Shopping for a watch online can be super confusing. Especially if you’re new to it.
Fire up a Google search for almost any watch and in just a few minutes you’ll probably find (what seems to be) the same watch available on many different websites
And the worst part? The prices can often be wildly different between sites as well.
If this has happened to you, you probably end up doing what many of the guys we’ve chatted to about this issue do:
Abort the watch buying mission.
Yep, they bail on it. Pull the parachute. And you probably do too.
You then wait until you see it at a good price at your favorite brick and mortar store.
And hey, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Brick and mortar stores give you that old fashioned personal feeling of buying a watch—including feeling and seeing it on your wrist.
But if you’re avoiding the online watch market altogether, there’s a good chance you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
That’s where we step in.
We’ve put together this article to help you better understand the online watch marketplace in general, as well as listing our picks of the very best online watch stores in 2020 that you can reliably buy from.
Yes, always do your own research. But by the end of this article, you should feel a lot more confident about making the best possible buying decision.
The 3 Best Online Watch Stores in 2020
Type of Seller: Reseller
Warranty: 1 to 5 years (non-factory and brand dependent)
Reviews: 13,000+ reviews on TrustPilot with an average rating of 8.9 out of 10
Jomashop is a large Brooklyn based reseller that has slowly but surely worked its way onto our list. They claim to have been founded in 1987, and judging by the amount of reviews they’ve racked up online, we wouldn’t doubt it.
Jomashop have a built an excellent reputation among watch enthusiasts as a reliable authentic online seller. They guarantee authenticity and offer their own warranty for every brand name watch sold (note that distinction) for a period of one to five years depending on the brand.
They have live online chat and they seem to actually value customer service—which is often a rarity in the online watch buying world. They also offer a trade-in / trade-up service where you can get an estimate on your pre-owned watch, ship it to them, then apply the credit to a purchase over $1,000.
Type of Seller: Direct as a Reseller / Authorized Dealer / Third-party
Reviews: If you’re buying from Amazon direct as a reseller or as an authorized dealer—uh, it’s Amazon! If you can’t trust them, I’m not sure who you can trust. But if you’re buying on Amazon via a third-party seller—always be sure to check the ratings on the seller’s storefront.
Amazon kinda has to make this list. I mean, it’s Amazon. And pretty much every watch is on there.
But how you buy a watch on Amazon can make a difference to your experience. And we’re going to briefly explain it for you.
Watches on Amazon are generally sold either:
Direct by Amazon (reseller)—Amazon sources and sells authentic watches, just like CWS, Jomashop and other resellers do (look for the “shipped and sold by Amazon.com” text)
With Amazon as the authorized dealer (will usually be those listed with a manufacturer’s warranty—just like this Timex Weekender , for example)
Via third-party sellers (this Casio is a case in point)
Third-party sellers (number three) is the only one you need to be cautious about. Be sure to click and review their storefront page before making a purchase.
Avoid third-party sellers with bad reviews, few reviews, clearly fake reviews, lack of positive ratings, and signs of bad packaging.
Here’s a good general rule to go by:
Only buy a watch from a seller on Amazon that isn’t Amazon itself if the third-party seller is both cheaper than Amazon for the watch in question AND very highly rated.
As always, do your own research. But if you take that advice you’ll usually be able to get a genuine watch on Amazon at a great price.
3. Bob’s Watches
Type of Seller: Pre-Owned Exchange
Warranty: All watches sold are accompanied by a one-year service warranty
Reviews: 195+ reviews on Yelp for its flagship Newport Beach store location with a 4 star rating
If you’ve ever researched buying a pre-owned Rolex online, you’ve probably come across Bob’s Watches.
Founded in 1999 and based in Newport Beach, California, Bob’s has cemented itself as the guidepost for used Rolex prices.
But what I like most? They list both the buy and sell price transparently for all of their listings. Stock exchange style. You can be confident that what you’re buying is at fair market value, because the real sell number is right there in front of you.
Bobs Watches Rolex prices
I’m also a fan of their meticulous inspection standards which are backed up by a one-year service warranty and authentication pledge. Trust is important to Bob’s and the results of that show via their reviews and reputation online.
While Rolex is their bread and butter, they also stocks a wide range of the usual suspect luxury watch brands like OMEGA, Breitling, Oris, and Panerai, to name a few.
Luxury watches remain a solid investment—they’re unlikely to depreciate too much in value and there’s an ever-active market of buyers if you ever wish to sell.
