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Second hand watch market.


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Hello good watch folk ,I  just fancied a light hearted discussion after my head was starting to spin over Epilame 😅. Specifically I'm meaning the sale of vintage watches, say nothing past the 1980s market. The stuff we see on ebay and other similar sites and found at carboots, curio shops etc. And are  we thinking its reaching a peak volume ?  Younger generations clearing out passed parents and grandparents possessions.  The younger folk are not as sentimental as the old fogies ( I'm now nearly at an age that i used to think was old fogie age ). When might it have started ?  i often wish i discovered the hobby much much sooner when selling your grandfathers pocket watch at a boot sale for a few quid was just a way to offload some tat. And when might it slow down. Thoughts anyone ?

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This is as complicated as epilame, too many unknowns. The life expectancy in the UK is circa 80, so most people from 1944 or earlier are dead.  Assume they had children at circa 20, they died in 2004. Their children started selling 1944 watches in 2004, so pre-1944 watches must be getting more rare.  

It doesn't work though because as you stated some were sold as tat, but since watch prices have increased people have decided to sell when they may not of done in the past. 

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1 hour ago, RichardHarris123 said:

This is as complicated as epilame, too many unknowns. The life expectancy in the UK is circa 80, so most people from 1944 or earlier are dead.  Assume they had children at circa 20, they died in 2004. Their children started selling 1944 watches in 2004, so pre-1944 watches must be getting more rare.  

It doesn't work though because as you stated some were sold as tat, but since watch prices have increased people have decided to sell when they may not of done in the past. 

A lot of it has to do with a generations attitude.  Have we reached a generation of folk yet that have no sentimental values ie. Just an object to sell . I expect my kids will sell my collection , maybe keep one valued piece. Not being in the game very long, i have no idea when the sale of old watches boomed or if it has even reached its peak yet. If we go back 20 years what were ebay sales like then, expense wise and volume ?

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I'm not sentimental, I see it this way.  I inherit something I  don't like, I could sell it, buy something I do like and remember the person with the new item.  For example, I  inherit a watch ( I haven't), I don't like it, I  buy a watch I do like, every time I look at the watch, I think of the person. 

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Even for myself who only started getting into watch repair/servicing during COVID I have seen a huge jump in watch prices - we have a 404 channel on this forum. When I started you could relatively easily find a watch on eBay to restore and put onto the channel, however this is now almost impossible and the only feasible solution is to buy a job lot with an average price <4.04. Even watches sold for parts/spares are 3 or four times the price of only a few years ago.

Why - Either Demand must have increased in order to push up the price, or supply is reduced. I think it is a little of both, I think that most watches in the UK/US may have been picked over, which agrees with most of what @Neverenoughwatches says so supply of all kinds of vintage watches, including tat is dwindling. As a double whammy I think that more people are wanting watches, either to work on, or as a way to differentiate themselves from the Apple Watch and FitBit crowd. The upshot is that half decent watches that require restoration are now $500 instead of $100 and cheaper watches (Seiko 5 etc) are now $50 instead of $10, and even Mumbai Specials and garbage are now pushing $50 each.

When - how long will this last, I think that most of the people who are returning to mechanical watches are those that have previously experienced life without them and want to return to something with a bit of personality that doesn't buzz every 10 seconds on your wrist and tell you how many steps you have done today. i.e. the 30-40+ generation. My son who is 17 has several mechanical watches but only wears one on a special occasion and is obviously only aware of them at all in part due to my hobby. I asked him the other day how many of his friends wear a watch and he told me that some use a smart watch but most just use their phones. So as I see it, demand will start to fall once the sub-thirty crowd start becoming the majority and/or the older amongst us stop buying watches and switch our attention to mobility scooters and trying to remember our bank password.

Price - I think this is here to stay, even if demand does start to drop as the older generation becomes to decrepit and stops buying and the younger generation isn't interested in buying, supply will become progressively less as time goes on as more vintage watches become lost or broken beyond repair. I think the prices will plateau at some point as an equilibrium is reached as reduced demand is balanced with reduced supply, i.e. less and less people buying less and less watches.

