Selling Your Watches With No Regrets
Before you ask, no, I’m not talking about the regret you might feel for selling your Patek Philippe Nautilus “too early” rather than at today’s prices. Rather, I mean the regret you might feel simply because you miss owning a certain watch. In the last 20-something years, I’ve sold quite a few watches from my collection, and I only have a few regrets. However, after buying some of these watches back, I also realized that there was a good reason to sell them in the first place. Is selling your watches with no regrets possible? Let’s discuss it further.
When I first started collecting, I had a relatively limited budget. As such, I did a lot of trading. I didn’t always make a profit; selling any watch for a profit is a much more recent phenomenon. Rather, back then, taking a loss on a watch was all part of the game. As enthusiasts, we bought watches to wear and have fun with. We knew there would be depreciation. I consolidated a lot at first, trading in affordable watches to get that one more expensive piece, working my way up a bit. Many of the watches that I used for “the journey” are ones that I don’t regret selling. There was a good reason to sell them because there was something out there that I preferred.
Think it through before you sell
Sometimes, you need to sell a watch to fund another, or simply to pay bills. That can happen to all of us. And watches are just that — watches. However, when you pick a watch to sell, make sure you give it some thought. Are you selling the right one? Will you miss it later on? One thing that doesn’t help is that watches have become so incredibly expensive over time.
When you can’t buy it back
When I sold my Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202ST, I made over four times what I had paid. Two years later, however, the price nearly tripled to a whopping €100K (I paid €7,000 in 2009). Now, I don’t mind this at all; it is part of the game. But, when I was about to sell it, I made sure I realized that I would probably never be able to buy the watch back. And when the price skyrocketed even higher after I sold it, I was at peace with this (not least of all because I feel that watch is not worth anywhere near today’s market price).
But if you have issues with this thought, it might be better to select another watch to sell off or trade, if possible. Do I have regrets about selling the Royal Oak 15202? No, not at all. I had the watch for ten years, enjoyed it, but didn’t wear it much. It is still a beautiful watch, but the hype took the fun out of it. Today, even the references that nobody cared about a few years ago fetch mind-boggling amounts of money.
Never underestimate emotional value
Now, that was the easy one, as when you can’t buy a watch back, the problem kind of solves itself anyway. What always surprises me, though, is when I see a watch up for sale that belonged to one’s dad, mom, or another relative. Unless you had a bad relationship with that person, I simply can’t imagine you’d want to sell something as personal as a nice watch. If that relative collected watches and had dozens or hundreds, sure, it’s no big deal. But if your grandfather wore one nice watch for the majority of his life and enjoyed doing so, selling it always comes across as strange. That said, as a buyer, I don’t mind these watches engraved with “Love, Mom and Dad,” for example (click for our article on engraved watches here).
It makes you fantasize about how happy the owner must have been to receive it or how proud the parents must have been when they gave it. Although I have bought some watches to commemorate certain events or milestones, I try not to use this reason too often when I purchase another watch. It will make it more difficult to sell it again, as I might become too emotionally attached. I don’t mind selling a watch that I bought for my birthday; I am not too keen on those anyway. But I would never sell the watch that I bought when my daughter was born or the watch that my parents gave me.
Sometimes a watch becomes so valuable that it would almost be a crime to keep it. Take this with a grain of salt, of course, but when you can make a huge chunk of money by selling one of your watches, nobody will hold it against you these days. Especially when large amounts of money don’t normally come easy to you, you won’t hear too many arguments against it. I am not pro-watch-flipping, but that’s a different spiel. When you can make a big profit on a watch and you have more important things to take care of financially, there will not be much regret later on. You’ll realize that there was a good reason to let it go!
But even when there isn’t something else that you need the money for, “cashing out” can still be a good reason to sell. For example, a friend of mine doesn’t want to have watches that are too valuable. He lets them go and buys something cheaper instead. He simply doesn’t feel comfortable when there’s too much money in one watch.
The journey of collecting watches
Another good reason not to regret selling your watches, which I touched upon briefly in the introduction of this article, is the acceptance that collecting your watches is a journey. And the journey of collecting watches is perhaps what you need to focus on and enjoy. During the process, you might have a Day-Date, a Tank, or an Overseas that you will trade to get that complicated Patek Philippe, an FP Journe, or a vintage Daytona. And when you realize that FP Journe is not for you, you can (almost) always return to that watch you regret selling. Just make sure to enjoy the ride and cherish what you had and have.
But let’s be honest, there are regrets (and I have a few)
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. There are watches that we regret selling despite all of the above. These might be my “ragrets,” as there was no real reason to sell them, but someone made an offer, and I thought, “What the heck, why not?” I didn’t put much thought into those sales, so it’s just because of my stupidity that I have these regrets. One expensive correction was my Rolex Sea-Dweller (I wrote about it here). I loved that watch. It was my first proper sports Rolex, and I wore it on so many occasions, yet I sold or traded it for something else. Fortunately, I could buy one back for a price I couldn’t say no to, but for more than what I paid (and got) for my first one.
I also regret getting rid of my Seiko “Grandfather Tuna” 6159-7010, Speedmaster Professional “Sapphire Sandwich”, and GMT-Master II 16710. But they were traded for something else, so I consider them part of the collecting journey, and I’m at peace with the feeling. While some have been properly replaced, others left a little gap. In the end, though, watches are just objects, and I am pretty sure I (and you) can do without them.
Do you have any regrets about selling a watch? Have you ever bought a watch back, or are you considering doing so? Let me know in the comments.