The Complete Guide to Selling a Watch on Consignment
Learn what watch consignment is and how it looks from a seller’s perspective.
Imagine not having to answer the phone when a Craigslist time-waster calls at 2:00 AM on a Saturday, just for them to fizzle out the moment you talk about the small dent on the lug that you already mentioned in the ad.
Imagine letting someone else sell your watch. Imagine them selling it quickly and for top dollar, so that the money you pay them for their services will be offset by money made and time saved.
That’s what selling a watch on consignment is all about. And while the name might make the process sound complicated, consigning your watch is actually very easy.
Watch consignment in a nutshell
Consigning your watch means letting someone else (a consignment company aka a consignor) sell your watch for you. You pay them a nominal fee and they handle every aspect of the sale on your behalf. Listing, selling, shipping. Bam, boom, done.
The three main principles of selling a watch on consignment are:
- Ease of use
- Effective listings
- High (but fair) prices
Since you didn’t have to spend countless hours advertising your watch and talking to professional time wasters and “can I trade you a TV” wannabees, you would consign your watch hoping to come out ahead in the end.
So, what’s the catch?
They have to make money somehow
Watch consignors make money by charging you consignment fees based on the sale price. Ideally, the amount you receive in the end is greater than or equal to what you could’ve gotten on your own, especially once you factor in all the time you saved.
All consignors are not created equal
Of course, it doesn’t always work out in your favor. Bad consignors will drop the ball, wasting your time and giving you less in return. A good consignor will go the extra mile by coordinating things like viewings and shipping on your behalf. They might even professionally clean and polish your watch.
Let’s walk through the Five Steps to Selling Your Watch on Consignment and explore some of the differences between a good consignor and a bad one.
- Getting to know your watch
The first step to selling your watch on consignment is letting the consignor get familiar with your watch. Not in a weird way.
A good consignor will know your watch better than you do. They will research not just basic things like case size and movement, but also that the proper name for the color of the dial and home many links the bracelet came with originally. These details allow consignors to promote your watch’s strengths and personality during the selling stage.
Any serious buyer will have a lot of questions before they spend money on a watch, especially one they have never seen in person. To prepare for that, a consignor might talk to you on the phone or email you a questionnaire to complete. Common questions include:
- How long have you owned the watch?
- What maintenance have you done?
- Are there any modifications?
They will also request documents like maintenance records, the original receipt, or receipts for and photos of modifications. It might seem like a lot of work, but the more they know about your watch the better they can sell it. And of course, a consignor that cares will do additional research on their own time.
Honesty = money
Your watch’s strengths are what make it unique – its condition, modifications, rare options, or anything else that makes it special. But things like rust, damage, and skipped or required service need to be admitted to the consignor upfront. That way the buyer knows what they’re getting into. It’s legal, it’s right, and it’s just to be honest about your watch’s shortcomings.
Discuss whether your watch had previous modifications or was stored for a long period of time.
TLDR: A good consignment company will get to know your watch thoroughly. A neglectful one won’t.
2. Setting a fair price
When selling a watch on consignment, you decide your watch’s selling price. Not the consignor, not a book value. You.
The ideal price will reflect your watch’s strengths while also accepting its weaknesses. It needs to have two qualities:
- The sale price needs to be high. You like money, right?
- It also needs to be reasonable.
A seasoned consignor will offer insight and experience to help you reach a good number. And in keeping with the American pastime of negotiation, watch consignors will often list your watch for more than you expect to sell it for. But the final price – whether it’s a range or an exact figure – should be left up to you.
Of course, watch consignment companies have an incentive to sell your watch fast, well, and at a high price. That’s because of…
Consigning your watch means paying consignment fees, a payment to the consignor for the time and effort spent selling your watch. Typical watch consignment fees range from 10% to 35% of the final sale price.
Some companies charge fees based on what you’re selling, with higher rates on watches that are rare, expensive, or just plain hard to sell.
And while this might seem like wasted money – after all, you could just sell your watch yourself – remember all the time and effort the consignor puts into making the sale happen. Time is money, and yours is probably better spent somewhere else.
