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Chrono24 review: is buying on Chrono24 safe?

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    Introduction

    Chrono24 is the biggest marketplace for luxury watches on earth. A place with a huge number of watches offered for sale by professional dealers and private sellers. But you have probably also heard of fake watches becoming more convincing. But are fake watches sold on Chrono24? And if so, how to avoid buying one? In this review we will take you through the different aspects of the marketplace and what Chrono24 does to avoid fake watches on the platform. We will dig into the buyer protection. The Chrono24 fees. And more information on the private sellers, professional sellers and grey market dealers. You name it, we cover it. 

    What is Chrono24?

    Chrono24 is a marketplace for buying and selling watches online. It is used by dealers and private sellers to offer their watches for sale. Watch enthusiast can find a wide offering of watches on the platform offered for sale. The platform facilitates the transaction by enabling buyers and sellers to find each other online, and oversee the paying and trading process. 

    Chrono24 is found in 2003, and facilitating in the trading of luxury watches ever since. The office headquarter is situated in Karlsruhe Germany and the CEO’s are Holger Felgner and Tim Stracke. In addition the company holds offices in New York, Berlin and Hong Kong.

    The platform in rough numbers:

    • 78.000 sellers from over 100 countries

    • 470.000 watches on offer

    • 500.000 visitors per day

    • €4.000.000.000 total value of listed watches

    Chrono24 fees

    Chrono24 earns money by charging (i) a fixed periodic subscription amount to professional dealers and (ii) a commission per transaction. These fees are charged on the seller of the watch. Which is either a private seller or a commercial seller.

    Professional dealers are charged with a monthly subscription charge and a commission per sale. The commission ranges from 2% to 8% on each transaction. Based on the subscription type and an algorithm. The Underlying algorithm estimates the margin a professional dealer makes on a certain model. Based on this estimated margin the commission is determined. When you start selling as a professional dealer you always start with a standard commission of 6.5% on each transaction.

    Professional dealer fees and costs at February 2021
    The fees and commissions for a professional dealer.

    Private sellers are only charged a commission. This commission amounts to 6.5% of the sales price. So when you sell a watch as a private seller for €10.000, you will receive €9.350 on your own bank account. Paying €650 in fees. There is no room for negotiation.

    We have also dedicated a full blog in-depth blog about the fees on Chrono24 and cheaper alternatives.

    Chrono24 Buyer Protection explained

    The buyer protection service by Chrono24 is a six-step developed try and protect buyers as much as possible from seller with bad intent. And to understand what it actually means, you have to break it down. Below you will read what you can and cannot expect from Chrono24's Buyer Protection.

    How safe is Chrono24?

    The 6 trades of the buyer protection service includes:

    1. Verified dealers
    2. Payment via Trusted Checkout
    3. Insured Shipments
    4. Authenticity Guarantee
    5. Personalized support in Multiple Languages
    6. Easy Returns

    Verified dealers

    To become a professional seller, a few things are required. First of all, the seller is asked to fill in some personal details. Such as name, name of the Company etc. Second, you have to indicate which payment methods you accept. Lastly you have to send some documents. This includes an extract from the Chamber of Commerce, and a proof of address. Basically any proof that confirms you are the owner of the head office as registered in the Chamber of Commerce.

    Reading the above, you notice there are no checks to prove that a seller sells authentic and high-quality watches. So how can you? Maybe the Trusted Seller seal gives you this comfort...

    We will first explain how someone can become a Trusted Seller:

    1. Send a copy of your ID, a company permit OR proof of registration at a Chamber of Commerce;
    2. Sign the Trusted Seller Guidelines;
    3. And lastly, you have to have 6 months without any customer complaints.

    The first two, are quite easy to be provided by any seller. The last one however, is quite a good cushion. Unfortunately, based on our experience we know the average buyer is not able to authenticate a watch. And only find out their watch is not correct when they hand in their watch for service 5 years later at an authorized dealer. So how waterproof is this 6 months period? Also when we observe sellers with more than 400 positive reviews selling watches in poor quality and not in accordance with the listing. You may decide what to make of that...

