How something is purchased has changed in many different markets. You may be a distributor of hard to find vintage widgets, secured a good spot on the Internet, sold millions and built a devoted client base. The Internet dream, right? This is excellent! You could be a hard working guy that finds outstanding pre-owned and rare second hand watches and work the forums and your own site to have a great following, also excellent. Then there are bottom feeding sites that buy direct from “manufacturers” that are playing outside of the rules.
Authorized dealers of all sorts go to shows, pick what they feel are great brands for their clients and then try to sell/service them by the rules of the system. But then some guy strolls into one of these authorized dealers with their new Raymond Weil (for example of course) and cop an attitude because they need to pay for a sizing of the bracelet. “I picked the watch up online 60% off and wondered if you could tell me a few things about setting it?” The retailer has a meltdown “How the hell did Big Bubba’s Watch Emporium website get my brand of watch so cheap and how do they offer it with free shipping?” Don’t that guy.
Here are two answers:
- Close-out buyers, people who swoop in before the body is cold and buy up all the inventory in the store at rock bottom, I’m-off-to-Boca pricing. They in-turn move the merchandise to gray market buyers. That’s pretty easy to understand and lots of people go out of business, so there’s lots of product for them. But, if you think this is the majority of watches on net being sold as new, then you’re mistaken. Matter of fact this doesn’t even bother me that much.
- Oh, say it isn’t so, the companies themselves have opened a back door and sold some of their precious merch to Big Bubba’s Watch Emporium? Could this be? Happens every day and the hypocritical bastards will play stupid till their death – telling you to your face it isn’t going on. Some sellers source as they sell, with small print stating watch will be delivered within two weeks to six months. Depending how bad they want to use every stock picture ever provided to glam a site up. Others have their ins and get product direct or set up a lawn chair in a storage facility and call it a store. The rules are going out the window for AD’s, and they are steaming mad that they devote time to the proper sale of a piece while others move product behind their backs for profit.
The Answer: Don’t buy so-called new watches online. Yeah, it is hard to imagine not getting your watch from Big Bubba, but sometimes Bubba has a stock of ten or twelve year-old stuff that never got serviced and is still in its package. A friend of mine works for a mid-sized watch company that really cares about their product hitting the wrong sites. They frequently buy watches off gray market sites to test if they are real and trace the serial numbers to find out where they got their goods. Many times they come back very old, with fake boxes and all kinds of craziness. You have to be careful with your purchase and don’t buy from the “new supply” sources of major name brands. Everyone loses.
How gray market internet watch sites work:
The sites claiming to have new Rolex and Omega watches are the ones you really want to steer clear of. The short answer is because Rolex and Omega (and most other big manufacturers) do not have authorized online retailers. They spend all their time building huge databases of brand info, complete with copy/paste specs and stock images. Then they work hard to build up their SEO so that your casual search for Omega Seamaster puts them right at the top, beating out them manufacturers themselves. These sneaky gray cockroaches even go as far as creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to lure you into their sites. If you’re paying attention, at this point you must be wondering why they go through all this trouble to get you on their site if they don’t actually have the product to sell?
In the tight-knit world of watches, how are these gray market sites sourcing their goods? Well, usually they’re not. That’s why you see every Omega watch known to man, but with small print noting that the watch usually ships withing 6 months. Ah, so they get your money while you wait for them to source it. That’s the name of this game.
Some gray market sites might actually be the manufacturers themselves trying to dump old models. This is the shadiest area of the gray market. These ugly brands secret shop their own dealers to catch them in the act of transshipping, only to turn around a unload a few pieces at below dealer cost. Then, the dealers who were forced to buy the same models in order to keep their line, are up against unfair competition which makes it impossible to sell at retail pricing.
Even if these watch brands aren’t setting up the sites in-house, they are permitting it to go on. How else can you explain searching for a popular model and getting a gray market site in the search results before the brand itself? The brands know they exist and do nothing about it.
Gray market sites are sites that sell so-called “new” watches at dealer cost pricing or below. In some cases, these guys are just as damaging to the watch industry as replica sellers. They skew the resale value of your collection and ruin the dealer system.
“New” Rolex watches, for example, do not exist online. It is impossible for a BNIB Rolex watch to be on the web at 50% off. That’s because Rolex doesn’t sell watches online. Rolex watches are only available through authorized dealers. A Rolex watch can be like new in box or never worn, but even then it already originated from an AD, which means the warranty will be void. Rolex warranties are non-transferable. So unless you came across an AD selling out their backdoor, you will not be regarded as the original owner of that watch.
Beware of sites that have strong keywords in their name, and every model under the sun, but no physical inventory on hand. It’s easy for these sites to scrape pics and info from manufacturer’s sites and create a vast fake inventory of watches out of thin air. Don’t buy into their business plan.