Over the past 12-months of watch trading, once I got comfortable with “the basics” of buying and selling luxury timepieces, the biggest lesson learned is that watch trading is all about managing risk and limiting unnecessary exposure to risk.
If you are part of the advanced-trainings or Weekly Mastermind, I am sure you have heard PJ talk about risk exposure in the context of the price of a watch, but I feel that risk exposure can and should also be applied when it comes to the quality of a watch. So to help you “manage” risk when you get in a new timepiece, I will share with you my 6 step quality-control process that I run all my inventory through.
DISCLAIMER – Before I get into my quality control (QC) process, I want to make one thing EXPLICITLY clear. Quality control is an additional measure to help you manage risk and be a more “professional” trader but it SHOULD NOT replace the other important risk mitigation tactics like “Seller Background Checks” and “Protecting Your Payment” as discussed in Part 1.
Step 1 – Confirm all expected items were received
This first step is pretty straightforward.
- Did I receive the watch I expected?
- Were all the items that were promised delivered? (Box, paperwork, straps, etc)
Step 2 – Confirm the watch was received in the described condition.
The next thing I do whenever I get a new watch in is I inspect the timepiece to make sure that there are no imperfections and/or damage that I didn’t expect.
- Are there any scratches on the crystal?
- Are there any dents/dings on the case?
- Is the band in the condition I expected?
- Overall, were all items received in the expected condition?
Step 3 – Check all functions and complications
After I am sure I received everything and it is all in the expected condition, I next test out the watch and all features.
- Does the watch wind smooth?
- Do all hands seem to function properly?
- Does the date turn over at 12 PM? (If applicable) Remember there is the long way to set the time to turn at 12 which is what you should try as well as the quick date set when the hands are NOT set between 10 and 2 which can potentially damage the watch.
- Does the chronograph work? (if applicable) Make sure you let it run more than 15 seconds, as sometimes the chronograph can seem to be running effectively but stops after the 15 seconds are up.
- Does the bezel turn as expected? (if applicable)
- etc ….
Step 4 – Poor man’s pressure test and prep for pictures
This next step might seem a little weird, but I find it necessary…
Once I have confirmed that I have received everything I expected, in the expected condition, and everything works as expected, it is the time for the watch to get a bath!
Truthfully, I started doing this during COVID as a way to “sanitize” my shipments but once I started to realize the benefits of cleaning the watch, it quickly became part of my normal routine.
Simply make sure the crown is closed tightly and wash the watch with Dawn soap and warm water.
CAUTION (this is not recommended for dress watches -e.g. Leather straps and not designed or rated to take on water. Also, avoid extremely high end pieces that have alternative case materials like forged carbon – e.g Richard Mille tourbillons).
Note – I wouldn’t recommend using any brushes as they may damage the watch – just lather the watch up with Dawn soap and wash away all the previous owner’s sweat, dirt, grease, and grime.
Next, dry the watch with either paper towels or a microfiber cloth and prep the watch for pictures.
Step 5 – Picture time
Now that the watch is all cleaned up and ready to go, I take the watch to my photo area and immediately take pictures of the watch and get it ready for listing.
I include this step as part of my “QC” because there have been numerous times that I have noticed imperfections while either photographing and/or photo editing that escaped my initial “step 2” inspection.
Step 6 – Confirm timekeeping
After the watch photoshoot is complete, I make sure the watch is fully-wound, then set the time. Usually, I wear the watch for the rest of the day and then confirm the next day that the watch didn’t gain/lose any time.
I am sure that a fancy tool like a “Weishi” Timegrapher can do a much better job of confirming timekeeping, but personally, I haven’t found the need to invest the $100+ as the simple “wind it and wear it” method has worked for me.
What to do if you find something “unexpected”
Hopefully, you run through all of these steps and you don’t find any issues – the watch (and all contents) were received as expected, everything works great, and you have all the necessary photos to list your watch. But what if you DO find something unexpected?
My advice may surprise you…
In the event that you find something unexpected, you have a decision to make. You can either reach out to the seller, communicate the issue, and attempt to work out a compromise … or just pay your watchmaker to resolve the issue.
From my point of view, I want to be seen as a reasonable buyer, and more often than not, if it is a minor issue and/or could be perceived as minor oversight by the seller, I will just reduce my expected profits on the sale and/or pay my watchmaker the few dollars that it takes to resolve the issue. Most minor repairs are less than $100 and up to $350 for a full service, which is a small cost to pay to make sure that you deliver a high-quality product to your client.
However, if my QC process uncovers a major issue or if it seems like the seller intentionally misrepresented their product, I will renegotiate the terms of the sale, up to sending the watch back. But that almost never especially among WTA members and other trusted sellers.
In closing, I hope that you will become a better watch trader (and risk manager) by implementing (or improving) your QC process with the tips I have shared in this article.