    Trusted Checkout (payment via Escrow) 

    Almost every transaction on is done with the use of an escrow service. Some countries are however not eligible for this service. Make sure to check this before you buy.

    This is part of the "trusted checkout " concept. It basically means when the buyer pays to Chrono24, the money is stored on an escrow account. An escrow account is a bank account that holds money of third parties. Money on the escrow account is not freely distributable for the company until the deal is completed.

    When Chrono24 receives the money on an escrow, a notification of receipt is send to the seller. When you receive a watch as a buyer, you have to register the receipt in the app. After 14 days, when the protection period is passed, the money is automatically paid to the seller.

    Private sellers are paid out after 7 days. But you can approve an earlier payout in the app.

    Escrow accounts in the European Union are subject to strict rules. These accounts are founded to protect buyers from companies that use funds for their own benefits.

    When you don't use the escrow checkout. But pay the seller directly not using the platform. You will not be eligible for the buying protection. Quite obvious in our opinion.

    And again. If you have bought from a private seller and you wish to return the watch for whatever reason. For example when it's a fake, you are on your own as they state “ purchases from private sellers are not protected by any legal statutes with regard to returns”.

    Insured shipments are recommended

    Although Chrono24 recommends to insure shipments. This is not more than a recommendation. Watch sellers are responsible for to send the watch. We have had bad experiences with the shipment from sellers. From poor packaging to carriers who just leave a €20.000 watch on the doorstep. See also the Return policy below!

    Private sellers normally don't include shipment fees with a listing. Buyers have to agree these upon closing a deal. Commercial sellers not always ship across continents. Because insuring a shipment for watches is extremely difficult. Be aware and make clear to the seller to insure the package, use quality material and sufficient bubble wrap!

    Authenticity guarantee

    What does the Authenticity guarantee say?

    If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a watch purchased from a dealer (please note! Chrono24 specifically refers to "dealer", and not to private sellers) you have to notify Chrono24 within 14 days of receipt of the watch.

    So effectively, you have 14 days to authenticate the watch yourself when you receive the watch from a dealer to return a complaint in case the watch is a replica or in any other way not in accordance with the listing. In case you purchased from a private seller, that is at your own risk and no guarantee of authenticity can be given.

    To be able to assess if a watch is authentic and fully legit, you will have to make sure to take the watch to an experienced watchmaker with years of experience to have it authenticated. And make sure to do that within 14 days, because if you are later than that you are at your own risk...

    In case you purchased from a private seller. The buyer protection does not apply, unfortunately. This means it is at your own risk. As far as we know, private sellers are paid after 7 days after receipt of the watch. You can turn in a complaint in case the watch is a fake or not in accordance with the listing. E.g. when a watch is not in new condition while it was listed as "new old stock". Make sure to have your watch authenticated within 6 days. You may be in time to withhold the payout to the seller. 

    The Chrono24 Authenticity GuaranteeEven Chrono24 shows a watchmaker at their Authenticity Guarantee step, so why if such a service then not part of the Chrono24's Buyer Protection?

    Can an authorized dealer authenticate my watch?

    Forget to go to authorized dealers to have your watch authenticated, as they normally have no time nor an incentive as you did not acquire it at that shop to authenticate your watch. They often ask you to leave the watch for a full service or have it authenticated for a high fee and require ridiculous time periods, way longer than 14 days (so you are not eligible for the 14 day return anymore...).

    Can an experienced watchmaker authenticate my watch?

    Even if you would be able to find an experienced watchmaker that will be able to authenticate your watch you should be aware that “The guarantee expires if the buyer himself or a third party opens the watch or removes parts of the watch without prior consent of Chrono24”. So make sure to obtain that form of consent before you have the watch opened to verify authenticity. If you do not, the Chrono24 Authenticity guarantee might no longer be available for you.

