Article written by Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com
Buying Watches Online Should Be Easy!
However, and I speak from personal experience, buying watches online is great fun, but very often it’s difficult to get a bird’s eye view and a holistic perspective of what to think of. Below I’ve compiled a list of the most important questions you should think of when purchasing watches online:
- Authorized and non-authorized dealers – what is the difference between them?
- Type Of Watch You Prefer
- Size Of The Watch You Prefer
- Preferred Case Material
- The Strap That You Prefer
- What Movements You Prefer – An Overview
- Return Policy
- What To Do If The Watch Breaks
- Repairing The Watch – What Goes On Behind The Scenes?
- How Frequently Does My Watch Need To Be Serviced And Cleaned?
So let’s answer each question one by one!
Authorized dealers are watch retailers that have an official agreement with particular watch brands or manufacturers to sell their watches. Whether a watch dealer is authorized or not is always a brand specific question. The status of being an “officially authorized dealer” is always brand specific. No watch dealer is authorized to sell and repair all watches of all brands.
Since authorized dealers have an official agreement with the watch manufacturers or brands, to sell and/or repair their watches, they (the authorized dealers) are required to charge prices determined by the watch manufacturers themselves. These official prices, that are set by the watch manufacturers (or brands) are frequently referred to as “recommended prices”.
AUTHORIZED WATCH DEALERS OFFER YOU THE WATCH BRAND’S OFFICIAL WORLD WIDE WARRANTY – USUALLY A SMALL PLASTIC CARD THE SIZE OF A CREDIT CARD.
Non-authorized dealers do not have an official agreement to sell timepieces or watches manufactured by a specific watch manufacturer, and therefore aren’t bound to charge any original price or “recommended price”.
The non-authorized dealers, who sell Swiss luxury watches (or any watch brand for that matter), indeed sell genuine and authentic watches. They cannot afford to cheat customers, otherwise they’ll be out of business.
They are able however to reduce the prices of the watches – and that’s why you can purchase and acquire genuine and authentic Swiss luxury watches at reduced prices online.
NON-AUTHORIZED WATCH DEALERS USUALLY DO NOT OFFER YOU THE WATCH BRAND’S OFFICIAL WORLD WIDE WARRANTY.
Do non-authorized dealers offer you a warranty on their watches? Yes they do – the retailer’s very own warranty.
There are many non-authorized dealers on the web that are very reliable, and highly respected, which means buying watches from them is safe.
Amazon, to mention an example, is not an authorized dealer of Swiss luxury watches (or any watch brand for that matter) but Amazon is indeed very reliable and highly respected, and is known to charge customers in a safe and secure manner, to deliver the watch in a professional and satisfactory fashion, and to offer assistance in settling disputes between the seller, and the customer.
I trust Amazon, and I’ve never had any difficulties or problems of any kind purchasing watches from them.
If on the other hand you come across a non-authorized dealer who doesn’t offer any warranty of any kind, it means they aren’t trustworthy, and you should avoid those who cannot or will not, for whatever reason, offer you a warranty.
So why purchase luxury watches online if there is no guarantee that you’ll get the luxury watch brand’s very own official world wide warranty?
Purchasing luxury watches online means dramatically reduced prices, and to most people the reduced price of a luxury watch is the main reason for purchasing it online. Purchasing a luxury watch online means you’ll very often pay only 60-80% of the original price.
Questions you should ask yourself are:
- Which brand do you want.
- Which specific model do you want and why you want it.
- Do you prefer an all-round watch, a very elegant and dressy watch or a tool watch?
- Do you want the basic time functions such as hour-, minute-, and seconds hands and a date window? Do you need additional complications, such as a chronograph, a GMT function, a Depth Gauge, an Alarm, or astronomical, timing and striking complications?
- How much are you willing to spend?
- Will you use your watch on a daily basis, in your profession only or for life’s special occasions?
As a general rule we can say the following:
Small sized wrists = you should go with a diameter of 36mm up to 40mm.
Medium sized wrists = you should go with a diameter of 38mm up to 42mm.
Large sized wrists = you should go with 42mm as an absolute minimum (40mm in unique cases). There are watch brands that offer 44mm, 46mm and even larger watch models.
For Everyday Use:
Either stainless steel or titanium are the preferred materials. Stainless steel is standard among most Swiss Luxury Watches – Divers Watches included. Most Rolex, Omega and Breitling watches, just to mention three prominent examples of highly respected Swiss Luxury Watch Manufacturers, indeed use stainless steel, although the quality of the steel might vary from brand to brand. Rolex is known to use the highest quality stainless steel on the market.
