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Some Personal Advice: Why I Abhor Chrono24 and Similar Websites and Why You Need To Be Very Careful

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-14:26
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? I'm confused!




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! 

Good info, thank you.

 
 By: NautNut : January 23rd, 2021-14:35
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You're very welcome! Thanks for reading!

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-14:45
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Thanks for the info. Obviously these types of postings are everywhere. In fairness I've never had nothing but

 
 By: Hulk : January 23rd, 2021-15:05
Positive experience with C24. Unlike ebay. In c24 you buy the watch, it's paid into the c24 escrow account. You receive the watch from the seller and have 14 days to have the watch checked out. Then you give the go ahead to c24 to release the funds to the seller. If not, you send the watch back. On ebay the issue is the there are many ways to pay. I would only use PayPal. Even so, the money is instantly transferred to the seller. Then when guy get a fake it takes some effort and hassle to go through the resolution process and anything up to a month or more to get sorted. And only if they agree with your opinion.
Buyer beware. Last year I bought a breitling on eBay. The guy had sold 5 other watches including an iwc. Over 15k sterling. He had 100% record and 240 positve references. The watch i got was an extremely excellent fake. But like you wrote for years he'd been selling fakes without anyone knowing. Eventually proved to ebay he was a disgrace. He was removed. But how much had he made over that time and the shock those people will have when they get it serviced.
That's life on the Internet. Your notes are so relevant and should be listed on any selling site. Cheers S

I'm glad that you had a positive experience with C24!

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-15:20
I'm sure there are many positive experiences on C24 and this article was definitely not to disparage C24. But it's important that we are always careful and that we know what we are doing. As you mentioned before, many people have been tricked by good fakes. And that's exactly the problem, some people overestimate their ability to determine a fake. But there are some fakes that are just THAT GOOD! I very seldomly buy used watches and I only buy used watches from individuals whom I have a personal relationship with. 

Interesting!

 
 By: MTR : January 23rd, 2021-15:42
After ordering you send the money to an escrow account at C24.

BUT my information is that the money is paid out upon delivery.
Then you have 14 days to check the watch and report a problem.
Be aware that the money already has been transferred to the seller after delivery.

Best Thomas

Thomas, that's how I read on their Website it as well...

 
 By: nacelle : January 23rd, 2021-16:03
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Than it is worthless

 
 By: Gelato Monster : January 23rd, 2021-19:09
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Correct.

 
 By: NoH : January 24th, 2021-06:44
Money is paid out on delivery, and when the delivery is confirmed by the courier, not the buyer.

I recently purchased a Rolex Datejust for my wife via C24 (great experience from the AD whom I had several phone calls and email exchanges with - including lots of additional photos sent to me etc) but while away from home I received a notification that the watch had been “successfully delivered” and escrow had been paid to the seller.
Thankfully my wife was at home as she could go to the end of our driveway to check, as the courier having not received an answer fast enough on the gate intercom a short time earlier simply left the box on our gate post and left...naturally a complaint has since been lodged with the courier company!

No possibility to open and check whether the watch was ok, or in fact whether the box contained the watch at all..!?! Still, the escrow was paid out.

Delighted with the Datejust but I was quite surprised by this rather unsecured part of what is advertised as a secure service and process.

All the best,
Niall

These are exactly the cases I fear, dear Niall!

 
 By: MTR : January 24th, 2021-08:50
Thank you for your experience report. At the end you were very lucky.

Thank God I haven't had any negative experiences yet.

But I had read the terms and conditions carefully before placing my first order on C24. And then I immediately noticed this procedure, which for me is at best a "Trusted Check out light".

That's why I contacted C24 directly before my first purchase. I was given very friendly advice and was assured that any necessary reversal would not be a problem and that C24 would provide complete support and help in this case.

Still, I would prefer the money to stay in the escrow account until I give my okay or the 14 days have passed.

Ultimately, the burden of proof rests with the buyer and so you are in a weaker position if there are any troubles.

