I received this email recently
and thought my reply might be of interest to folks who are
just starting out in the hobby. I've blanked out the name
and address to protect the poster and also to protect the
surprise of the gift! Hope you find this posting useful!
I honestly doubt that I'm the "most knowledgeable" person (and might not even be the "most helpful" person), but I'll try!
Your apprehension is very understandable... The watch collecting hobby can be very cut-throat and many people "play for keeps"... I myself am fairly aggressive when I do business on eBay myself.
Unfortunately, I don't have a great deal of experience in buying off of the sales corner on TZ. I have much more experience on ebay and with web-based concerns. But many of the same principles do apply:
Learn as much as you can (within reason) about the various Speedmasters that have been made, what they look like so that you can have a very high chance of being able to spot fake, counterfeit and "franken" (put-together, or non-original watches that are assembled from multiple watches or from a parts bin) watches. I'd recommend that you look through these sites on the web that have a significant amount of information on Speedy's:
The idea here is for you to become as educated of a purchaser as possible so that you can not only spot as good of an example as possible, but also be able to spot fake, counterfeit and "franken" watch examples offered for sale and also such that you can try to figure out which version of the Speedmaster you feel best suit's your <relative>'s tastes.
Even if you discount the "Mark Series", the c.1045's, the Speedmaster 125, German Market Speedmasters, and the other variant models of Speedmasters, there are a formidable number of variations of the main moonwatch line. I discuss the prevailing values of some of the variant models within the articles describing them, for "main line Speedmasters" I discuss their values in this article... There are a number of articles in TZ Classics on this topic, including the outstanding " Prelude to the Moonwatch: Evolution of the 321 Speedmaster's" by Gerry L. listed in TZ Classics. A more recent addition that will provide you with an "overview" of several large collection of Moonwatches is this article introducing Gino Balbi and his collection (which also includes a photo of Gerry L's magnificent spread of Vintage Speedmasters).
The issue of which model your <relative> would like best is one you will likely want to decide. There is nothing wrong with buying a Moonwatch of recent manufacture, nor is it a bad idea to buy a more vintage one. A number of people seek out model's made in a certain year... Since the Moonwatch has been in production for nearly 45 years, it is not uncommon for people to seek out a watch made in the year of their birth or their year of graduation from school, etc.. I recently helped a long time friend of mine purchase a 1978 manufacturer moonwatch after he fell in love with my 1967 Pre-Moon Pro which I had retrofitted a display back. He was mainly interested in owning a moonwatch and while he likes the c.321 and probably prefers it, it wasn't as important to him as finding a cherry moonwatch at a good price. Which he did. He too has since affixed a display back to his '78.
If your <relative> is a collector of watches, he may like a c.321 more than a c.861 (and if you talk to him about your journey in purchasing it for him he will likely be impressed/pleased that you took the time to learn the intricacies of the moonwatch). You should know that they are both high quality movements, very robust and a fine addition to any collection. But the c.321 was most likely the model actually worn on the moon, because of this, the fact that the c.321 was first, no longer in production it is highly valued to collectors. I also feel it's a better looking movement from an emotional standpoint. However, as such emotions are highly personal and hence will very from individual to individual. Purchase the watch that you, or the one you feel your relative would want not what I or someone outside prefers.
Once you have decided on a model or models you are interested in considering you can not only troll the Sales Corner on TZ but other on-line watch concerns. I'd recommend that you look through the links on my watch links page to facilitate your search. In addition, you can try some of the on-line Auction sites. eBay is the largest and you will have the largest selection of choices there, but their are others. It is important that you learn what a real moonwatch looks like so that you can discriminate real Speedmaster models from fakes. (Yes, not only are there Rolex and TAG-Heuer fakes but there are a small but substancial number of Speedmaster "replica's" or more properly phrased fake or counterfit Speedmasters. Certain auction sites are a hotbed of counterfit activities, especially Yahoo auctions.
Another important consideration when hunting for a watch is the current going street price. This is best determined by direct observation of the bid's on completed auctions to see what the closing price for watches that met reserve. By using this information as well as an examination of the quality of the watch in question will give you an idea as to what range a certain model commands in the current market place.
Once you have homed in on a candidate watch I would contact the seller and ask for as much information about the watch as possible: caseback number, serial number (at least all but the last two or three digits), pictures of the watch front and back, detailed pictures of any perceived flaws, a picture of the caseback and movement. You can use these pictures alongside others to make sure that everything seems to be in place, correct and on the up and up. It also serves as a safety for the seller and buyer in case something later becomes a point of contention... (more on this later).
Once you have decided to consummate a deal with someone it's time to discuss the terms of sale with the seller. I'm a pretty laid-back guy when I'm discussing a potential watch with a seller, but once I've decided to go ahead, I become serious and sober to iron out the terms: method of payment, method of shipping the watch back and all other terms (warrantee, if any, return policy, etc.) and document everything (email communications, copies of the letter and other documentation sent, a photocopy of the money order, Cashiers Check, or bank transfer, etc.) I've not ever needed any of this documentation but it's important that you have it in case the deal goes south.
