Questions we ask other collectors... and how to ask them better.
Watch collecting has become as much an online hobby as it is a social one, vintage even more so with the wide range of watches available for conversation.
But with the internet this hobby becomes competitive. While you are proud to show off your latest acquisition there is also the expected backlash and comments from so-called experts or fellow collectors wanting to share their opinion.
You are also expected to come in prepared - the internet is a trove of knowledge from which to tap on. References and calibers and marque and releases - the list goes on. A new hybrid of internet police patrols the watch world, ready to turn Nazi on a redial Constellation with fake lume and period incorrect bracelet without matching end links.
When we engage fellow collectors online, are we all guilty of not putting things right? The most innocent question might seem like a subtle dig. As a fellow collector and frequent user of Instagram, and also as someone who posts his watch for sale, here are some questions I have found to be rather off-putting, and a few suggestions to change the way we ask them.
But before that, I cannot say this enough - make sure you have read the post before you comment. And please, for the love of God, paragraph and punctuate.
Now on to the questions...
(Off-Putting) Is it for sale?
I think #newwatchalert kind of implies that I'm not intending to sell it yet.. and also most people will let you know in the post if it is. The whole point about wanting to sell a watch is to let people know IMMEDIATELY that you want the watch go be replaced with a small wad of cash. So if that is not immediately obvious, try not asking that question.
(Suggestion) Let me know if it ever becomes available!
For every 50 "Is it for sale?" or "Price" (these rarely come with punctuation) message or comment I receive, I will probably receive one of these gems. It implies that they appreciate your purchase, and respect the fact that you might want to enjoy the piece before putting it up for sale.
And when the watch is indeed for sale...
(Off-Putting) What is your best price?
This is a silly question. The best price you can offer for a watch is of course at least twice of what I listed it for! Being asked this question only tells me one thing - that you are just shopping around and have no intention to buy. If the seller did not list his price, it's also good to ask for it before throwing out this gem of a conversation starter.
(Suggestion) I'm interested in the watch, but would you settle for an offer of $X,XXX?
This states your intention to buy and opens the seller up to considering your offer. I'll leave it up to you to see how much you would like to cut down his initial asking price. A hint though - 50% is too much. Not every watch is a barn find, actually most aren't.
But whether the watch is for sale or not... asking a stranger (or even a friend) the next question is socially dumb. At least for me.
(Off-Putting) Where did you buy the watch?
The thrill of the hunt is in the hunt. Asking me this question discounts the hunter's effort, and unless he outright states his source in his post, I would not ask a vintage watch collector where he got his spoils from.
(Suggestion) Where else can I go to get something like this?
This gives the collector an out - he can either tell you his source or give suggestions to where else he has searched in the process of getting that awesome wrist piece.
The next few are exclusive to watches being on sale. In the course of procurement we often forget our manners, standing behind the age old adage that the customer is always right.
(Off-Putting) Has the watch ever been polished?
Here's a common fact - most vintage watches have been polished in the course of their lives. Watches we own as vintage today came from all walks of life and have been through all sorts of knocks and bumps, which will leave its scars.
To make things a little more palatable, they were often polished to remove the scratches and cuts. Watch makers who have been through those times will also attest to recommend their customers' watches go through more than the usual spit and shine. So asking this question to a collector simply means you are new to the game.
When asked of a used watch however, this question becomes totally valid, since you want to know if any work has been done in the course of it's short life span.
(Suggestion) I would like to ask for more photos or a video of the case.
This takes the responsibility of deciding whether a case has been too polished away from the seller. Unless he has been clear in his description, most watch cases would have been polished to an acceptable degree. Over polished watch cases can take away from the original look of the watch.
(Off-Putting) How many previous owners are there?
This doesn't matter does it? All you should care about is the condition of the watch now. Believe me when I say that you WILL KNOW if the watch has had any known previous owners.
(Suggestion) Do you have any service history?
This eliminates the frustration of having to trace entire family trees of previous owners and gets right down to the crux of the matter - whether the watch has been taken care of. With the cosmetic factor out of the way because you would have inspected the watch with your own eyes (or asked for enough photos to do so), the next thing to worry about isn't the number of previous owners but rather whether the watch has been serviced enough in its number of years.
A look into the case back would give some sort of indication, and if any are present you are given some sort of information as to the maintenance of the time piece. I also wrote a piece on watch servicing, if you're interested in reading.
And here is the grand master of all silly questions.
(Off-Putting) Is the watch authentic?
I'm not even going to entertain the notion of being asked this question. It's a total lack of respect.
(Suggestion) I've seen other photos of the watch and the _____ looks different.
This invites discussion, and maybe a little education if you're not totally familiar with the watch. I have learnt a lot from fellow collectors pointing things out to me, and appreciate every bit of exchange.