TLDR: A good watch consignor will offer guidance to help you set a fair price. A bad one will tell you the price – and gouge you on fees to boot.
3. Finding the Buyer
When you sell a watch on consignment, it’s safe to assume that you expect someone to buy it. But unlike typical watch sales where you’re stuck spending hours creating a snazzy eBay listing or the next viral Craigslist ad, watch consignment means that it’s up to the consignment company to market and advertise your timepiece.
The consignor’s goal is to find the right buyer for your watch – the one that will get you both the most money, not the first person who calls and makes a lowball offer. The more effort a company puts into finding the right buyer, the better your chances of selling your watch at the price you want (and the buyer will be happier, too).
Of course, this all needs to happen pretty fast. You’re not trying to sell your watch next year, after all.
Your personal marketing team
Most watch consignment companies will handle all the marketing for you, posting on classifieds sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace and boosting visibility on sites like Chrono24 and the forums.
Because of this, watch consignors usually require exclusivity – meaning you can’t list your watch anywhere else while you are consigned with them. That’s good if the consignor puts a high degree of effort into creating detailed ads for your timepiece, but it’s bad if they spit out an eBay listing that fell straight out of 1998.
When selling a watch on consignment, will the buyer ever contact me directly?
No. The consignor will not distribute your personal information to potential buyers. Consignment buyers understand the agreement between you and the company and will not contact you directly. Generally speaking, circumventing the consignor means breaking the contract.
But what if the ideal buyer is 2,000 miles away?
Looking far and wide
Let’s say you’re in Colorado and there is high demand for your watch in New Jersey. How do you reach buyers halfway across the country?
While some watch consignors prefer to work locally, most can sell across state lines and even internationally. Good consignors are experienced at finding those places where your watch is the most desirable. Some can even coordinate shipping on your behalf. And in the Internet Age, the world’s best watch consignment companies have built an online audience that comes to them.
TLDR: A good watch consignor will assume the role of your personal marketing team, looking far and wide for the ideal buyer. A bad one won’t.
4. Making the Sale
This is the most important aspect of selling a watch on consignment, the point where a good consignor will shine and a bad one will drop the ball.
The most important job of a watch consignor is not selling, it's building trust. Find a consignor who is honest and transparent about the watches they sell – one you can trust to follow through on their promises.
You don't have to lift a finger
When it’s time to sell your watch, consignment companies handle everything for you. That includes all the upfront stuff like answering the phone, responding to emails, and providing potential buyers with enough details to feel confident about buying your watch – even sight unseen. It also means dealing with that Craigslist time-waster from earlier. And the next one. And the next.
It also includes handling the nitty-gritty dirty work, like checking the accuracy, cleaning, sizing, packing, and shipping. They have to be responsible enough to do all these things in a short timeframe. And it goes without saying, they have to be trustworthy enough to pay you and deliver the watch to the buyer when it’s all said and done.
Rolling out the red carpet
Trust also comes from perks. Some consignors have a vast network of hungry buyers waiting to snatch up new inventory. Going the extra mile proves the consignor is invested in you.
TLDR: A good watch consignor is trustworthy and honest with a strong reputation. A bad one… isn’t.
5. Receiving payment
This is the least understood aspect of selling a watch on consignment, so let’s break it down.
When selling a watch on consignment, the seller ensures that payment clears before the watch is delivered. The buyer’s payment is typically kept in an escrow account until the inpection/return period has passed before being transferred to the seller.
Hidden costs and fees
Typically, the only fee charged to the seller of a consigned watch is the consignment fee. The buyer is responsible for taxes and shipping fees.
TLDR: When selling a watch on consignment, each company is different. Make sure your questions are answered before you commit.
Are you ready to consign your watch?
Now that you know how watch consignment works and the difference between a good consignment company and a bad one, I’d like to tell you a little about what we do.
FLÂNEUR hosts a curated selection of watches on consignment and through our interactive marketplace. As a brick-and-mortar company with strong ties to Colorado watch culture, we strive to set a high bar while offering some of the lowest consignment fees in the industry for rare, collectible, and significant timepieces. If your watch would look great in our current inventory, have a look at how our watch consignment program can be tailored specifically to your needs.