Fortunately, nothing negative has ever happened to me. So far! ;-)

All the best with your further acquisitions
Thomas

Let's say a good percentage of C24 transactions that happen are safe, but probably not a small percentage are not safe...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 24th, 2021-11:34
The good thing is that many buyers are really overestimating their ability to tell if what they're buying is good or bad. So even the transactions where a bad seller sells a bad watch, the buyer may not really notice.

Very wise words!

 
 By: MTR : January 24th, 2021-13:34
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A lot of contract wording may be written intentionally vaguely to make people assume the definition of the contract...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 24th, 2021-11:32
Then in court, C24's lawyers simply indicate that the buyer made an incorrect assumption and that the contract is meant to be interpreted the following way... Etc. And then the client realizes that it's just a lot of marketing that leads you to believe something, but it's really more misdirection.

I am afraid

 
 By: MTR : January 24th, 2021-13:43
you are right...

I love to wear my watches and don‘t see them primarily as an investment object. But of course I don’t want to be cheated either.

I hope that the expertise of my AD (Bucherer, they have very competent, committed watchmakers there, as far as I can tell) is sufficient.

And sometimes I had asked the manufacturer for papers and serial numbers via my AD before accepting an offer on C24 - for example regarding my IWC MR, where I in addition travelled to Milano to meet the seller personally. But that's an effort that I can't or will not do every time.

All the best
Thomas

The AD is one thing, the individual is the weak link...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 24th, 2021-23:19
The company BUCHERER has a good operations protocol standard. The question is if the employee follows it. It can be a great company, but you can get a bad employee.

For sure! And if the employee is bad / incompetent,

 
 By: MTR : January 25th, 2021-03:05
the chances that I won't realize that are rather high! 😎

Best
Thomas

Depends how you define "bad/incompetent" as I think they're all bad...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 25th, 2021-10:54
It's like airlines, they're all bad.  Banks, they're all bad.  The problem is that we don't have alternatives. 

I recently met a saleswoman who knew very little, and in fact she knew some things that were incorrect.  She wasn't very good.  But she wasn't offensive, just tragically uninformed, confused, and not very bright... 

1.  She couldn't tell the difference between a mainspring and a hairspring. 
2.  "This one has a micro rotor which is supposed to be very good" and she has no idea what the pros/cons of micro-rotors are.  I did ask her what the benefits of the micro-rotor was, and she her response was not only unconvincing, but showed she knew even less about physics than I thought when she said that micro rotors were more efficient than large rotors.  She also claimed she went to the brand's ambassador training program and showed me photos and pointed out her lapel pin.
3.  She was very superficial, "that watch looks great on you, you should buy it!"  I gently corrected her and reminded her that it was I who looked great, not the watch.  She did like my joke. 
4.  She was very polite throughout the whole process.  But she used the wrong type of pen on the warranty paperwork when I specifically told her to use a specific pen (I think everyone should take some basic calligraphy course to fill out warranty paperwork).  At least she didn't mis-spell anything. 

I realize I have high standards...  But a salesperson who sells $40,000 watches should be elegant individuals through and through.  Unfortunately...  I can see that it's difficult to hire someone to sell these products who would meet my requirements. 

Well...  I bought it anyways, evidently with the warranty paperwork.  I know I shouldn't support bad jewelers nor bad employees, but that's just par for the course these days.  If I upheld my high standards, I wouldn't be able to buy anything! 

Great read - Thank you! Id say that this is an extreme example, tough.

 
 By: Reuven Malter : January 23rd, 2021-15:07
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This was the first watch I saw today on Chrono24!

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-15:26
Today, I logged on, put in a specific search term, and this was the first watch I clicked on! So just a coincidence. Not all posts on Chrono24 are this bad, some are better, some are worse. The bad posts are far from rare. I even saw two exact identical photographs (and they're not stock photographs) of the same watch at different prices, which means one of the sellers is not in possession of the same watch. I seldomly buy used watches and I've never bought a used watch from someone whom I did not personally know. So I'm by no means an expert. But I have been going to Chrono24 regularly because I hear of so many abnormalities to educate myself.