Sorry for the long ramble!

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8 minutes ago, Waggy said:

Even for myself who only started getting into watch repair/servicing during COVID I have seen a huge jump in watch prices - we have a 404 channel on this forum. When I started you could relatively easily find a watch on eBay to restore and put onto the channel, however this is now almost impossible and the only feasible solution is to buy a job lot with an average price <4.04. Even watches sold for parts/spares are 3 or four times the price of only a few years ago.

Why - Either Demand must have increased in order to push up the price, or supply is reduced. I think it is a little of both, I think that most watches in the UK/US may have been picked over, which agrees with most of what @Neverenoughwatches says so supply of all kinds of vintage watches, including tat is dwindling. As a double whammy I think that more people are wanting watches, either to work on, or as a way to differentiate themselves from the Apple Watch and FitBit crowd. The upshot is that half decent watches that require restoration are now $500 instead of $100 and cheaper watches (Seiko 5 etc) are now $50 instead of $10, and even Mumbai Specials and garbage are now pushing $50 each.

When - how long will this last, I think that most of the people who are returning to mechanical watches are those that have previously experienced life without them and want to return to something with a bit of personality that doesn't buzz every 10 seconds on your wrist and tell you how many steps you have done today. i.e. the 30-40+ generation. My son who is 17 has several mechanical watches but only wears one on a special occasion and is obviously only aware of them at all in part due to my hobby. I asked him the other day how many of his friends wear a watch and he told me that some use a smart watch but most just use their phones. So as I see it, demand will start to fall once the sub-thirty crowd start becoming the majority and/or the older amongst us stop buying watches and switch our attention to mobility scooters and trying to remember our bank password.

Price - I think this is here to stay, even if demand does start to drop as the older generation becomes to decrepit and stops buying and the younger generation isn't interested in buying, supply will become progressively less as time goes on as more vintage watches become lost or broken beyond repair. I think the prices will plateau at some point as an equilibrium is reached as reduced demand is balanced with reduced supply, i.e. less and less people buying less and less watches.

Sorry for the long ramble!

I understand the demand bit, the generation below me 30ish are too technology engrossed to own a mechanical watch and they just dont like old stuff. I also consider myself at the getting on age of 57 to be a rare find of someone that likes old stuff, i did buy an almost 100 year old book yesterday titled " The New Modern Home " printed 1929.  Cost me a quid. What i was trying to work out is if we have reached a volume peak of watches being discovered hidden in the back of drawers.  Those watches that were hung onto until they entered the hands of the non sentimental generation. 

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4 minutes ago, Neverenoughwatches said:

What i was trying to work out is if we have reached a volume peak

I think we are about there, if there were still lots out there then the cost of a watch from 5 years ago would be around the same as it is now (allowing for inflation). Given that the price has gone up several times over we can only assume that supply cannot keep up with demand so we must be at or past peak supply, especially if the trend continues. I see even places like Australia, Ukraine and even South America are selling watches on eBay, picking over their stocks, mixed in with fakes and Frankenwatches etc.

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Sorry to jump in here, but I didn't want to start a new thread when there's already one regarding the second hand watch market. Can anyone tell me what I should be looking at when buying watches from eBay? I see loads on there for quite cheap, but after reading this thread I'm guessing they're all garbage and not worth the time? I recently bought an old Elco watch for 99p, just to practice on. I'm also really fond of the look of Services watches and Smiths Empire watches. I keep seeing them listed for around 5 or 6 pounds. Are they not worth the time buying? I'm not looking to sell watches to make a profit. I just want to buy watches I like the look of and wear them, but I also don't want to buy things that are going to be impossible to find parts for, or that have already been abused by someone else and broken beyond repair. Any tips?

