Some Personal Advice: Why I Abhor Chrono24 and Similar Websites and Why You Need To Be Very Careful
The internet has certainly made the world a better place. But for some, it's made it a worse place. Slander on social media is widespread and there are devastating consequences where lives are genuinely ruined. While I hope we never encounter that, many of our readers have come to me with unhappy experiences they've encountered. Unfortunately, many of my readers and members of WatchProSite have encountered fraud or misrepresentations. Here's a recent misrepresentation that I found on my own that I felt was quite awful.
This is a listing of a Cartier Tortue on Chrono24, a major watch listing site. On this listing platform, you can buy watches from individuals, dealers, and even Chrono24 themselves! Notice, this watch is listed by Chrono24 and one of the advantages of purchasing directly from Chrono24 include "watches inspected by experts." Remember, the legal term "experts" is very vague, and experts get things wrong all the time!
This is the correct case back of a Cartier Tortue.
This is not the correct strap nor buckle for a Cartier watch. If you were a prospective buyer here and didn’t know this fact you would’ve been fooled. Even if you knew this was the wrong buckle and just didn’t notice this was the wrong buckle, you would’ve been fooled. The seller claims they have an "authenticity guarantee" and that their watches are "inspected by experts" well... Well, despite their authenticity guarantee and so called experts, this buckle is definitely not authentic Cartier. Low standards here!
Wait a minute, I thought this watch came with a transparent caseback, why am I even being shown a solid case back? Does this watch come with two backs?
Notice this caseback is totally incorrect. It even says ”Audemars Piguet" and we’re looking at a Cartier. No, this does not mean Audemars Piguet makes the Cartier Tortue for Cartier. This is just a clumsy photo that was attached to this listing incorrectly. Imagine if they can be so clumsy to include the wrong photo, how clumsy they are in other things! No confidence here!
The description states this watch comes with original box and no papers. Why are there papers shown? This is a generic photo, that’s why. Notice the watch isn’t anywhere in these photos. Look for continuity in photos, something that would suggest all the photos were taken at the same time at the same place for the same watch.
This watch is being sold by Chrono24 Germany themselves! Yikes!
I want to be objective here and point out that Chrono24 is not the only website nor seller of poorly represented watches. So let's not assume all watches retailed on the Chrono24 platform nor by Chrono24 as the seller are necessarily bad watches. But many watches on these kinds of websites and Classifieds forums look very questionable. Generic photos are a big problem. Also, notice that there is no space for individuals to comment nor ask questions on the page. Because if there were such spaces, many individuals who are searching for a watch like this would comment that something doesn't look right and this would scare away other potential buyers.
I also want to say that unfortunately many WatchProSite members whom are long-time watch collectors who are very discerning sometime still get tricked.
These fraudulent sellers operate on the mantra:
1. You can fool some of the people all the time.
2. You can fool all of the people some of the time.
3. You just can't fool all of the people all the time.
And these fraudulent sellers can make a very tidy income on #1 and #2 and are very satisfied with just fooling a couple wealthy ignorant individuals a month.
What can you do to protect yourself if you're a buyer?
1. Get an expert. The word "expert" is loosely used, but generally an "expert" is someone who should be liable for bad practice. A doctor or lawyer is liable for bad practice and if it's proven that they acted in gross negligence, they would potentially lose their license. Unfortunately a watch "expert" doesn't have a license they will loose, but try to find someone who is as much of an expert as possible. Sometimes watches are represented by a genuine expert, keep in mind that even the best experts are biased if it's their own watch, because the temptation to make money is just too great. Don't put yourself in a position where your expert has a conflict of interest.
2. Buy from a reputable dealer. Now, every reputable dealer has made a mistake every now and then. And I really dislike "fanboys" who say "this dealer can do no wrong." It's just that they haven't experienced anything wrong yet. It's like those who say "Singapore Airlines is the best airline, I fly them often, and they've always been good" to which I respond "you just haven't experienced a situation where they truly did a poor job yet." So buy from a reputable dealer, but remember even those reputable dealers can make a mistake.