    And still, if you get permission from Chrono24 to have that pre-owned watch opened up and authenticated by an experienced watchmaker, you still have to make sure as a buyer that you get that experienced watchmaker to check it out within a 14 day period and don't damage the watch in any way... from experience we can tell that experienced watchmaker are scarce – they are in fact: extremely scarce!

    Where to get your watch authenticated in time?

    Relleb offers authentication services for Chrono24 buyers within the requested timeframes. You just let us know which watch you want to purchase by sharing the URL. We will purchase the watch from the seller. After receipt in our authentication center we will authenticate the watch and assess the quality by hand. If the watch is authentic and the quality is in accordance with the listing, we will send the watch to the customer. If the watch is fake or incorrect, the customer will be 100% refunded and we will take care of returning the watch to the seller. Find our more about our Chrono24 watch authentication service.

    We have written more on how to verify the authenticity of a watch, and how we authenticated a Rolex Submariner and an Omega Seamaster in our authentication center. We have the sincere desire to bring every watch enthusiast peace of mind when buying a watch online. You are free to involve us early on in the process so we can provide you with full peace of mind.

    The Customer service center

    ‍Customers should always be entitled to appropriate and swift personalized support. The customer service is available in multiple languages, which makes it easy to communicate. Unfortunately, the service department is closed after 6pm and during the weekends. In addition they cannot say anything about the authenticity of watch. 

    How are the Return Policies?

    Be aware, the FAQ on the return policy states:

    • You should look into the dealer's return policy before making a purchase."
    • "Some dealers only accept returns on watches with their seals and packaging intact."
    • "It is in your best interest to fully insure the return shipment and to comply with the return deadline."
    • "We recommend reaching out to the dealer to discuss the process before returning the item

    There is a lot you should do to be eligible. Make sure to check the boxes and discuss with the seller upfront. 

    Fake watches on Chrono24

    When you were to investigate the details of the Terms of Conditions and FAQ. As summarized in this blog. You notice that a buyer of a pre-owned watch is still exposed to serious risks. Due to the high number of watches available on the platform, it is merely impossible to review all listings. And although we believe a review of photos on a listing is not sufficient for 100% certainty, you can filter out some easy fakes. Something which can already be tricky for the average watch buyer. 

    Our watchmakers and several pre-owned watch dealers express their concerns to buyers about the risks of buying a watch on Chrono24. Like AmsterdamVintageWatches who quite often expose buyers that have bought fake watches on such platforms. The simple reason is that only an experienced watchmaker can authenticate a watch. Pictures will never be a proper substitute for the level of comfort that you will get when you have the opportunity to properly investigate it by hand.

    Now let's put Chrono24's Buyer protection to the test and see if there are any fake or incorrect watches listed sale on this platform at the moment of writing this blog..

    #1 Fake Rolex Submariner for sale

    Fake Submariner versus Real Submariner 16613

    Above a picture of a verified dealer selling a fake Rolex Submariner. The hands are off in size, the magnified date is not correct and even the color of the whole watch is off compared to the authentic watch shown as a comparison. Nevertheless a verified dealer...

    #2 Incorrect dial on vintage Rolex Explorer (sold...)

    Incorrect dial on Explorer

    We feel sorry for the new owner..

    #3 Incorrect dial and bezel on Rolex Submariner

    A Rolex Submariner with fake bezel and dial. Offered by a dealer with 44 reviews and all 5 stars. They state it is "custom" in the text. Be aware to read carefully and do your research.

    #4 Fake Rolex for sale by Trusted Dealer

    Fake Rolex for sale on Chrono24
    Fake Rolex Yacht-Master for sale on Chrono24 by a Trusted Dealer with 235 five star ratings....