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3 hours ago, Chief said:

Sorry to jump in here, but I didn't want to start a new thread when there's already one regarding the second hand watch market. Can anyone tell me what I should be looking at when buying watches from eBay? I see loads on there for quite cheap, but after reading this thread I'm guessing they're all garbage and not worth the time? I recently bought an old Elco watch for 99p, just to practice on. I'm also really fond of the look of Services watches and Smiths Empire watches. I keep seeing them listed for around 5 or 6 pounds. Are they not worth the time buying? I'm not looking to sell watches to make a profit. I just want to buy watches I like the look of and wear them, but I also don't want to buy things that are going to be impossible to find parts for, or that have already been abused by someone else and broken beyond repair. Any tips?

Depends where you are with repairing, watches like you have just mentioned  the Smiths, Ingersolls, Services are often pin pallet watches with low jewel counts, not impossible to fix but often quite difficult due to having more wear than a fairly standard 15 or 17 jewel movement. Saying that you may be lucky and pick one up that was never used much. As an example i spent a few weeks on and off getting the most i could from an old Smiths Empire, that did actually finish at within 2 minutes per week that could be improved further now i know it is fairly precise but not quite accurate . Sekondas are good practice pieces at around a tenner, though some folk call them rough but robust.

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19 minutes ago, Chief said:

Got it thank you! I'll steer clear of the lower jewel count movements until my skills are a bit better. I'm literally brand new to this

Visually pocket watches suit some people. Having bigger parts to work with makes things a little easier to understand, the con to this is older timepieces that have been messed around with. Teachers recommend starting with something new and in good working order, this way if it doesn't run after you have serviced it then you are only looking for a fault that you created. That didn't suit me though because I'm quite mad with a little crazy mixed in 🤪

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1 hour ago, Neverenoughwatches said:

Visually pocket watches suit some people. Having bigger parts to work with makes things a little easier to understand, the con to this is older timepieces that have been messed around with. Teachers recommend starting with something new and in good working order, this way if it doesn't run after you have serviced it then you are only looking for a fault that you created. That didn't suit me though because I'm quite mad with a little crazy mixed in 🤪

I was considering just building a watch from scratch, I've heard the nh35 movements have a lot of case and dial choices and apparently they run poorly when you buy them new so a good service is required. But honestly building a watch like that doesn't interest me. I love fixing things. There's nothing more satisfying to me than taking something broken and making it work again. Plus watches are cool 😎 and easier to store than a car engine! I only had one engine in the dining room and my wife complained. Hopefully the watches will go unnoticed.

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1 hour ago, Chief said:

I was considering just building a watch from scratch, I've heard the nh35 movements have a lot of case and dial choices and apparently they run poorly when you buy them new so a good service is required. But honestly building a watch like that doesn't interest me. I love fixing things. There's nothing more satisfying to me than taking something broken and making it work again. Plus watches are cool 😎 and easier to store than a car engine! I only had one engine in the dining room and my wife complained. Hopefully the watches will go unnoticed.

Same goes for me, i like to pull broken things apart to fix them, it forces me to think more about how they work. If i take something new and working apart and then break it then thats just gonna pee me off.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I’ll take a counterpoint on the youngsters- all the under 30s in my extended family are into fashion and trends and have varying jobs/careers where the only common denominator is they provide the disposable income to buy watches, sometimes expensive ones. Most are very excited about my ‘new hobby’ and I’m spoiling them on their birthdays this year with a rescue- the weems already went out but here’s the rest…

IMG_1786.thumb.jpeg.501f5e5ab47d66b2fa39245924c0830b.jpeg

…I’ll share in the guilt of inflating prices for the stuff what once could be had for a few quid. Except for the 404 a good thing I say…

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I don't think the younger generation is trashing the watches they find. They don't have a ton of disposable income, so I'm pretty sure they're selling them off. There's always some arbitrage, but it's hard to imagine even the most ignorant and callous sock drawer digger throwing out something like that.