Now what I typically do, is to write a concise cover letter briefly summarizing the terms of sale and directions for shipping, I include a copy of the most recent relevant email exchange and a print out of pictures that were sent by the seller or the web page describing the watch if on eBay, the sales corner or a web retailer, and a return mailing or shipping label. The idea here is to provide the seller with a copy in writing of your understanding of the terms of the transaction. This serves as a receipt for the seller. It also states your understanding of the terms of the transaction. Additionally, this implies that since you have gone to the trouble to document this for him, that you more than likely retain copies of this documentation for your records should anything bad transpire. This serves to protect each party to the deal and is a "Good Karma" thing.
No one wants or needs the hassle of a transaction gone bad. The idea here is to assist the seller into making the deal as proper, prompt and painless as possible (read this as professionally...). When a deal goes well, all parties benefit. When a deal goes bad, everyone loses to one degree or another.
Next off, always insist that the watch be shipped insured for the price you are paying for it plus your costs. Thus far I've only lost one watch in transit when a seller, STUPIDLY, sent a watch without a single speck of shipping tape on the fold-together box. Thus it was a very simple matter for a dishonest postal employee to press his hand into the box, pull out the watch and slip the box back together. The good news is the watch was insured for $20 less than my costs, the bad news is that the watch was lost, the middling news is that it took nearly a month for me to get the insurance money from the PO. This is not the way you want to spend your Christmas Eve day doing: I made a special trip into work on 24 December 1999 to pick up that package... I ended up spending over an hour at the Post Office filling out forms... INSURE IT!!! Avoid a potential catastrophe!
Despite this bad experience (my only real less then satisfactory eBay experience) I still prefer the US Postal Service Express Mail for shipping within the USA. I've become very fond of the USPS Express Mail service for a number of reasons. First off they deliver 365 days of the year (even holidays!) and typically are next day. They also have a default insured value of $500 and you can easily add more insurance. The delivery is also trackable via the web and has delivery confirmation via the web site. I've also had good experiences with FedEx and UPS but I like the deliver on everyday feature of Express Mail. Be sure to ask the seller to carefully package and securely tape it up to minimize tampering. For international transactions I prefer to use USPS Global Express Mail via the US Post Office to send funds or items, and I prefer the use of EMS (Express Mail Service) for items that are being shipped to me from overseas.
When I ship watches out for repair here is what I do:
The basic idea is to protect the watch from damage from: itself (bracelet rubbing against the watch, etc.), water (the Ziplock), external damage (in case the postman is a gorilla in disguise) and tampering/theft. But having multiple layers of protection it protects the watch as the higher the quality of protection the lower the risk of damage).
Sorry to say, not many dealers are so careful with a watch they ship you. Some are thorough, but it never hurts to ask.
Remember that you are doing a business transaction with significant monies, and a piece of history at stake. Treat your seller with respect, professionalism and expect the same in return. This means for example once you've received the watch communicating with the seller that you have received the watch and also if the transaction is an eBay deal leaving feedback on the transaction. Remember that many people use feedback left on eBay as a sort of "references" listing, so it is important that you leave feedback. Once you have left feedback it is important to make sure that feedback is left for you as well.
Whew! That's a lot to digest, and I'm still not sure I've answered your question! Here are the main points again:
Cheers, good luck, good hunting and feel free to contact me if you have additional questions!
As is typically my practice, I posted this document in the Omega Forum for Omegan review... One of the Forum regulars, Frank N posted a reply to my message:
It is unfortunately my experience, that vintage watches bought on-line almost all requires some degree of TLC, and a service at the very least. I have yet to receive a 'just serviced' watch from eBay or similar places with a sufficient balance amplitude, much to the joy of my watchmaker. This includes even the best of the nice ones and doesn't take into consideration the small plastic bag I get back from my watchmaker together with the watch, containing the non-original or incorrectly sized parts he has replaced in the watches.
Maybe, I'm just lucky, but I haven't really experienced this level of problems from watches that I've purchased via the Net. Some have required a visit to a watchmaker but most of mine have been good timekeepers and performers. Nonetheless, Frank makes a very good and valid point. It's a wise precaution to set aside some additional monies for potential repairs. As Frank said "it might be a good idea to warn people"... It is...
Consider this your warning! =)
[Special Thanks to Frank N. for his thoughts on my original post... -- Chuck]
Permission is granted for Damon, Derek, Frank, Ross or RJ to include this article within the FAQ's they are writing credit is retained, Permission for personal, educational or non-commercial use is granted. The author retains all other rights not specifically mentioned here... For all other use please contact the author.
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and knowing me should be taken with a grain or two of salt...