Tip #1: A broken watch or a watch that has had some parts removed by a "tinkerer" will NOT TICK AT ALL... Be prepared to repair any watch you buy that doesn't run at least a little...
Tip# 2: On bargain hunts I wouldn't spend much more than $20-30. You CAN sometimes get a good deal... But the risk is that you end up with a piece of junk.
Tip# 3: Buy from a "jack of all trades". Don't get me wrong buying from a person who knows watches and who has good descriptions and clear pictures is definitely worth paying the higher bid... you know exactly what you are getting. But bargain hunting is a different story. Really depends on what you are looking for!
Tip# 4: Sometimes you can really score big by buying a watch lot. Make sure there is at least one watch that looks good in there though. Sellers love to sell a "watch lot" that is nothing but TIMEX, and JUNK!
Tip# 5: Sometimes its just fun to take a "calculated" chance and see what you get.
Ebay has been a fantastic resource to me in my collecting. Where else can you preview thousands of old watches and watch parts in one place. I've been on Ebay since 1999, and have a few tips for the newcomer. When you are looking for an old watch to collect on Ebay there are a number of things to look for. Let's assume that you read my section on watch repair, and would like to buy an old Elgin as a "practice watch" to work on. Here's what to do:
Go to www.ebay.com. Look the section that says "CATEGORIES". Tab down a bit and click on "JEWELRY & WATCHES". Then scroll down a bit and click on "Watches". These three simple steps just narrowed your search to nothing but Watches. To narrow the search even further, click on "Pocket Watches". Then in the search field, type in "Elgin" and then click "search". You just filtered out everything in Ebay EXCEPT Elgin pocket watches. By browsing this list you will most likely find what you are looking for. Keep an eye open for "Buy it Now" items. Sometimes people set these prices far below the fair market price and a real bargain can be had!
Now what to do? There are so many watches to choose from! Which Elgin "Fixer upper" do you go for? Here are a few things to look for: Try to find a fairly priced watch. If it is your first "experiment" you will most likely destroy this watch so don't spend too much ($20-30 is good). A decent item will normally have at least a few bids. Auctions with no bids can sometimes (but not always) indicate trouble. Check out the description carefully, and if something is missing don't be afraid to send questions to the seller. As an Ebay seller, I have often forgotten to mention something. A good rule of thumb to locating a possible fixer upper is to look for a watch that "ticks when shaken" or "runs but then stops". A watch that runs...even if it only runs a little is a watch that you will have better luck getting going and keeping time. Also, look at the pictures. How does it look? For this "project", completeness is very important.... Are the hands, crystal, case etc... All present? Also, assuming you will want to keep this watch for your collection, the better the condition, and the better off you'll be. Some things to keep in mind regarding condition. Broken hinges on pocket watch cases can be repaired but the cost can be high. Hands ARE easy and cheap to replace, BUT, are sometimes missing because the shaft they normally attach to has broken off! Be very careful on this one... this happened to me!! What a bummer! Crystals are very easy to replace and usually cost only $10-20. Ceramic dials are not so easy to replace, and damaged ceramic dials can take 75% of the watches value away. They are nearly impossible to repair, and very difficult to replace (costly $$). Metal dials common on wrist watches can be redone for $45. Keep these costs in mind, and weigh the extra costs of bringing a watch back from the dead into the "bargain".
So, you followed my advice and have a watch in your sights! Now what? Check out the seller's feedback by clicking on the number next to their name. This will bring up all feedback left for them. Click on the item numbers next to the recent feedback. What kind of items does this person usually sell? If you are looking for a BARGAIN, I would look for a person who sells all kinds of different items - from old shoes to a broken banjo (not just watches). Why? Because as a watch person, I know what I have in my hands, and will usually spend the time to fix it up, clean it, and accurately describe it. A "Jack of all trades" won't do that... Keep in mind; we are looking for a watch that hopefully just needs a cleaning and a little TLC.
If everything checks out, wait until the auction is nearly over and see what happens with the bidding. I can't tell you how many times I was bumped off at the end of an auction by a "sniper". That is someone who bids and wins at the last second. In order to beat the "snipers", you must become a "sniper". Current bid is $20, Wait until about 1 minute is left and place a bid for $30. If the last high bid is $22 then that is the price you will pay.