Thanks! I go there very often too, but im not bold enough to buy something. Always go to the Ad.

 
 By: Reuven Malter : January 24th, 2021-03:27
There are a few pieces i missed in the past though. I will not buy them now on C24 - They are just a reminder to buy everything i like once i get the call from the ad.

Thanks for a very good post Patrick! Along with many decent people that populate the Internet (and the real world), unfortunately the small percentage of those who are either incompetent or downright criminal is always, potentially, around the corner.

 
 By: FabR : January 23rd, 2021-15:22
I'm sure this specific C24 ad was made out of (an incredible amount of) incompetence rather than bad faith. But still, since the end result is very similar for a buyer, even one of the mistakes made in that ad is entirely unacceptable on a reputable platform.

I've been a religious follower of rule #3 so far, namely I always bought new from ADs, which is obviously the safest way to go. I don't rule out buying second hand, in the (unlikely, for the watches I look for) event it will be the best way to arrive at a certain piece. In that case, I would definitely agree with your approach, and with many of the suggestions you listed. Buy from a friend, or "buy the seller" is always another good one to offer.

The only thing I'll never resort to is hiring experts in order to buy a watch...for me, this would totally spoil the joy of what I view as a fun hobby rather than a dangerous business. When the stress or risk of a purchase surpasses the fun, my best suggestion for anyone is always to pass on that watch altogether! ;-)

Advice #10 is great and, in fact, is what I tell student at the beginning of *every* course I teach: Never trust what I say or write on the board, and if I don't give you evidence for my claims, then don't believe me! smile Great they teach this in MBAs as well, as that is a point I make in every single math class -- from 1st year undergrad all the way to PhD topics courses!
Frankly, if everyone did the same (obviously, to the extent this is feasible in a given discipline), I think academia as a whole will be a tad more rigorous and believable...not to mention, as a consequence, that our students who grow to become watch enthusiasts will fall for fewer scams during their collecting careers! smile

Cheers. 

A wonderful response!

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-15:57
Thank you FabR! I agree, this ad is just pure incompetence and low standards. While there's no mens rea (criminal intent) it is definitely very incompetently done!
I too am very much a follower of #3. Always buy new from an AD. I've only bought used watches on one or two occasions from friends whom I know personally. Must trust the seller fully in order to make that determination.
I agree, hiring experts is no fun. But finding out you've been cheated is worse! I tell many of my newly minted tech millionaire friends to just forget the vintage Rolex game. Yet they persist into getting themselves into a deep area of the pool and have realized they were swimming in tar rather than swimming pool water. Two have come back to me stating they should've listened to me and got carried away in their newfound wealth. One has been in denial of my expertise, but it's quite clear under magnification that his dial is not original (the lume is completely crooked and a swiggly line). And another, is actually upset that I didn't explain in greater detail of every explicit scenario that could happen - I have no pity for him because he promised to have me check the piece before he made a decision and he didn't have me check the piece because he was rushed by the scammer.
I'm so glad that you give your students a reminder that they should always be look for evidence. If you look at many of the standardized tests before you even go into grad school, the GRE and GMAT tests are trying to weed out people who make assumptions. You don't score well if you make assumptions on those tests as they specifically put in answers that are very logical assumptions but that are incorrect.
I'd say those who make assumptions are often the ones who make many false claims and believe way too strongly in themselves. We had a WPS reader who insisted that Louis Vuitton spent 50% of revenue on marketing; he was simply wrong, but he believed highly of himself since he was very successful and he had learned to trust his instinct. It was that instinct that made him a successful individual living in the most expensive zip code in the USA, so he thought that he couldn't be far off from the truth. Another recent assumption is that AMAZON makes a huge amount of money off online retail with large profit margins (ever heard of AWS) and cannot be convinced otherwise. I've worked with colleagues who make wrong assumptions all the time, especially subordinates, sometimes friends, and sometimes even family members (who get very upset when I point out that their assumption is not incorrect gut feelings and not facts). I was trained at a young age by my parents and teachers to be trustful of others, but be able to identify biases and opinions from fact, I remember in elementary school we read newspaper articles that were objective and try to find biases. A little skepticism isn't a bad thing. Of course, now I'm setting up myself for a blockbuster movie, a con artist who takes down the person who writes articles on how to avoid watch scams. Uh oh, I don't want this target on my back! It's like the book Dangerous Liaisons where the chastic girl (Madame Tourvel) who promises to be abstinent until her wedding night gets pursued by the Vicomte de Valmont specifically because of her chastic image. I concede! I'm the biggest fool of us all! And I've been fooled so many times! I am not a virgin to being scammed and I'm not a prize for scammers!