Stainless steel is not immune to dents, buckles and scratches, but is in all honesty a rather strong and hard-wearing metal.
Titanium is a light weight metal and considerably more expensive. If you are opting for a large and hefty timepiece, my recommendation is to go with titanium since the material alleviates the weight of the watch.
For Life’s Special Moments – Parties, Festivities And Ceremonies:
Under such circumstances, you could use gold, rose gold and/or platinum – needless to say – very expensive! However do avoid to use gold, rose gold or platinum for everyday use – these are rather soft metals and not as serviceable or as hard-wearing as stainless steel or titanium.
What About Ceramic Cases?
Ceramic cases are extremely scratch resistant but they are also very brittle. If they fall on a hard surface they might break or shatter. Ceramic cases should preferably not be used for daily use. This is my honest opinion.
There are, however exceptions. Hublot offers to my knowledge high quality ceramic cases, although most Hublot watches are made of stainless steel. Jaeger LeCoultre offers some divers watches made in a material called Cermet which is a an alloy of aluminium and ceramic. This too is a high quality material.
Generally speaking though, ceramic cases are brittle.
Please note that you shouldn’t confuse ceramic cases with ceramic bezels. In this particular case I’m referring to ceramic cases – not ceramic bezels.
There are many Rolex and Omega watches that use stainless steel cases equipped with ceramic bezels. Those bezels are more scratch resistant than steel but are indeed brittle.
Most straps or bands are made of:
- Stainless steel bracelets (titanium, gold or platinum in less common cases)
Regarding stainless steel bracelets: The most practical, servicable, hard-wearing and durable watch band, and in my opinion the most elegant one, is a stainless steel (or titanium) bracelet. If your bracelet is the wrong size, you can simply ask your local retailer to adjust the size for you in exchange for a minor fee. There is no need to send back the watch to your online retailer for this purpose.
Sooner or later, you’ll probably get scratches and minor blemishes on your metal bracelet.
When this happens, I recommend you to send in the watch to your local retailer. They can polish the bracelet for you in exchange for a minor fee. There is no need to send the watch for repairs to the online retailer simply because there are some minor scratches or blemishes on the bracelet.
Regarding rubber straps: Rubber is obviously less heavy and more flexible but won’t last as long as a metal bracelet. Even if your rubber strap breaks, it’s easily replacable. Some brands have special designed rubber straps with their name and logo on them, and some rubber straps are brand specific – they don’t necessarily fit other brands as far as the size or design are concerned.
Regarding leather straps: Leather straps are more expensive than rubber straps. Leather is elegant but very unpractical – the least practical watch strap. Leather easily breaks, rots, and cracks.
If you opt for a leather strap, you should avoid any contact with water. Your divers watch will absolutely survive in the water, but your leather strap won’t. Some leather straps are brand specific, with the brand’s name and logo on them. Some leather straps only fit particular models.
Please make sure that if you want to replace your leather strap, it fits your particular model.
The movement is the beating heart of your watch. Ask yourself what movement you prefer. There is no right and wrong here – only your personal preference.
- Quartz or battery movement – takes care of itself. It’s also the most modern, accurate and affordable movement. Roughly 80-85% of all watches produced and sold are quartz.
- Automatic movement – you need to wind it up manually the first time you intend to use it, or whenever you put away the watch and the watch stops. Otherwise it’s activated by your hand and arm movement whenever you use it. As long as you use an automatic watch, you don’t need to wind it up.
- Mechanical movement or manual wind – you need to manually wind up the watch every day or almost every day – regardless of whether you use it or not.
Always ask the seller, or the online retailer, what warranty do they offer.
There are essentially two kinds of warranties:
(1) The Watch Manufacturer’s/The Watch Brand’s Very Own Official Warranty.
This kind of warranty is applicable all over the world at every authorized dealer selling your particular brand. This means that the international warranty never limits you to the actual retailer that sold the watch to you.
For example: Longines offers a “Longines Official Warranty”, TAG Heuer offers a “TAG Heuer Official Warranty”, Omega offers an “Omega Official Warranty” and Rolex offers a “Rolex Official Warranty” and so on. These are just a few examples.
The watch manufacturer’s/watch brand’s official warranty is always brand specific. If you have purchased a watch online, and the manufacturer’s/brand’s official warranty is applicable, it means you can send in your watch for repairs to a local authorized dealer.
All exclusive brands offer world wide official warranties. If you have such a warranty (usually a small plastic card, the size of a credit card) you should be able to send in your watch for repairs anywhere in the world – provided that the local dealer is authorized to sell timepieces of that particular brand.