You can also get some great deals on Ebay just about every day by "browsing". On the main ebay page click on "JEWELRY & WATCHES". The scroll through and click on "Watches". You would do this if you have no particular brand name in mind. Once in "WATCHES". Then SORT BY "Ending Soonest"; you will see all of the watches currently being auctioned. If you so this, every now and then you will stumble across a bargain! An otherwise overlooked item can sometimes be had for very little money! For example, I was browsing on Ebay late one night when I did what I just described... I clicked "wristwatches" and then clicked "Ending Soonest". I saw a "fixer-upper" Elgin that had no bids and only 10 minutes remaining. I knew the seller knew little about watches from his description which was very weak. The watch was dirty and the pictures were terrible. The seller's ad said "Watch says Elgin on the front. I am not a watch person so don't know anything about them. The watch runs for a bit when I shake it might need a battery selling as is." I knew that this watch didn't need a battery, and due to the fact that it ran a bit, I knew the watch was complete, unbroken, and probably just needed a cleaning. So, I bid. Turns out I only paid $13 for it. After I received the watch I was very pleased to find that it was in better shape than I had hoped! The guy didn't even realize that being an old watch it just needed to be wound! This is what it looked like after a little TLC:
On a limited basis I now offer:
~ The Watch Guy's Watch Restoration Service ~
This Service Includes:
~ Cleaning and Oil the movement
~ Send dial out for Professional refinishing
~ Polish and Shine the case
~ Clean & Straigten the Hands
~ New crystal
~ New Leather Band
~ New Crown, Stem, and Mainspring (if necessary)
~ Return Shipping
PLEASE NOTE: Any jobs that require serious repair work will be returned & monies refunded
Other "rules" to follow: Make sure to check out the seller's feedback before bidding. This is the only way to really see how this person operates. Also check out the other items this person is selling. See what kind of stuff they normally deal in. As mentioned above, sometimes a deal can be found buying from a "jack-of-all-trades"... or maybe you will feel more comfortable with an "expert".
Next you will want to check out the bidding history on the item you are interested in. Here's another story for you... I was looking around for a newer Tag-Heuer or Breitling a while back. On this one auction there were about a dozen bids on a Breitling, but the price seemed very high to me. What was it about this watch that warranted the high price? Curious, I checked out the bidding history... Every single bidder was new to Ebay and had a feedback rating of (0). This seller was obviously having his buddies sign up and bid on the watch to make it look like a hot item. The hope here is that someone would see all of the bids... and feel comfortable enough to jump in with a bid. Now that you're hooked the bidding dries up, and you are the new owner of an overpriced watch. That's why the bidding history is useful. Here's another good story: I was looking intently at this one particular Tag-Heuer. On this one the price was very LOW. The description looked good, but it mentioned little about the watch's authenticity. The seller implied that it was real but never actually stated anything like "guaranteed authentic" in the ad. I decided to dig a little further. First, I wanted to check out the bidding history but this was a "Private Auction". A Private Auction is where the seller can keep the bidders identity private. Then I looked at the seller's feedback. They had "eyeglasses" which means they are either new to Ebay, or changed their name recently. This seller had very low feedback. I checked out the other items he had sold. The previous auctions they had run were identical... they were selling nothing but Tag-Heuers. When I sent an e-mail asking about the authenticity and received no response. I expected as much... and here's why: These were most likely sellers of fake Tag-Heuers. They keep the auction private so their customers won't be lured away by other FAKE TAG Dealers... the fake watch business is very competitive... other fake Tag dealers will often contact their competitors bidders during an auction and offer lower prices on the same watch. The bidders retract their bids, and go with the lower price... with all of his customers gone this guys auction is ruined. Also, they commonly receive negative feedback so they need to change their Ebay name fairly frequently. They also imply that an item is real but don't actually come out and say so. The description is usually pretty vague. Finally, they rarely answer e-mails about authenticity (they won't admit in writing that it's a fake because of potential liability). Private auctions give me the creeps! BEWARE.