In my world (😊) I have made

 
 By: MTR : January 23rd, 2021-15:33
good experiences with C24 and have bought some watches there successfully. So far!

But I always have the watches checked by my trusted AD.

After ordering the money is in an escrow account at C24 and is only paid out upon delivery (they call it „trusted check out“).

Is that coverage enough from your point of view?

The only problem I see is that payment is made upon delivery. But I was assured by C24 that after the examination I still have a return option (you have to report a problem to C24 within 14 days after delivery), with which C24 will help.

Very important and interesting topic, dear patrick_y! Many thanks for that!

Best Thomas

P.S.: The main problem for me is that I feel uncomfortable going to my AD with a watch that I bought elsewhere. Because of this guilty conscience, I always buy one or the other watch there. 😎

Yes... My empathy for my AD would tell me that they wouldn't always be happy if I brought in a watch for verification...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-16:10
I find that the whole transaction on C24 is just not fun. So I personally haven't done a transaction. And please note, I'm not criticizing the operations of C24, I'm just criticizing this specific seller, who coincidentally happens to be C24 themselves (they can sell on their own platform, nothing wrong with that).
The whole reason why C24 has this escrow thing is that it satisfies a requirement, a requirement of fairness, that you get to inspect the product. But the big fact most people don't realize is that this is only of value if you actually use the inspection time to truly inspect the watch. Most people just assume they're smart enough to not be fooled. Look at how many fake things are sold at The Real Real and other websites and people don't realize until much later... I bought a watch from an auction house that was the biggest player in watch auctions at the time, had the biggest marketshare, and I didn't realize the mistake until I took the vintage watch to the factory to be restored and they opened it in my presence to tell me it was completely wrong.
But yes, to have this inspection period gives the buyer confidence (perhaps the buyer overestimates their ability to inspect a watch) and also gives the seller worry that their bad watch will be discovered. These fears alone will discourage bad sellers and encourage overconfident buyers who don't really know how to inspect a watch. But as long as the ignorant buyer is happy at the end, and no one is wiser, the job is done!
My point is the whole business plan works well if the buyer is very ignorant or overconfident of his/her own bad-watch detection abilities.

Great Post Patrick and all very valid points....

 
 By: SALMANQ8 : January 23rd, 2021-15:36
have to do our homework and due diligence when buying and selling, To Err is Human, and if such it can be forgiven but if intentionally done now thats where we have to draw the line always.

S

Very true and very balanced!

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-16:15
Lots of lawsuits and torts in the watch world. I hear about them all the time! I hear of a few to several a year!

Excellent post sir, you can never be too careful.....

 
 By: nacelle : January 23rd, 2021-15:40
No message body

Agreed. It's not being too careful to just back away from an entire deal that doesn't sound right.

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-16:15
No message body

Great post Patrick! I often browse through watches on these sites including C24 but so far elected to buy all my watches new through AD...

 
 By: Chronometer (aka yacomino) : January 23rd, 2021-16:18
Every time I came close to buying used from the internet I wondered about getting scammed and decided it was not worth it.  The only disadvantage of this approach it that I am “limited” in my watch collection from what the ADs I know carry or can get...but am fine with that 

I'd rather be limited than to be scammed...

 
 By: patrick_y : January 23rd, 2021-16:21
Thank you for reading.  For me, part of the fun is the purchase process and the hunt.  Yes, buying off Chrono24 is convenient, and it gets you the watch...  But sometimes you don't know what you're really getting! 
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