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  • Zero risk purchase - сheck a watch before you buy it
  • Authentication by brand-certified watchmakers

     Introduction

    When you buy a watch, you want to make sure that it is the real deal. You may be splurging a large amount of money on your next luxury timepiece and ending up with a fake watch is something you definitely want to avoid. When I bought my first pre-owned luxury watch from a private seller, I was almost sick of the nerves and doubts I had with regards to the authenticity of this watch. Was it real and how could I know it is?

    When I researched the internet and many forums, it felt like I was going down a rabbit hole where I didn't feel comfortable. I came to the conclusion that I couldn't authenticate the watch myself (more on that later). So how did I make sure it was not a fake? 

    What is "Authentic"?

    Authentic vs original watch

    Authentic watch meaning (based on the Dutch dictionary) is "original and real". But there is a difficulty here. Does "authentic" mean it is exactly the same as it left the factory. Or does it mean it only contains correct brand parts? For this matter, we carry the following meaning to the words:

    • Authentic means it is a watch that only contains brand products. So for example an Omega watch is authentic when it only contains real Omega parts.
    • Original means a watch is exactly as how it left the factory

    So the difference between authentic and original lies within if the watch is "as it left the factory". In the end every original watch is authentic. But not every authentic watch is original. Get what I say?

    The value of authenticity

    It can make or break a watch. It literally means if it is worth the money or not. You want to avoid buying a watch with fake parts. Authentic watches hold their value much better. And originality can increase the value even more! Watch enthusiast pay crazy amounts of money for a full original pre-moon Omega Speedmaster for example.

    Authentic IWC authenticated by Relleb
    Authentic IWC Portugieser (2020 model) authenticated by Relleb

    Is it safe to buy luxury watches online?

    This depends on where and how you buy the watch. It is widely known the online watch market is filled with fraudsters, fake watches and scams. Knowing where to buy is essential. And when you buy on a marketplace or from a friend. Have your watch authenticated by an experienced watchmaker

    The luxury watch brands have already started with issuing authenticity guarantees a long time ago. Tag Heuer, Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Hublot and you name it issue cards or papers with their watches. The reason why is because they stand for something. Quality, craftmanship and a rich history. Fraudsters have been around high end watches since the first days. But since the market is now more moving towards online, fraudsters are finding out how to scam people online. And to be honest, it is much easier online. There is no physical store and no trace making disappearing a much easier task.

    How to check if a watch is authentic?

    Authenticating a watch is a very delicate process which carries a great weight on it's shoulders. There are grey areas for vintage watches (such as a BlueBerry bezel in the Rolex 1675). On top of that, Superclones or superfakes are getting better. As the luxury watch is growing exponentially and it is easy to fool the average online buyer, more fake and incorrect watches are sold every year.

    You must make sure to have at least the tools to open the case back to observe the movement. You also need to dismantle the bracelet. Bracelets are sometimes incorrect or fake as well. In addition, you have to know how to identify authentic parts covering the case, movement and bracelet. This includes knowledge about for example:

    • Which models and variations are issued
    • Which material and finishing is applied on authentic parts
    • The quality of material used and;
    • What type of cards and boxes are issued with a specific watch and if these are authentic  

    We have written about our authentication process as well and we always follow the next 5 steps:

    1. Check the box and papers (for a full set)
    2. Check the serial number
    3. Authenticate the movement
    4. Authenticate the case and bracelet
    5. Verify waterproofness and timekeeping

    You can read more about how to check if a watch is authentic. Which includes giveaways on fake watches and where to look at.

    the movement of a rolex
    Observing the movement of a Rolex during an authentication service by Relleb.

    Where to find an authentic watch?

    Authorized dealers

    Luxury watches are initially sold by authorized dealer. Via a website of a certain brand (let's say Omega or Rolex), you can find authorized dealers nearby. Finding an authorized dealer online can be more of a hassle. High end watches are originally mostly sold in brick and mortar stores. 

    Watches sold online

    Authorized luxury watch sellers are not always allowed to sell online. like Rolex dealers. And pre-owned watches sold online are almost never sold by authorized dealers. The makers of these luxury timepieces are not yet comfortable with the online world of watch selling. Most watches online are sold by resellers on or marketplaces like Relleb, eBay or Chrono24.

    Online there is no "sales person with a face". Customer service is not always available and there are tons of horror stories. Nowadays it is super easy to build a web shop, pay a shady company for reviews and find photos of watches online which you can use as stock photos.

    In addition, authentication is complex and even the highest valued luxury watch sellers like Christies have made mistakes in the past.

    How to buy an authentic watch?

    We promised you there was a solution. In our opinion the only solution is a watch authentication by an experienced brand watchmaker. I struggled with finding a watchmaker to help me when I bought my first pre-owned watch. But it blew me away! Not only it gave the confidence, but rather how complex authenticating a watch is. I thought I knew a lot...