I think they're coming back in style. Demand side increase. Sorta like vinyl. Most people wear iWatches/stream music. The sentimental/nerdy types wear a proper watch/listen to vinyl. CDs exist for music that wasn't ever pressed or just to catch some of the mass market; everything new is either streamed or vinyl. Watches are going the same way; quartz is for that range of years where it was what was found in the high end stuff (though I'm pretty certain mechanical was king even then), but it's really only for if you really want that very specific watch. Otherwise, it's just to pick up the bottom of the market that is still spending money. The people who are actually interested are buying mechanical, because it's what's actually interesting and engaging. Unfortunately, the new market is big bucks. Vintage is half the price with 70% the cache. More if you're suitably intentional and picky with your buys. 

That's admittedly a bit of speculation... I'm cloistered up here in my mountain hideout, and avoid other people as much as I can get away with...

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On 5/25/2024 at 6:28 PM, Chronicleag said:

It's fascinating how trends evolve over time, especially with vintage pieces.

With younger generations inheriting and sometimes parting with family heirlooms, there's definitely been a surge in availability. I've noticed this trend myself, especially at flea markets like the ones in Sacramento. It seems like everyone's on the lookout for hidden gems nowadays. As for when it might slow down, who knows? The charm of vintage watches seems timeless, pun intended! If you're ever in the area, check out https://sacfleamarkets.com/ for a taste of the hunt.

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On 5/26/2024 at 4:52 PM, spectre6000 said:

I'm cloistered up here in my mountain hideout, and avoid other people as much as I can get away with...

You're soooooo lucky Spectre, anything for sale near you ?  I dont like people, really i dont 😅 . Bah humbug. 

1 hour ago, Chronicleag said:

With younger generations inheriting and sometimes parting with family heirlooms, there's definitely been a surge in availability. I've noticed this trend myself, especially at flea markets like the ones in Sacramento. It seems like everyone's on the lookout for hidden gems nowadays. As for when it might slow down, who knows? The charm of vintage watches seems timeless, pun intended! If you're ever in the area, check out https://sacfleamarkets.com/ for a taste of the hunt.

My thoughts exactly, younger folk don't want our  " old worn out crap "   its not never ending though, eventually it will all be sold off, in the hands of collectors and repairers until their kids sell it off.  Reaching a point when nobody will want it, because it wont be anyone's thing anymore, trends change. What we value now will have little value in the future.  I've just realised something........ I'm one miserable git 😅

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16 hours ago, Neverenoughwatches said:

You're soooooo lucky Spectre, anything for sale near you ?  I dont like people, really i dont 😅 . Bah humbug. 

It certainly has its charms. Not gonna lie. Plenty of challenges as well.

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Current younger generations don't have money. Income hasn't kept up with the cost of living. If they inherit something valuable, they might want to sell it to have cash for bills. I see this a lot as a watchmaker. They bring in a vintage watch, I service it and the first thing they ask is, 'what is the value now?' I had a lady just yesterday in her late 50s do the same think as she picked up a Waltham pocket watch I serviced. The value in these older items is often sentimental only. 

Every generation likes to crap on the next generation, its been happening for hundreds of years, and today I don't understand it. We are at a point in society where we can make our children's lives much better than our own. "Kids these days have it too easy" - that's entirely the point of a successful society. We certainly shouldn't make life harder for them than we had it. My life was easier than my fathers, as was his. They made life easier for us, and now they like to talk down on that accomplishment.

I don't understand each generations struggles, so I like to have an open mind to current trends, struggles, and ideas.

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Timing is everything. I have about 20 saved searches on ebay. I review them every day. Sometimes, you get lucky.

I picked up this Cyma GSTP for $125 a couple of weeks ago. I received a beautiful watch in stunning condition. I think it was a reasonable price. I got it for my military collection...not for something to work on. I have boxes of watches to work on!!! And clocks!!

Screenshot_20240531_121223_eBay.jpg

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Posted (edited)

The watch that got me into watches was a Cyma... I had it serviced shortly after I got it, and the watchmaker informed me it was a German issued officer's watch from WWII. Little tangs around the crystal from a battlefield repair via the tip of a bayonet to hold it in staring at me each time I check to see if I'm late for class... Deep dark history on my wrist without even knowing it... $35 on eBay from Ukraine with no hint of provenance unless you really knew what you were looking at... Which I most certainly did not! I just thought it was cool; didn't even know hand wound watches existed prior to purchasing it!

