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Building a Collection of Pre-Owned Watches

You’ve read the news – or at least skimmed the headlines. Luxury watches are the new investment pieces. In this regard, we don’t entirely mean a wardrobe of classics – although this assumption definitely applies. Rather, well-crafted and limited-edition watches appreciate in value with time: Demand and exclusivity coupled with minimally fluctuating prices for stainless steel fuel this growth.

So, why now, and why is everyone with even an inkling for style considering starting a watch collection? A couple of factors are at play. One, the pandemic has resulted in many of us having extra time on our hands, leading to the phenomenon of online window shopping. Secondly, luxury watches have started to look like a solid, long-term investment – for financial reasons or to even build an heirloom worth something decades down the line. The secondhand or pre-owned market from sites like eBay gives you a solid place to get started, both based on cost and variety.

The third factor – and what has piqued our interest in terms of collecting watches – is sustainability. The circular economy – or buying and selling used goods – keeps existing items in rotation, rather than in landfills or collecting dust somewhere. Watches aren’t the only domain: Secondhand shopping in general surged during the pandemic. Yet, whether you’re talking about Gen Zers’ nostalgia for Y2K fashion or watch enthusiasts exploring used Rolex or Patek Philippe models, secondhand tends to have the edge: Pieces are more affordable than something new, and especially when you’re shopping luxury watches for men on eBay, you’re met with an immense amount of variety. Streamlining this experience, eBay recently launched its Luxury Watch Authenticity Guarantee in the UK. 

The pre-owned watch market is only expected to grow: Based on figures from McKinsey, pre-owned watch sales hit $18 billion back in 2019 and could exceed $30 billion by 2025. Boston Consulting Group has further predicted that the secondary luxury market – of which watches remain a keystone – will continue growing at a pace of eight percent per year. Social media’s haul culture and emphasis on secondhand finds has further contributed to this growth.

The Basics of Building a Watch Collection 

Creating a watch collection mirrors building an investment portfolio: You have to be strategic and be doing so with an end-goal or purpose in mind: 


Ask yourself this rather simplistic question, mining your thoughts for a meaningful, definitive answer. Nothing is entirely right or wrong. Rather, you want to give your endeavour a framework. Do you intend to create a family heirloom, or will your collection function as a financial investment? Are you looking to flip, or will these be timepieces you regularly wear? And, especially as someone style-minded, where do your interests lie? Do you prefer the size of a sports watch, or are you curating a more minimalist, classic collection and seek a few dress watches to elevate your look? A search through eBay’s luxury watches lets you choose your own direction across all areas.

Understand What You’re Searching For 

There’s no limit on what you can collect. That said, luxury watch collections lean toward a few key pieces: sports and dress watches with mechanical or automatic movement. All are core aspects of the secondhand market, so before browsing with intent on eBay, familiarise yourself with this terminology: 

- Sports watches tend to be rooted in 20th-century aspirational sports – think diving and racing particularly. Sports watches, as such, include practical features from this era: a larger, sometimes angled watch face for better visibility, a chronograph, and a tachymeter. These encompass both metal and leather bands, as well as select military influences. 

- Dress watches also emerged from history – albeit from a different direction. Men used pocket watches into the early 20th century. Developments from World War I resulted in a more practical wristwatch that, like other military-originating styles, was adopted by civilians. Dress watches start from this simplicity with a smaller profile and more refined appearance, typically with a leather band. You generally pair these timepieces with your suits for more formal environments. 

- Mechanical watches utilise a hand- or manual-wound mechanism. Unlike the quartz timepieces you might have grown up with, mechanical watches feature an inner spring that powers its movement. This force turns its gears and wheels, helping it keep regular, consistent time. As such, these watches need to be regularly wound from the crown to operate. 

- Automatic watches are referred to as a self-winding watch. Here, the watch includes a rotor that receives energy from the movement of the wearer’s wrist. In use, this force winds the mainspring to help the watch keep time.