    When a watchmaker or Relleb checks if the watch is real. You get the following:

    • Independent authentication by an experienced brand watchmaker
    • Certainty over quality
    • A full authentication report supported by photos and videos of the process
    • No hassle as we take care of returns and will refund when a watch did not pass our testing
    • Shipment and customs declaration service

    This service is available for everyone buying a watch online. We have recently also explained how to authenticate a Rolex Submariner and how to check the authenticity of an Omega watch. These blogs include detailed explanations of the steps our watchmakers take. Supported with real photos from the process.

      

    Where can I buy authentic watches online?

    You can buy an authentic watch with the buying protection service. We can help you find, buy and authenticate a watch offered for sale online. The best websites based on our experience are highlighted below.authentic

    The best sites to buy an authentic watch

    We would recommend to go to a known dealers that have their own service center and experienced watchmakers. For the best price, you should go to marketplaces. These marketplaces are filled with watches offered by general salesman and private persons, NOT WATCHMAKERS. So you have to be careful and have the watch inspected upon receipt by an experienced watchmaker. If you are not comfortable with buying a watch online on a marketplace like Chrono24, check out this buying protection service.

    Best websites with guaranteed authenticity:

    • Relleb.com
    • Hodinkee.com
    • Chronext.com
    • Crown and Calibre
    • Watchbox
    • AmsterdamVintageWatches
    • TropicalWatch.com

    Full set authentic hublot watch
    Hublot Big Bang authenticated by Relleb

    Is buying on eBay and Chrono24 safe?

    Are watches on eBay authentic?

    Right on the spot, there is no certainty over authenticity when buying on eBay. They recently launched their eBay authenticity guarantee, which is only available in the US, but when we tried to get our head around how it works and why their "third party authenticator" is there was no answer. This is also highlighted in our blog containing a detailed review of fake watches on eBay. As such, I don't feel comfortable with this check at all. 

    Are watches on Chrono24 authentic?

    We know Chrono24 sold authentic watches in the past, as we authenticated those watches for our customers. Now their listings say "authenticity guaranteed". But the following applies:

    • There is no authentication service offered
    • You have 14 days to check the watch yourself upon receipt

    So basically what it comes down to, is that you have to authenticate the watch yourself to be 100% sure. You can find more details on our blogs about our experience buying on Chrono24 and fake watches on Chrono24.

    General Q&A

    is it OK to buy watches on Amazon?

    It is ok to buy a watch on Amazon if you stick to the right steps. Just make sure to do your research and have the watch inspected by an experienced watchmaker upon receipt. Don't be tricked in completing a transaction outside a platform, as you don't have the guaranteed of a platform then anymore. In case you are no sure about the authenticity of a luxury watch, check out this watch authentication service to make sure to avoid buying a fake one.

    Are grey market watches authentic?

    Grey markets carry both new as pre-owned watches. This is a category within the watch industry which is growing very rapidly. As said, buyers on these grey markets are prone to scams due to the absence of any checks that make sure a watch is authentic. We have seen many grey market dealers selling incorrect, fake or damaged pieces while being sold as New Old Stock. Don't forget, many of these grey market dealers are "salesmen" and only buy and sell watches. Some claim to be a watchmaker, but I would personally only trust a real experienced brand watchmaker and not a salesperson. Every sales person would say he sells authentic watches only.

    Grey market dealers are mainly organized on local market places, eBay and Chrono24. Local marketplaces (or buying directly from a dealer) carries the risk that a watch was not authenticated at all. We have seen watches that were sold by very reputable dealers, but never opened a watch nor have any watchmakers in service. Well, how did you check if the movement contains original and authentic parts then? On the (local) grey market there is no certainty that you are looking at authentic watches, no matter what they claim.

    Are watches on AuthenticWatches.com authentic?

    AuthenticWatches.com comes up when you Google authentic watches. The company is family owned and sells pre-owned watches and jewelry. They are based in the Los Angeles in the United States of America. They are not an authorized dealer for Rolex or any other brand.

    Based on a review of their website, we can read they buy and sell luxury watches and claim they are authentic. It literally says "All watches sold by AuthenticWatches.com® will have the original manufacturer serial number intact. All watches sold by AuthenticWatches.com® are guaranteed to be original & 100% authentic."

    There are three things that stand out for me:

    • They say "Photographs on our website are stock photos, and are not the picture of the actual item which will be shipped." 
    • Their reviews on Trustpilot claim a not so good customer service department if there is a problem
    • The buy and sell, and claim everything is authentic. Doesn't this mean a butcher which values his own meat?
    • There is no information on how they authenticate watches and know they are real and correct

    What is Certified pre-owned?

    we have dedicated a whole blog about certified pre-owned watches and dealers. If you want to know how CPO works and what it stands for, it is a must read.

    Written by

    Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

    Last updated December 18, 2021

    Want to check if a watch is real?

    • Zero risk purchase - сheck a watch before you buy it
    • Authentication by brand-certified watchmakers

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