    The verdict

    When buying a watch on Chrono24 today, there is no guarantee that the watch you are buying is authentic. Chrono24's Buyer Protection adds a layer of comfort and checks & balances into place, but are not sufficient to fully mitigate the issue at hand. Fraudsters and sellers with bad intent can still relatively easy become a Trusted Seller. This shows from the fact that in a ten minute search it was quite easy to find multiple fake and/or incorrect watches (for example with incorrect dials etc).

    Even in their magazine (link) Chrono24 emphasizes how difficult authenticating a watch is. So it is no surprise that only an experienced watchmaker is in the best position to authenticate a watch

    ‍Not having a pre-owned watch authenticated by hand significantly increases the risk of purchasing a replica or incorrect watch. Insured shipments, an Escrow checkout, and a good customer service are an important part of the safety and overall customer journey for any customer. But it will never provide full buyer protection if there is no proper authenticity check performed by an experienced watchmaker.

    The solution: find an independent authentication service

    Relleb offers authentication services to online watch buyers, also when buying from Chrono24. We will buy the watch on your behalf. We authenticate the watch and assess the quality by hand. If all is in order, you will receive the watch with a detailed written authentication report including photos. If the watch is fake or incorrect, you will be refunded and we will take care returns. In our opinion, that is the level of buyer protection you should get!

    Be aware that “The guarantee expires if the buyer himself or a third party opens the watch or removes parts of the watch without prior consent of Chrono24”. So make sure to obtain that form of consent before you have the watch opened to verify authenticity. If you do not, the protection service might no longer be available for you. If you invole us we will facilitate this process for you.

    We have bought a wide number of different types of watches in the past weeks on this platform. You can read our positive and negative experiences with buying a watch on Chrono24.

    Relleb Marketplace

    On our own Relleb watch marketplace, the fees are 0% to sell a watch. As such, private sellers and dealers can offer better prices to watch buyers.

    Chrono24 fees versus relleb

    General Q&A

    Is Chrono24 safe?

    It is safe for everyone who makes sure his watch is authenticated upon receipt. Unfortunately, many are not able to have a watch authenticated by an experienced watchmaker. Therefore watch enthusiast can now make us of Relleb's independent watch authentication service when buying online. To make sure your watch is 100% authentic and correct.

    Does Chrono24 sell fake watches?

    No, Chrono24 themselves do not sell fake watches. However, sellers that are active on their platform might be selling fakes. Individual watches are not authenticated by hand by an experienced watchmaker, so there is a risk that you purchase a fake watch from the platform. And although they have a zero tolerance towards fake watches, there is no certainty you will not buy a fake watch. We always advise to use an authentication service when buying on Chrono24.

    Is it safe to buy on Chrono24?

    Buying a watch can be safe if you have the right checks and balances in place. Vet the seller, vet the watch and have an experienced watchmaker authenticate your watch by hand. With Relleb's independent watch authentication service you will make sure to buy an authentic watch online. Without hassle.

    Is selling on Chrono24 safe?

    Selling a watch is safe if you have the right checks and balances in place. Be wary not to share unnecessary personal information, and only share whatever is required for the transaction with the buyer. With Relleb you can safely purchase your watch and Relleb will facilitate the full process for you and the buyer, resulting in a smooth and safe process.

    Is buying from a private seller safe?

    For buying from private sellers, the Chrono24 Buyer Protection is NOT applicable. So if you buy a watch from a private seller. You are on your own to vet the seller and make sure you purchase an authentic and correct watch.

    On top of that, Chrono24 also advises customers to “arrange for the buyer to meet the seller in person”. Yes, that is a quote! We would advise not to share too much personal information with a private seller and strongly advise not meeting in person. 

    This could be unsafe from a physical perspective. Potentially with a large sum of cash on the street meeting an unknown person. When buying with our Relleb authentication service, we will arrange shipment and authentication for you. No scams. No fakes. True buyer protection and peace of mind.

    Is Chrono24 legit?