If you’re in the market for a pre-owned Rolex or luxury watch, you’ll be hard pressed to find better value and peace of mind than Bob’s.
Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Watch Online
The online watch marketplace is a unique beast.
These are the key things we think you should consider when buying any watch online.
Some are closely related to each other.
Types of Online Watch Sellers
Online watch sellers come in several different forms:
Brands Selling Direct via E-Commerce
A.K.A skipping the middleman. A recent example in the luxury space is Omega, which in 2017, launched its own online store in the United States.
Omni-channel retailers are those that offer an identical customer experience across brick and mortar, e-commerce, and any other channel where watches are bought and sold.
Authorized Third Party Dealers
These are retailers that have authorization from watch companies to sell their products.
They buy their watches directly from the manufacturer which means they usually offer a full factory warranty.
But their prices are generally the highest of all types of sellers because they’re restricted to being guided by the manufacturer’s recommended sale price (MSRP).
Often referred to as the “grey market”, resellers sell brand-new, reliably genuine watches—but they do so without authorization from watch manufacturers.
Because of this, they’re not restricted by MSRPs and so they often offer great prices. But you generally don’t get an official factory warranty as a tradeoff.
To offset this, many large resellers will offer their own warranty.
A well-known and trusted example of a reseller with thousands of positive TrustPilot reviews is Jomashop. They offer their own warranty on all brand name watches.
Online auction juggernaut, eBay, remains a popular place for sellers of new and used watches.
Marketplaces, Forums, and Other Online Communities
One thing has always been true—where people gather they will sell stuff.
Watchuseek is probably the most popular watch forum in the world and it has its own dedicated sales corners. Another popular site is WatchRecon—a search engine built around private watch sales by both individuals and dealers alike.
There’s also always good ol’ Reddit, namely, /r/watchexchange.
Specialist Pre-Owned Exchanges
Certified pre-owned watch exchanges like Bob’s Watches are popular destinations for the buying and selling of Rolex watches and other luxury timepieces.
At its core, watchmaking is an incredibly intricate work of art.
And not unlike the art world, the reputation of the seller you’re thinking about making a purchase from should be your number one concern.
Google is your friend. Read and count reviews. Scope forums like Watchuseek. Check the store’s customer testimonials (it should be pretty obvious whether they’re genuine or not, but here’s a hint—if they’re 100% over-the-top positive, they’re probably not real).
The reality is, there are dodgy stores out there selling dodgier watches. But by choosing only to buy from reputable sellers, your risk of making a sour transaction is significantly lower.
The old one-liner “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” doesn’t just apply to your dating life.
It’s a big one when it comes to buying watches online.
If a new (or even used) watch is priced significantly lower than average it can often mean one of a few things:
it’s cosmetically or mechanically flawed
And to be clear—we’re not referring to the discounts available via resellers here.
In that case, provided you’re buying through one of the reputable sellers we’ve listed below, the lower price is unlikely to be an indicator of a lack of authenticity, and more likely to be due to the seller not being restricted to the manufacturer’s pricing guidelines.
But as with all of this advice, you should always do your own research into any online seller you’re considering buying a watch from.
Warranty and Return Policy
You know how we said that watchmaking is an intricate work of art? Well, on rare occasions, those intricacies can cause unforeseen problems.
Especially with mechanical watches that have a lot more individual parts.
So it’s important you know up front what options you have if anything goes wrong with your prized timepiece.
It’s more important than ever to read any online watch seller’s warranty and returns sections carefully.
It relates to what we mentioned above.
Warranties can be different depending on whether the seller is an authorized dealer.
If they are—they’ll likely be offering a full factory warranty. If not, it’s more likely to be the seller’s own warranty.
The next step is to check out how the seller handles the repair of your watch when you submit a warranty claim.
Make sure the seller uses professional repairmen, technicians, and/or horologists who have the ability and credentials to repair your specific watch brand to the manufacturer’s standard.
But when it comes to return policies, we’ll say this. In the world of online watch buying, you should assume that most of your purchases are non-returnable.
Obviously, check the individual website’s policy that you’re buying from. But in our experience, unless there’s an issue with the watch itself, you’re likely going to face some fierce resistance in trying to reverse the transaction.
If you can, try the watch on your wrist at a brick and mortar store (or by borrowing it from someone) before pulling the trigger online.
If you’re spending a lot of money on a watch online, it’s a good idea to know you’re going to like it before laying down your hard earned dollars.
This one is pretty straight forward. We only buy from online watch sellers with a high quality of customer service.
And you should too.
Because it’s the easiest for them to get right.