3. Buy a new watch from an authorized dealer or boutique. Generally a mistake isn't made here. If you buy a new Cartier at the Cartier boutique, you're going to get what you paid for. Of course, inspect the example you're going to receive to make sure there are no scratches. Some stores offer a return policy, so make sure you get one that wasn't repolished because it was damaged and then returned.
4. Be extremely careful buying vintage. There are so many tricks in vintage watches that I've just started to entirely avoid it. I've seen so many friends fooled with vintage Rolex that I've lost all the appeal. I've seen a lot of big executives buy vintage watches entirely based on the reputation of the dealer advertising it as a perfect and all original watch. These big executives are always very busy and since they were referred to this dealer by people whom they assume are very knowledgeable, they don't hire an expert to do due diligence on the watch. I sometimes am shown watches by friends that were advertised as "perfect" or "original dial" or "unpolished" which are exactly the opposite of what they are. I tell these friends, in business you hire analysts and consultants to review any big business dealings. Why wouldn't you take similar precautions on buying something you're somewhat ignorant about? The answer is always "I was referred by another friend whom I assumed was an expert on the subject so I trusted his opinion."
5. Look for photo continuity. Ask for multiple photos. If the photographs don't have photo continuity, that could be a problem. For instance, if the background changes on every photo and you see a generic photos of box and pape but no watch that may mean that it's not the same box for that watch. If a watch is advertised as "Like New" I wouldn't be surprised if the seller uses stock photos, but a serious buyer can still ask for photos of the watch, box, papers, etc. just to confirm that all the papers they're expecting are there and that the correct box is provided.
6. Be humble. We're all more naive then we realize. If you don't know what you're doing, you need to realize this. Most people don't know what they don't know. It's important to be aware that when you're doing something that involves large amounts of money that there are scenarios you and I cannot imagine where you'll be tricked. Consult an expert who has a lot of experience, pay them if you have to, it's cheap tuition that can save you thousands of dollars.
7. Look for investment. This doesn't always work, because many
unscrupulous sellers will invest heavily in building a beautiful
website. Is the seller heavily invested in his/her own reputation?
Look for a time investment, did the seller invest a lot of time to
develop their client book and craft? Or are they a new kid on the block
with little invested in their reputation? Easy entry and exit into the
market isn't good, you want indications of permanence. I've met
several young college students who got into the business, one who seems
to be extremely unknowledgeable and yet peddles watches with grandiose
descriptions that are inaccurate exaggerations, I don't think he
will last long in the business, he could be in it for the quick buck.
8. Understand psychology and have empathy. Empathy is a great weapon to have. Be humble here, do you really understand the word "empathy" in this context? People misunderstand empathy, it's not to have sympathy for the seller. That's what what I mean, not at all. Understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Put yourself in the seller's shoes and have empathy for him/her. Understand what motivates the seller, for most sellers, it's money.
9. Condition is very important on a watch. Unfortunately, everyone has different standards for what is considered "MINT" condition. Don't ask for opinions, ask for facts. "This watch is in good condition" is an opinion. "This watch has zero scratches on the sapphire crystal" is a fact. Deal in facts, not opinions. A judge and jury in a courthouse is not going to be able to determine if the seller misrepresented a "MINT" condition watch. But a judge/jury can much more easily determine the facts.
10. I save the most important for last... DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. One of the first things they teach in a MBA program (probably any graduate school program) is to not make assumptions and to realize it when you make an assumption and question yourself. DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Rarely make presumptions. Always ask for facts and evidence. Make sure you know the difference between assumptions and presumptions (the English language is very precise), don't assume that you know the difference!
As a moderator at WatchProSite for many years, I've seen many individuals who have been scammed. Both sellers and buyers. You have to be very careful. Many have even be scammed by big auction houses! Reputable dealers! And more. All of these establishments are very happy to go through a "churn" (Churn is a measurement of the percentage of accounts that do not continue to do business after a time period, usually a 12 to 36 month time period starting from the first month a transaction was first started) of new ignorant buyers. These establishments prey on your ignorance!
CAVEAT EMPTOR my readers! Buyer beware! CAVEAT VENDITOR! Sellers beware too!
Please comment. As always, I read all of your comments and I'll try to answer all of your questions!