What should be written on that warranty/plastic card? The watch manufacturer’s/brand’s official name or logo, the serial number of your watch, the manufacturer’s/brand’s official print, stamp or seal, and the date on which the warranty officially started. The details might of course vary depending on the brand.
(2) The Retailer’s Warranty.
This warranty is applicable only to the retailer that sold the timepiece to you online, and the service and the repair is done by the online retailer.
If it’s only the online retailer’s warranty which is applicable to your watch, it means that your watch won’t be accompanied by the brand’s official warranty, which is usually a small plastic card – the size of a credit card.
If your watch is only covered by the online retailer’s warranty, you shouldn’t get worried at all that the brand’s official warranty/plastic card won’t accompany your watch – this is perfectly normal.
If it’s only the online retailer’s warranty that is applicable, it means that the warranty applies only to them, and cannot be extended to authorized dealers across the globe that sell your particular brand. For example: if it turns out that you have a local authorized dealer, which is authorized to sell your particular brand, they still cannot help you if your warranty is applicable only to the online retailer that sold your watch to you.
What you ought to keep in mind when you purchase watches online:
Always ask which of these two warranties is the applicable one. Do they both apply, do they overlap or does one warranty take precedence over the other? You should also ask what’s included in this warranty.
Always ask for papers, documents, and relevant materials – or at least some form of written confirmation and validation, to prove that your watch is protected by the warranty. You should also ask for how long the warranty is valid – there can be no surprises.
No warranty lasts forever. Some warranties last for 1 year whereas others last for 2 years and even longer than that. I believe some watch manufacturers offer a 4 year long warranty on some of their models.
If for whatever reason, a retailer doesn’t offer any documentation on the warranty – avoid buying the watch altogether. Only purchase the watch if all your questions and requirements concerning warranty have been answered, fulfilled and satisfied.
If you like a particular timepiece but the retailer doesn’t offer documentation on the warranty, ask them why they don’t offer it, and second ask them explicitly to send this documentation with the watch. Otherwise, you should avoid buying the watch.
You are the customer – it’s your right to demand that the retailer treats you honestly, fairly and justly. You should never accept anything less.
If you are in doubt whether or not you have opted for the right watch, or the preferable watch, you should ask the retailer what is their return policy.
Many of the online retailers do in fact allow you to return the watch and get a full refund, if you have indeed changed your mind – usually on condition that you return the watch, the box, the papers, the price tag and the protective plastic material which covers the watch, in the exact same condition in which they were delivered to you.
If for example you accidentally scratch the timepiece or remove the price tag from the watch or if you have lost the papers or the warranty or accidentally damaged the box, the timepiece cannot be returned and there won’t be any refund.
If you are in doubt of whether or not you have picked the right watch – try on the watch for a few hours or even days – before you remove the price tag and the protective plastic material that usually covers the timepiece.
As long as you have any doubts, keep the price tag and the protective plastic material on – and take them off only when you have definitely made up your mind that you would like to keep the watch.
Anyhow, you have to ask the retailer what return policy, if any, do they offer.
It depends on what warranty the online retailer has offered you.
(1) The Manufacturer’s/the Brand’s Official World Wide Warranty: Usually, it’s luxury brands that offer the manufacturer’s or the brand’s official world wide warranty.
The warranty is usually a small plastic card, the size of a credit card. You can easily keep it in your wallet. What should be written on that warranty/plastic card? The watch manufacturer’s/brand’s official name and/or logo, the serial number of your watch, the manufacturer’s/brand’s official print, stamp or seal, and the date on which the warranty offically started. The details might of course vary depending on the brand.
If it’s the manufacturer’s or the brand’s official world wide warranty that is applicable, you can send in your watch for repairs to your local authorized dealer, or any available official dealer in the world, that is authorized to sell timepieces belonging to your particular brand.
Whether a watch dealer is authorized or not, is always a brand specific question. The status of being an “officially authorized dealer” is always brand specific. No watch dealer is authorized to sell and repair all watches of all brands.
For example: if you purchased an IWC watch, it means your local dealer needs to be authorized to sell that particular brand. They need to be a so called “authorized IWC dealer”.
Your local dealer might be authorized to sell for example, Omega, TAG Heur, Longines, Oris, Raymond Weil, Rolex or Breitling, but if they have no official agreement with IWC to sell or repair their watches, it means that the local dealer is not an authorized dealer of IWC watches. That means that IWC’s world wide official warranty cannot be used for that particular dealer. IWC’s world wide official warranty can only be used at an “authorized IWC dealer”.
The best way to find out whether or not your local dealer is an officially authorized dealer of a particular brand (or brands), is simply to ask them face to face in the store. I really don’t recommend emailing them. You should be able to get a prompt answer while listening to what the watch dealer’s employees have got to say. My recommendation: either you should phone them or pay a visit to them. That’s the best way to find out.
