7 Smart Tips for Buying a Luxury Vintage Watch Online

 As industry experts with over a decade of experience, our team is skilled at purchasing watches using only photos as our guide. In fact, we do it every single day! Unless you've got the same level of experience, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the prospect of selecting a quality piece online. Fortunately, when you know what to look out for, buying a luxury pre-owned Rolex, Omega, or other upscale watches can be a fun and rewarding process. Here are seven insider tips for selecting the timepiece of your dreams.


  1. Choose a Reputable Seller


Before making any luxury watch purchase, you must be confident in your seller. First, do a little background research to ensure the business has a strong reputation for honesty and transparency and has verified sales. From here, you can feel certain that you're starting with a quality baseline for further inspection.


  1. Check for Bezel Sharpness and Cracks


Among the first things we look for when selecting pre-owned watches are smooth bezels and the appearance of hairline cracks. If bezels have not been polished, they will have sharp edges, but if over-polished, they will have curves. Be on the lookout for the latter around case lugs. Some watchmakers will get lazy and will fail to remove the bezel from a watch while polishing the case. Next, inspect the bezel for any cracks. Be aware that scratches can hide hairline cracks. Take a full 360-degree look at the bezel to be sure. Bezels can be difficult to replace, so this is a crucial step. When in doubt about cracks, ask the seller, or simply do not buy the watch.


  1. Look at Dial Discolouration


When investing in a luxury watch, you don't want to sell yourself short with a discoloured dial. Both the dial and hands should be in pristine condition, as replacement dials are hard to come by, and the future value of your timepiece depends on the state of the dial. Keep an eye on the dial's perimeter and around the hour indices. These are the most common areas where discolouration may occur. Of course, different people will have different levels of tolerance for fading or discolouration based on their own unique preferences and style. At the end of the day, make a choice that suits your needs and select a watch that you will be happy to wear in the years to come.


  1. Inspect Lume


Some luxury watch dials have Lume plots. These are green or white glow-in-the-dark paint markings at the hour indices. The watch hands should have a slot within them with a matching lume. If the hands do not match up with the dial, you could have a Franken-watch (a watch made from a mixture of incorrect/incompatible parts) or a fake. However, be aware that some watches have lumed hands with no lume on the dial, which is perfectly fine. Another thing to consider is that vintage Omega Seamsters have black paint on their hour indices and the centre of both hands. Never hesitate to ask questions about lume or to research proper lume for a specific model. Here's your cheat guide:


Lume on Dial

Lume on Hands

Cause for Concern?














  1. Consider Crown Wear and Operation


When looking at a specific watch, run a Google search for its reference number to check images to see the original crown shape and size that was common for the watch. It's quite common for vintage watches to have replacement crowns that came from an incorrect model. This happens a lot with the Omega Constellation. It originally featured octagonal crowns, but they are frequently replaced with the knurled finished crowns that came standard on Omega Seamster pieces.
Next, look at the wear on signed crowns. Wear happens over time, but make sure you can see the imprint on the crown if it's signed. Finally, ensure that screw-down crowns are screwed down in pictures. If they are not, it is probably because the threads are damaged.


  1. Verify Movement That the Calibre Number is Matched to the Dial, and any Complications


Often manufacturers number their movements using the following philosophy: The time-only movement has a base number that is then changed based on additional complications (features). For example, consider Rolex's 1990's base movement with just three hands has the number 3130.


Complications added to this movement warrant a change to the number:



Calibre Number

Time Only


Date and Time


Date, Time and GMT Hand


Day and Date




Sometimes watchmakers will use parts from different movements in different watches. There have been multiple occasions when our watchmakers have seen a Day-Date watch with a 3135 inscribed on the movement. This signals that, in the past, the watch has been repaired by lazy watchmakers who mixed and matched parts in a repair job.


  1. Described as Running


Make sure the seller has described the watch as in good running condition. In other words, the second hand should move, and all hands should be functional. When the watch runs, it's less likely to have other major issues. Unfortunately, watches sometimes stop running after 40+ years of operation because of issues like:
  • Damaged Parts - This is the trickiest problem to tackle as parts need to be replaced, and many may not be available or may be costly.
  • Dry Oil:It takes a long time for the watch oil to dry fully. If this has happened, a lot of wear to the gears and pivots has already occurred. 
  • Dirt:Over time, vintage watches may lose their dust and water resistance. This can allow dirt and dust to enter the accuse and settle, thus getting stuck in moving parts and stopping the watch.
If the description doesn't mention whether or not the watch is running, look at the photos to see if the second hand has progressed from photo to photo. 


In summary, copy and fill in this table for the watches you are considering:




Bezel has no cracks?


Dial discolouration?


Crown wear low?


Crown screws down?


Movement / calibre number matched to dial / complications?


Described as Running?




Do you have further questions? Reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to help you make a smart online purchase.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.