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Informations: The Second Old Timepiece

 
Who ever buys or gets the first old timepiece, will not have read this page. But if the first item invokes interest for more, there is a demand for advice for the second. This page should help to prevent newbie mistakes, i.e. discuss the following questions:

Why? What? Where? When? Who helps?
 
  Index
Why Collecting Timepieces?
What Kind of Timepieces?
Where to Buy Timepieces?
When to Buy Timepieces?
Who Helps?
To OverviewTo Overview
 

Why Collecting Timepieces?
 
Timepieces are lousy investments, but spend pleasure.

If this doesn't satisfy, see yourself as an honorable preserver of cultural possessions.
Some believe that timpieces merge exciting hobby and attractive investment; but as long as Rolex sells watches instead of storing them for future profits, better don't believe too deeply in this myth. Just single items may fetch a reasonable speculative profit, but nobody knows which.
  

What Kind of Timepieces?

 
Items which please you.

Collecting clocks or even turret clocks including tower is limited by the space they take, and therefore the collectors of pocket- and/or wrist watches are the majority among timepiece collectors.
     Already financial reasons will limit collecting to particular themes. Moreover the value of a collection can be higher than the sum of the single values. Similar to postage stamps, where a set is more valuable than the single stamps, also timepieces achieve higher prices on theme auctions.
     Anyway, even if one restricts to a theme, he will find an item now and then, which he desperately wants. My experience after some decades of collecting: The watches simply bought because I loved them, remain in the collection eternally. So restriction to a theme is not generally necessary to enjoy this hobby.

The best buy is the most expensive sample.

If two items are only differing refering the condtition, almost always the better, more expensive is the better choice. Almost never the price difference compensates for the effort to eliminate deficits. Only if one doesn't mind the deficits, or repairs them self, the cheaper watch could make sense.
     But attention: Deficits which are accepted at the first glance may bore at the 100th. And people who buy watches which they believe to be self-repairable, usually become manufacturers of spoilt watch cadavers, or just fill their drawers with kaput watches. So better rely on your actual skills than on your faith. But even then spare time is limited and therefore used for the most attractive watches. The rest remains defective and only binds money, else available for better purcheses.
Money is no issue
Watches are available for every wallet.
     Beginning with the wide middle: Since long everybody had a couple of watches during his life. Enough support for collectors though, and even mint old watches are cheap compared with new watches of similar grade..
     Dirt-cheap are watches designed as disposable. The movements are no beauties, but interesting: Who ever has seen how some punched metal shreds form a chronograph, is no longer sure that its precious counterpart is more sophisticated. Amazing is that such kind of watches grow faster in value than noble products; they are actually thrown away, and this reduces the supply.
     Noble timepieces are already attractive due to their quality of craftmanship. Although their increase in value is poor, because almost all are conserved, they have a good stability of value. Common variations of prices affect them weakly, and the risk of loss ist low, if they shall or must be sold on short term.
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Where to Buy Timepieces?

Of course here - and everywhere else.

ebay
The ebay philosophy that everybody is good is nonsense, as well as the opinion that all fraudsters of the world are meeting there. Just some facts must  be taken into account:
1) The offers are as different as the sellers. Somebody who offers a watch, has not necessarily the knowledge to describe it correctly.
2) The chance of a bargain is overestimated: In the huge community are always some who can estimate an item even with a humble description.
3) Professional vendors in Europe must offer a return privilege. This reduces the risk. But some sell cosmetically treated junk, and many customers don't recognize it - so better let a watchmaker evaluate your purchases.
4) Always people join bidding, who believe that things are valuable if they look old. So often terms like "charming patina" are met, and worn out items are nowhere more expensive than on ebay.
5) Bid only for what you see! If a movement photo is missing, the movement is often rusty junk or even like here. Old watches are sold because they are no longer used, or worse because they can't be used any longer.
6) Don't be sure that you'll  never undergo a nightmare like this.

To fill gaps in my movement achive, I also use ebay occasionally. With care and experience disasters are rare. But many watches are sold because repairing is not worth while, and it is no surprise that often much money must be sunk into a watch. And even worse: Some destructors don't sell a watch before they have entirely ruined it - with the specification "recently serviced".
Watch fora
Almost every watch forum has a sales corner. This is essentially similar to ebay with different quality of descripions etc., but free of charge. And the forum is a kind of feedback system. But there is a difference: The familiar interaction between members suggests a reliability which is actally not present. Of course this has an influence on prices, in both directions, depending on the activities of the seller in the forum.

Conventional auctions

Here you can inspect the watch, and this can't be substituted by pictures. The descriptions are professional, and at least consistent within one auction house. And as the the auctioneer does not sell own watches, there is no reason to write them beautiful. In many auctions you can participate by phone or online. The inspection possibility is then missing, but the objective descriptons, and a more or less extended return policy reduce the risk, compared with ebay.
     However, the auctioneer asks a charge for his job, and therefore higher prices should be expected. But if prices for similar watches are compared, the difference is almost invisible. The reason is that the descriptions are more objective than on ebay, and a nice watch has a higher value than a watch with just nice descripton.