(2) The Online Retailer’s Very Own Warranty: If your online retailer has instead offered you their very own warranty, it means the warranty is applicable only to them. If you need to repair your watch, you usually have to return it to the retailer that sold the timepiece to you online and you have to wait until they send it back to you.
The retailers online usually offer detailed and exact instructions on how to return the watch for repairs – including how to parcel your watch, where to send the watch, and so on.
(3) How Long Does A Warranty Last?
A warranty period for luxury wristwatches typically lasts 1-2 years – both for authorized and non authorized dealers, and for online dealers and local dealers. Some luxury watch brands offer you a 4-year long warranty period, albeit that is quite unusual.
Once the warranty period is over there is simply no point in sending the watch for repairs to the online dealer since the warranty won’t cover it anyway.
Once the warranty period has expired, you have to pay for the service and the repair of the watch. In that case you could actually go to the local retailers or dealers, and send in the watch for repair.
The service, and the repairing involve in most cases the beating heart of the watch – the movement. Repairing the metal bracelet, polishing the metal bracelet, polishing the metal case, or replacing the rubber strap or the leather strap, is fairly easy to do.
It’s the watch movement that requires service and repair, and that’s what’s usually expensive.
That’s why in many cases, luxury brands charge premium prices because they expect sooner or later that their mechanical or automatic watches need repair and service (since automatic and/or mechanical movements are old fashioned technology – unlike quartz/battery movements), and therefore the warranty service and warranty costs that the retailers and/or watch manufacturers need to cover, are factored into the premium prices of several Swiss Luxury Brands.
The three most common watch movements are 1) quartz/battery, 2) automatic, and 3) mechanical, but for the sake of convenience, we can simply lump the different kinds of movements together into two main categories:
- Quartz/battery movement.
- Automatic or mechanical. Both are mechanical despite the differences in names, and none of them take batteries.
If a quartz/battery movement needs to be serviced:
Usually it’s simply a matter of replacing the battery. Indeed the case and the bracelet can be cleaned and polished – which is frequently done when watches are serviced.
However it’s the movement that is important. The quartz movement is the simplest movement to service and manage. It’s also the most modern, accurate, reliable and affordable movement of the three.
Approximately 80% of all watches produced and sold across the world are quartz. However, quartz/battery movements are almost synonymous with affordable watch brands or lower end luxury watch brands, whereas automatic and/or mechanical movements are more or less synonymous with higher end luxury watches.
Very few higher end luxury watch brands and models take batteries.
If an automatic or mechanical movement needs to be serviced:
The timepiece is disassembled, the caseback is disassembled from the case, the movement, and the dial are temporarily removed and disassembled.
The watch makers or artisans carefully examine the disassembled watch movement and all its constituent parts. Old and worn out components of the automatic and mechanical movements, are discarded, and replaced with new parts.
If the original components still work well, they are cleaned and lubricated. Yes automatic and mechanical movements need oil for cogwheels and moving parts. The lubricating oil is of course used in tiny volumes – just a few tiny drops of lubricating oil. You won’t see the oil with the naked eye, but the watchmaker knows that the lubricating oil is inside the movement.
Once the original worn out components of the movement have been replaced with new ones, and once the original components that still work well, have been cleaned and lubricated, the movement, the dial and the caseback are reassembled.
The case and the bracelet, are polished and cleaned as well. The watch is tested for time accuracy, reliability, and water resistance. Once the timepiece has satisfactorily passed all required tests, the retailer or watch manufacturer returns the watch to you.
A few more words on service and reparing:
Some watch manufacturers or brands will service their watches themselves, and do not allow retailers to do it for them. Rolex for example has monopoly on servicing their own watches, and doesn’t allow anyone else to do it – no matter if you purchase Rolex watches at your local retailer or online.
However most brands, including many higher end Swiss luxury watch brands, can be serviced by the retailers – both those that exist locally, and those that can be found online.
- Brand new quartz/battery watches: Whenever the battery is drained, the watch should be serviced and the battery replaced. A battery in a brand new quartz watch with basic time functionality should normally last 4 years.
- Aged and worn quartz/battery watches: Due to normal wear and tear, a worn movement will drain more power. Replacement batteries will normally last 1-2 years.
- Automatic/mechanical movements: The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH recommends that automatic and mechanical watches should be serviced and cleaned every three years to guarantee the accuracy of the movement and therefore accurate time keeping.
If you want to read more about watch maintenance recommendations, they can be found at the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.
If you have any comments or questions please drop them below and I’ll be happy to answer them!
Article written by Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com