23 hours ago, SwissSeiko said:

Current younger generations don't have money. Income hasn't kept up with the cost of living. If they inherit something valuable, they might want to sell it to have cash for bills. I see this a lot as a watchmaker. They bring in a vintage watch, I service it and the first thing they ask is, 'what is the value now?' I had a lady just yesterday in her late 50s do the same think as she picked up a Waltham pocket watch I serviced. The value in these older items is often sentimental only. 

Every generation likes to crap on the next generation, its been happening for hundreds of years, and today I don't understand it. We are at a point in society where we can make our children's lives much better than our own. "Kids these days have it too easy" - that's entirely the point of a successful society. We certainly shouldn't make life harder for them than we had it. My life was easier than my fathers, as was his. They made life easier for us, and now they like to talk down on that accomplishment.

I don't understand each generations struggles, so I like to have an open mind to current trends, struggles, and ideas.

This is definitely a thing. I'm an elder millennial, and graduated college right as the Great Recession hit. Of everyone I went to school with, I knew of precisely one other person to land a job on graduation (excluding things like retail and waiting tables). That gave me just enough of a head start to be able to buy a house right before the market went crazy. I have a few friends that have been able to buy houses, but very few. Not many friends with kids, and those that have them are all older (medically, 35 is the start of "old" for pregnancy). It's anecdotal, but it seems to thoroughly reflect the demographics and statistics I keep seeing...

Edited by spectre6000
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Inflation is still alive and well, so I don't think that we will see prices coming down anytime soon.  Seems that many people picked up this hobby because of the pandemic.  That was my case.  Of course, us newbs needed cheap watches to work on, and tools and supplies.  So, I'm sure that helped drive up the prices as well.

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On 6/4/2024 at 7:10 AM, gpraceman said:

Inflation is still alive and well, so I don't think that we will see prices coming down anytime soon.  Seems that many people picked up this hobby because of the pandemic.  That was my case.  Of course, us newbs needed cheap watches to work on, and tools and supplies.  So, I'm sure that helped drive up the prices as well.

That time period does appear to be the start of the real boom of the hobby. I was a little later starting, but since 2 years ago the prices seem to be increasing at least quarterly. Tools especially, a lot of sellers have noticed the demand and hike their prices up to ridiculous sums . A lot of stuff at these hopeful inflated prices don't sell and end up being listed for months on end. Buy if they ever do ,and if it becomes just a  "rich man's" hobby 🤔 i doubt it will happen if folk have plenty of money to burn then they have better things to do than tinker with watches. 

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On 4/30/2024 at 12:43 PM, Chief said:

Sorry to jump in here, but I didn't want to start a new thread when there's already one regarding the second hand watch market. Can anyone tell me what I should be looking at when buying watches from eBay? I see loads on there for quite cheap, but after reading this thread I'm guessing they're all garbage and not worth the time? I recently bought an old Elco watch for 99p, just to practice on. I'm also really fond of the look of Services watches and Smiths Empire watches. I keep seeing them listed for around 5 or 6 pounds. Are they not worth the time buying? I'm not looking to sell watches to make a profit. I just want to buy watches I like the look of and wear them, but I also don't want to buy things that are going to be impossible to find parts for, or that have already been abused by someone else and broken beyond repair. Any tips?

Been there. Worn that Tshirt. I now have loads of watches, in bits. I made the mistake, as many do when starting, of obtaining cheap watches. I will learn to  repair them I thought. Should have started my course ealier and learned that if a watch is working, you can do a service. If is is broken, unless you have massive skill, it will still be broken. You need replacement parts. Hey another watch that is broken will do. Not. Hence all the bits. 

I learned from Mark's course. I can now do full sevices easiy. Everthing except Shellac repair. Deep repair is specialist. 

Edited by rossjackson01
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