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Markets
The Internet reduced their importance, but they will not vanish, because personal negotiations and the possibility to inspect the items can hardly be replaced by the capabilities of online commerce. Moreover the Internet is a strong competitor, leaving no reasonable margin for higher prices - especially if buyers draw infomations from the Internet.
     The variety on a local market is smaller than in the worldwide online market, and it is more effort to visit markets than pushing a mouse, but it's also pleasure, and the reality can't be substituted by a PC.

Boot sale
Everything is sold, and scarcely an attractive watch is met. Prices are a matter of accident, but as everybody believes that old watches are valuable, they are usually too expensive.

Retailers
They are known for the smallest collection with the highest prices. The small collection doesn't matter if you find a watch you really desire. And refering the price, the counter value should be considered: The watches are offered by a specialist, often carefully restored and with guarantee. Considering troubles and costs for a cheaply purchased watch, a purchase from the specialist may be better than appearing at first glance. The retailer does a job, and asks money for it - that simple.
Online shops
Dealers usually know what they deal with, and a more or less extended return privilege limits the risks. As sales are not coupled to short runtimes like on ebay, the vendor can wait for a customer who desperately wants a particular watch. This raises the price level, and everybody should decide for himself what to pay for higher quality and lower risk.

bidfun and Pink Pages

These remarks at the end because a small market place like this must merge the advantages of the afore mentioned. It runs like ebay, but free of charge; so sellers and buyers may share this small advantage.
    Due to the environment with many informations and the biggest online archive for movements, mainly experienced collectors are meeting here. If someone tries to sell watches with average ebay descriptions, he will give up soon.
    It is more appreciated, if work or money was spent on a watch, because this is often backed up by a return privilege and/or guarantee. Therefore watchmakers prefer this place to offer watches made ready for use before selling.
     Offers from Ranfft-Watches (designated by pink background) represent a reasonable part oft the offers. The watches come from collectors or dealers, who leave the selling job to someone else for charge. Hardly a disadvantage for buyers, because low charges and return privilege make it senseless to describe an item better than it actually is.
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When to Buy Timepieces?

Always!

No surprise: Also watches are most expensive before Christmas. And in the summer, when holiday expenses are more important, watches are cheaper.
    But this is no secret for the sellers, and if they want to offer something special, they prefer the winter. So in the time of higher prices, the more exciting items are offered.
    Simply spoken: If you discover the watch of your dreams in the summer, don't expect to get it cheaper anytime. And if you discover it in the winter, don't be sure to get an equivalent in the summer.
There are also long term variations: Generally the best deals are done in times when nobody buys anything. If you don't join a pessimistic view into the future, the best buys are guaranteed.
     Also common trends can be used: For instance, pocket watches are today cheaper than ever in the last 30 years. Not because they are a bit unpractical; they were unpractical since the first wrist watch  But the supply is substantially smaller than for wrist watches, and a small reduction of the demand reduces the prices substantially.
     For collectors such variations are unimportant. A collection is continuously changing - items are bought and sold. An it is not  important whether both is done at a higher or lower price level.
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Who helps?

1. Books
2. Books


Only if you know what you buy, you can't be easily cheated. Many believe that the Internet offers all informations free of charge - unfortunately wrong: The Internet exists since some decades, while books are issued since centuries. Easy to guess which medium still offers more informations today.
     Who ever gets no answer to his watch question from Google, usually tries his luck on a watch forum. And if his question is answered, this is done consulting books.
     I've gathered some meters of books meanwhile, and even the worst payed back in connection with one or more watch purchases. So pick up books as long as they are available.
     The Internet will continue to modify the distribution of informations. But it is an illusion that it will supply informations eternally free of charge. An information posted today either vanishs because nobody needs it, or it will cost money. For instance the movement archive in this site represents a value of several tenthousand Euros, even calculated with moderate time rate. And it is only a question of time, when this pays back, e.g. by advertising. Then the information is not payed directly, but indirectly when buying things advertised on such information pages.
3. Internet

It offers lots of informations about timepieces, among them the little helpers on these pages. They come from many years collecting experience, own hobby screwing, the investigation of many watches for auctioning, and discussions in watch fora, but last not least often from books.
     For price investigations the web is even more helpful than books: The informations are simply more up to date and comprehensive.

4. Watchmaker

Besides informations, a watchmaker is needed for assistence to evaluate purchased watches and for servicing them. Often he is met a in a tiny shop, and sometimes he is a hidden mastermind.  But also some big shops support the contact between watchmaker and customer. With some luck, they even have specialists for different problems.
     Own skills and technical knowledge are surely advantageous, and with the time the number of tasks will grow which you can do by yourself, if you enjoy it. But as hobbyist you will never get the routine of an experienced watchmaker. After many years of watch hobby, I can make almost every repair job, but I still leave most to a watchmaker, because he does it more economical, and often better.
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Dr. Roland Ranfft
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email:  info@ranfft.de
Last update:  01-22-2020