Browse with Intent 

Continue narrowing down your search based on authenticity – a key aspect if you’re considering your collection’s long-term value. Boxes and papers have been the baseline, but the eBay Authenticity Guarantee goes a step further. 

How does it work? Independent authentication partners inspect all aspects of the watch, from the timepiece itself to the box and papers, before it’s sent to the buyer. Listings for which this service has been performed include a blue “Authenticity Guarantee” tick in search results and at the top-right corner of the item page. 

Currently, the eBay Authenticity Guarantee is available for wristwatches sold at £2,000 or higher under Fixed Price and Auction listings. 

Rather than purchase something blindly and attempt to authenticate it yourself later, eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee: 

- Offers a more straightforward process for purchasing pre-owned luxury watches that eliminates the guessing and extensive research buyers and collectors may do beforehand. 

- Encourages a more sustainable, accessible, and consistent experience for purchasing luxury goods. 

- Takes an unbiased, knowledgeable, and expert approach by partnering with independent authenticators.

Give Your Watch Collection Focus 

Beyond the “why,” consider the “what” of your watch collection as you search. With the variety that a marketplace like eBay can present, consider starting your collection based on: 

- Features and function: You’ll see many collectors focusing on chronographs or diving watches or specifically seeking out military timepieces. 

- A best-of brands perspective: Collectors from this angle search for decades-leading luxury watch brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, zeroing on their specific lines and features. Pre-owned watches you find on eBay tend to have the advantage here, as your collection can reflect their extensive archives. 

- Something personal: This approach tends to shape more heirloom-based collections. Timepieces are selected on the story they tell. This can be one related to your family or life or, more recently, the craftsmanship put into a mechanical or automatic timepiece.


In all cases, novice to even experienced collectors are encouraged to do their research. This begins with reading about the leading luxury watch brands, from construction timelines to the features and collections they’ve introduced over the years. At the same time, beyond the historical aspect, consider trying on some watches to see what fits and how they feel, in terms of band length and face size, if you intend to regularly wear your timepieces.

Establish a Budget 

At its most simplistic level, ask yourself about how much you have to invest in a collection, and how much you’re willing to spend per timepiece. This cuts out pining for something aspirational yet entirely out of your financial reach and concentrates your efforts. Pre-owned watches present more options for lower or more economical budgets as you’re starting out. You can always adjust these figures as your financial situation evolves or as you start to flip timepieces. Consider applying your range as you browse eBay’s listings. 

What’s Caught Our Attention 

We had a chance to explore eBay’s current offerings. Among those with the Authenticity Guarantee, consider getting your collection started with: 

Omega Seamaster 44mm Planet Ocean Co-Axial Automatic Chronometer Watch 

The Seamaster Planet Ocean nods to the OMEGA brand’s diving heritage ever since it was launched in 2005. Here, a stainless steel case plus Master Chronometer certification capture the quintessential aspects of a diving watch, and the details confirm why this is such a sought-after timepiece, including a ceramic dial and bezel.

Rolex Daytona 116520 

Some watch collectors focus on all the leading brands. Others with more focus stay strictly with the Rolex Daytona. What’s unique about the Daytona? Rolex launched this model in 1963 to suit the demands of the era’s racing drivers. Yet, beyond the practical element, it drew attention with a high-end, sporty look conveying that you were going places. For collectors, this timepiece alone has gone through multiple iterations over the years. This specific mechanical timepiece from 2011 sticks with the classic elements, including a 12-hour chronograph and tachymeter. 

Patek Philippe 5110J-001 World Time Gold Automatic Watch 

Dress watch looks merge with a sporty appearance and luxury construction. The Patek Philippe has something for all watch collectors, making it a true find on eBay. Here, you’ll spot a dial with a 24-hour display across 24 worldwide locations, with yellow gold accents, a high-quality leather strap, and automatic movement. 

This post is in conjunction with eBay UK but all thoughts are MenswearStyle's own.

Ivan Yaskey

Philadelphia’s streetwear scenes and working as a copywriter for a Boston-based menswear brand sparked Ivan's passion for fashion and style more than a decade ago.



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