profitable?

Watch-flipping is still a profitable business because there's high demand for luxury and mid-luxury watches in the market. Successful flippers buy watches that are close to their bottom cash value (BCV). This is the lowest price a pre-owned watch is resold for. Rolex watches can retain up to 90% of their value over time. However, aspiring watch flippers should thoroughly study the market before jumping in. The prices of watches fluctuate based on trends, economic conditions, and preferences.  

New watch traders are also prone to scams and deceit. According to a report by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, counterfeit watches account for approximately 10% of the global watch market. This results to billions of losses annually. Those who have little knowledge of watches are easy targets for scammers.

What are the Risks of Watch Flipping?

The prices of luxury and collectible watches are highly volatile. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 increased by 50% when it became so popular in 2021, but fell down shortly after.

New watch-flippers are prone to scams and deceit. The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition found that counterfeit watches are a $1 billion industry. This makes it extra challenging for new flippers to buy authentic watches at a bargain. 

Pre-owned watches may have hidden damage or issues. You need to be familiar with the watch's parts and mechanism to be profitable.  A survey by WatchPro found that 30% of pre-owned watches sold online have undisclosed issues that can significantly affect their value.

Expensive watches are prone to theft. They could also incur damages while stored. The FBI reported $1.5 billion losses in the U.S. because of watch and jewelry theft. 

Fraudulent buyers may scam you by returning the items or asking for refunds. 1 of 10 high-value transactions in eBay end in disputes. This often involves fraudulent returns. 

The watch flipping can tie up your capital for a long time. Chrono24 reported that the average time to sell a luxury watch is around 90 days. This affects cash flow of traders. 

Is It Worth Reselling Vintage Watches?

Yes, it is still worth reselling vintage watches because they’re highly sought after by collectors for their historical value. They’re also highly valued for their unique designs and limited availability. Well-maintained vintage watches of reputable brands appreciate over time. Vintage watches have superior craftsmanship and materials that you can’t find in modern watches. The “patina’ or natural aging of vintage watches makes their aesthetic appeal stand out in the watch market. 

Watch collector Teddy Baldassarre also believes in the value of vintage watches. He said every scratch and mark in the watch tells a story. The classic look of vintage watches never goes out of style. Teddy also said vintage watches let you enjoy prestigious brands at an affordable price. However, he also warned against buying fake and “Franken” watches. These are those that have aftermarket parts. 

Is There A Course That Teaches Watch Flipping?

Yes, Pejman Ghadimi's Watch Trading Academy is a course that teaches watch flipping. It was formerly Watch Conspiracy. The course covers everything you need to know about watch flipping from finding watches in their bottom cash value to selling them. He claims that his method can make 19% ROI within 72 hours of purchase. 

My Alternative to Watch Flipping

My alternative to watch flipping is local lead generation. This business builds simple websites and ranks them on Google. The goal is to build many simple websites for local service providers and generate passive income from them. Watch flipping is a hobby, not a stable income source. Profitability with watch flipping depends on the cheap but quality deals you close. There's no guarantee that every watch you invest in will make a profit. Each watch you purchase is a gamble. It could end up sitting in your collection if not sold as planned. 

Contrary to watch flipping, income with local lead generation is stable and consistent. You have full control of the business and profit is not dependent on market conditions and fluctuating demand. Local lead gen is low-risk because businesses will always need leads to keep their competitive advantage. It's my number 1 passive income choice. 

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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2024, is to build your own lead generation business.

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