    You can find authentic watches on this platform. The company exists now for more than 20 years, and they have facilitated in many successful transactions. But as a buyer, you are still exposed to a lot of risks. Including buying a fake or incorrect watch, or a watch of which the quality is not in accordance with the listing. Unfortunately Frankensteins to Superfakes are still offered online on the platform. We advise to use an authentication service when buying on Chrono24.

    Is Chrono24 the grey market?

    Right off the bat, Chrono24 is not "the grey market". But they do have "grey market sellers" on their platform. Grey market sellers are resellers that sell new old stock watches with a large discount. They are not authorized dealers. And they do not sell (in general) pre-owned or vintage watches.

    Grey watch dealers have a dirty name in the business. Because they manipulate the sale of new watches for authorized dealers. By buying a large number of watches and selling the watches far below the recommended retail price. Sometimes up to 30% below retail. Mainly made possible because they don't have expensive locations or expensive service centers. You can imagine customers at authorized dealers trying to get the same discount on new watches. By showing the Chrono24 app and prices...

    Does Chrono24 sell watches?

    The vast majority of watches listed are not owned by the platform. Chrono24 does however have a selection of watches that can be bought directly from them in stock. In addition they own the company "Zeitauktion". Which also sells watches on the platform.

    Do authorized dealers sell on Chrono24?

    Some microbrands sell watches directly on the platform. An example is Benzinger. It is not clear which authorized dealers or brands sell directly on the platform. Authorized dealers of Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are not allowed to sell directly on marketplaces.

    Does Chrono24 charge tax?

    Chrono24 adds a 7.5% VAT surcharge on domestic sales in the USA. On any other domestic transactions, tax surcharges do not apply. But when you import a watch from another jurisdiction, import duties and VAT generally do apply. We have experience in buying watches and importing watches. See our FAQ for more insights on import duties. 

    How to create your own portfolio?

    You can create your own portfolio including all the watches you own. The watch collection feature is cool. It’s a functionality that has been introduced in the last year and it is fun to follow how your portfolio of watches is doing. Based on the information available on the marketplace they estimate the value of your watch.

    Create your own portfolio on Chrono24
    An example of a created portfolio. Indicating increase of watch value and current estimated worth based on the data available.

    We have tried this functionality and enjoyed watching it. But the information available on the platform is not always fair and clean. Which may result in an incorrect indication of the value of your watches.

    Can you negotiate on Chrono24?

    Yes you can negotiate prices. Sometimes a listing states a fixed price however. But you are still able to send a message to a seller and negotiate for a better price. If the listing is not with a fixed price, you have the option to us the suggest a price button. Either way, it starts with contacting the seller. Unfortunately, sellers can be rude. Don't take it personally. We can help you with buying and negotiating when you use our authentication service for Chrono24.

    We know from experience private sellers are more easy to negotiate prices with. But there is a higher risk for fakes or incorrect watches as well. In addition, the Chrono24 buyer protection does not apply when you buy from private sellers. More details on this later.

     

    Does Chrono24 review listings?

    No, they do not review all listings. Buyers should be aware that there are no physical checks on the authenticity of the watches offered on the platform at all. There is no authentic watches review on listings nor a Chrono24 watch review process. When you see a suspicious listing, you can report it. And it may be taken offline. We have tried it on a listing of a seller that didn't have the actual watch. Now, 2 weeks later it is still for sale on the platform..

    Some basic checks are built in for private sellers. For example to put the watch at a specific time and post a picture of the watch indicating that time. This does indeed show that there is á watch for sale. But it is not sure the actual seller has that watch. Potentially somebody could post pictures of watches that are held by others. Just by asking them to put the watch time indication at a certain point and using those pictures for their own listing. In addition, this also doesn't provide any assurance a watch is authentic.

    Chrono24 asked the private seller to set a certain time on the watch.The private seller is asked to set a certain time on the watch. But you have to check if the timing is correct. And still, this can be somebody else his watch on display. Asked by the fraudster to set the time. 

    Written by

    Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

    Last updated December 22, 2021

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