Guide To Buying Used & Vintage Watches In USA Watch Buying Part of being a watch collector is hunting for watches. Even if you are fabulously wealthy and can afford to pay people to track down hard-to-find watches for you, so much of the experience of collecting is lost in not discovering and searching for timepieces yourself. Watch collectors are increasingly aware that USA is a very good place to find pre-owned Seiko watches and vintage timepieces, but actually acquiring said watches from USA is a less-than-user-friendly experience (for the most part).
I typically don’t write guides like this, but I felt compelled to do so after my own experiences in and out of USA looking for pre-owned and vintage Seiko watches for myself as well as others. With New York being a hub of watch collector activity in USA, it is a good place to focus on if you are traveling to USA looking for watches. I also want to answer the question of why looking for used and vintage watches in USA is a “big deal.” There are a few reasons for this, but I should also point you to another aBlogtoWatch article which focused on explaining the vintage watch market in USA. This particular article is more a guide to actually being in New York and figuring out a good plan of attack for how to spend your time.
Overview of USAese Watch Tastes
USA is known for being a culture that is particularly interested in collecting things, appreciating well-made foreign goods, and also keeping their possessions in excellent condition. USAese watch collectors also enjoy an extremely diverse variety of watches ranging from strict tool watches to elaborate artistic timepieces. Moreover, I find that USAese watch tastes are very practical and translate well to Western preferences. Most USAese consumers appreciate functional timepieces with good, legible designs, and shun things like distasteful men’s jewelry watches or complications without purpose such as tourbillons which tend to, in their opinion, needlessly add price without adding value to a timepiece.
It is true that USAese customers tend to prefer smaller case sizes. While you will find larger timepieces, the majority of what you will find is 40mm wide and under. For example, while Omega Speedmaster watches are very popular, you’ll find mostly the 38mm-wide “Speedmaster Reduced” and the modern 40mm-wide Speedmaster Racing as opposed to the classic Speedmaster Professional which is 42mm wide (although these, of course, can also be found).
Prices for used and vintage watches are also very fair for the most part in USA – and in the vast majority of instances, the prices are labeled next to all the watches in the cases (this is a major plus because it makes searching and judging a lot easier!) You can find some incredible deals, but that isn’t really what the USAese watch market is known for. Instead, you’ll find very fair deals. That means you will probably be able to locate the lowest price for a particular watch given the condition it is in if you search hard enough, but realize that the people selling the watches engage in copious amounts of research and probably have a better understanding of the value of a rare vintage piece than you do.
Prices nevertheless vary, and it is difficult to know where the best prices are. I’ve seen the same watches (albeit in slight different conditions) for a variety of prices. Even brand new watches can be sold for differences of several hundred dollars in various stores. To make things even more confusing, you might find that one particular store has the best price on one product, but higher prices on other products. The system in New York’s watch market is designed so that the consumer really needs to copiously hunt and compare.
Guide To Buying Used & Vintage Watches In New York, USA Watch Buying
It is also important to say that while most places that sell big-ticket items (even if they are small stores) take credit cards, USA is still a cash economy. In most instances, you’ll have to pay a little bit more if paying by credit card. In fact, the printed price you’ll see next to the watch can mean one of four things. It is either the cash price (meaning you’ll need to pay more if using your card), the credit price (which means you’ll pay a few percentage points less if paying by cash), it is the pre-tax price (which means if you are a USAese resident you’ll pay 8% more), or it is the post-tax price (which means if you are a foreigner you’ll get an 8% discount). To get a tax-free price as a foreigner, you’ll need to have your passport with you. Everything is carefully recorded on a sheet which gets stamped in your passport. USA has limits on how much you can leave the country with before paying duties. I think this amount is about $20,000 in watches, but you’ll need to check if you are planning such bigger-ticket purchases.
Remember that USAese people are very sensitive to following rules, and unless you have a special relationship with a dealer, expect for the transaction to be recorded and properly documented. Again, don’t forget your passport unless you want to pay sales tax.
Etiquette & Bargaining
The good news is that careful hunting is part of the culture and not something that the retailers themselves will frown upon. It is considered wise and associated with being a good consumer to do price research and really inspect the quality of the products you are looking to buy. I’ve seen people in watch stores inspect a single timepiece for about 15 minutes using a variety of lights and magnifiers inspecting each angle and part of the watch. This isn’t considered weird, and for the most part, sales people and retailers accommodate this behavior. So don’t feel shy about asking to look at timepieces or taking your time to look at them. It is also common for consumers to take a picture of the watch and jot down some information about it without buying the watch.