How to Make Money Flipping Watches

You don't need twenty grand to resell watches

How to Flip Watches 2023

Key Points

  • Watches can be a tricky market to break into, but also lucrative

  • A watch’s value is determined by many factors; not all watches resell

  • Pay close attention to details and prices to avoid getting scammed

There is a long history of reselling in the watch world. Commonly referred to as the “gray market”, flipping watches is a hobby for some and business for others. While you might think that it requires tons of money and knowledge to get into, there are are opportunities for you to break into reselling watches. In this guide we’ll take a look at some of the basics of flipping watches, the kind of money you can expect to make, and what to look out for. Additionally, we’ll cover fakes and how to avoid them. Ready to start flipping watches? Let’s go.

Is it profitable to flip watches?

This is sort of a loaded question. Reselling watches can be quite profitable. It can also be a way to lose money fast. As with most other items to resell, making money from flipping watches is entirely reliant on buying the right products at the right prices.

Unlike other products, watches routinely retail for tens of thousands of dollars, and their aftermarket values fluctuate wildly. Some may hold their value for years or appreciate, others will nosedive off a cliff just weeks after their release. Jumping feet first into the watch trade without doing your research is an easy way to lose a lot of money.

For watch collectors, the long-term value of a watch is something they closely consider before buying. It’s similar to a car, in that some models will depreciate more than others. It makes sense to put $30,000 into a watch that will hold a good portion of it’s value over time. If you’re already familiar with watch collecting, you probably have some idea of how various watches depreciate, which is tremendously useful as a watch reseller.

All of this is to say is that you can make money reselling watches – but it’s an industry full of experienced people trying to do the same. You’ll need to be patient and a little lucky to find good deals, while greed will likely get you a fake Rolex that turns your wrist green. Be cautious, be smart, and there’s no reason you can’t profit from reselling watches.

The basics of reselling watches

Watches as a hobby have grown tremendously in recent years. Major manufacturers frequently put out watches in limited numbers against heavy demand, so they sell out fast. This creates a large aftermarket of sellers and collectors trading the watches amongst themselves – the grey market.

Grey markets have been a facet of watch collecting for decades. Most watches sell for under their MSRP on the grey market, as a consequence of them being used watches. Some will resell for more than retail, but that requires a unique combination of factors.

When flipping watches, you’ll typically be sourcing them from other resellers on the grey market. You can think of it similar to Wall Street, where you’re investing in watch models that you believe are underappreciated, and selling off stock as it rises in value. Watch reselling and watch collecting are heavily intertwined as one typically requires knowledge of the other; most watch resellers are collectors, and most collectors have sold at least one watch.

For starters, let’s talk about what to look for in a watch to flip. Generally, you’ll want to focus on mechanical watches over quartz. These are favored by collectors, seen as more refined, and thus more valuable. Big name brands are obviously desirable. Rolex, Patek Phillipe, OMEGA, Cartier. These brands have been around for decades, they’ll be around for many more.

Once you’ve got your eyes on a watch, you’ll need to check the price. Chrono24 has a free watch appraisal tool where you can enter a watch’s reference number and condition and receive an estimate on its current price. You can also check eBay and Chrono24 for what similar watches are reselling for.

Here are some examples of watches that have resold recently:

  • Rolex GMT Master-II “Pepsi Dial”. This watch was a throwback version of one of Rolex’s most iconic offerings. It was first unveiled at Baselworld 2018 to huge applause. With an MSRP of $20,000, the 2018 Pepsi Dial would resell for around $30,000 on the grey market for the next four years. Even now, worn Pepsi Dials retain their MSRP on the aftermarket.
  • Swatch X Dragon Ball Z Collection. A set of DBZ themed watches from Swatch. Like all Swatches, these were quartz powered. Individual watches were quite cheap, but the whole collection sold for $1,000, and was numbered. Collectors paid around $3,000 for a full set at its peak.
  • MB & F M.A.D.1 RED. If you were subscribed to our newsletter when these dropped in March, you would have gotten advanced notice to enter the raffle. Lucky winners had the opportunity to buy the M.A.D.1 RED for $3,000. Not at all bad considering they resold for upwards of $10,000 to the right buyer.

Are vintage watches worth reselling?

Considering the sentimental nature of watches and their tendency to hold value, you may have thought about reselling vintage watches. Especially after looking at the prices for new models that are constantly out of stock.

Flipping vintage watches is a bit of a can of worms. For one, the condition of a watch is always a serious concern. While the case might look to be in good shape, the internal mechanism may be struggling.

These kinds of repairs are a serious investment. Replacing the battery in a quartz watch may only cost $50 or so, but a vintage mechanical watch in need of work can run up a repair bill of $1,000 or more. Part of the appeal of these watches is the finely tuned internals, but those come at a price.

Because of the costs associated with vintage watches, there’s also a considerable number of fakes floating around out there. The longer a watch has been out, the more time counterfeiters have to work on a knock-off. This is especially true for the most popular models of vintage watches.

Speaking of fakes, let’s talk a little bit about recognizing them.

How to spot fake watches

Counterfeit products tend to fall in three groups: obvious, subtle, and near-perfect. The quality of a fake pretty directly corresponds with the value of the watch; expensive watches will have the most effort put into their fakes.

You can spot fake watches by paying attention to deals. Make sure words are spelled properly. Cross reference the watch with one for sale online, making sure the designs and materials match. Fake watches do not have the same level of fit and finish as an authentic one. Give the watch a feel, with a focus on scratches, rough edges, scrapes, and an overall lack of polish.

Well-made fakes can be extremely hard to differentiate from a real watch. Counterfeiters may add weights to the watch to disguise the lack of quality materials, and include sophisticated timekeeping methods to appear legitimate. These kinds of fakes are rare, and generally only for notably expensive watches.

It’s important to consider your buyer when looking at watches. This is especially true if you’re buying online, and can’t look at the watch in person. Is the seller reputable? Do they have past sales? Good reviews? Is the seller offering you a good price? Deals are not unheard of, but if someone’s offering a Rolex at half market value, you should be suspicious.

How much money do you need to flip watches?

Here’s where a lot people get hung up. Watches, like cars, seem like a rich man’s game. While that’s true to a degree, it’s still possible to make money flipping watches with little upfront investment.

The absolute minimum amount of money to start reselling watches is around $1,000. This is enough money to pick up a quality entry-level watch. As with all investments, this is money that you can afford to hold for extended periods.

We recommend sticking to this number for your first foray into reselling watches. Numbers go up pretty damn quick, and throwing cash at a watch just because it’s expensive does not make it a good investment.

Serious collectors and resellers will typically have tens of thousands tied up in their watches at any one time. Some may prefer to swap out their pieces frequently, buying and selling them each month, while others prefer to park their money in a solid watch for several years.

Hopefully you have a solid grasp of what it takes to make money flipping watches. It can be a hard business to break into, but very lucrative as well. While most watch resellers also tend to collect watches as well, it’s still possible to profit from watches with relatively little knowledge of the industry. As long as you’re doing your research, checking prices, and finding deals, you can come out ahead.

If you’re serious about finding financial independence and making money from home, maybe it’s time to join RC Elite. Whether it’s watches, sneakers, cars, cards, or any random thing you can think of, there are tons of opportunities for resellers cropping up every day. You’ll have 24/7 access to the most effective resell methods, as well as connecting you with other experienced resellers. Learn new ways to make and save money by joining RC Elite.

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