While shopping for a watch, you may notice some on sale at significant discounts. On one hand, you may feel tempted to snag these great deals. On the other, you might wonder if there is a catch and if these watches are even legit.
Reputable grey market watch dealers are legitimate and sell real watches at a discount. However, they are not authorized dealers, aka those authorized by the brand to sell their watches.
Grey market watch dealers typically source their watches from authorized dealers, usually at wholesale prices. Authorized dealers usually aren’t permitted by brands to sell their watches at a discount, however, grey market watch dealers do not have such obligations.
Buying from a grey market watch dealer does have its drawbacks, though, as their watches often do not come with a manufacturer warranty, so you’ll have to go through the dealer’s own warranty process, which may not be great.
Below, we go more in-depth on exactly what the grey market is, how it works, and pros and cons of buying watches there. We’ll also go over a few of the most common grey market watch dealers, and which you should stay away from! Read on to learn more.
What Is the Watch Grey Market?
When a watch manufacturer wants to distribute a watch, it will partner with its Authorized Dealers (A.D.s) to do so. This allows the A.D. to purchase the watches from the brand, usually at wholesale prices and sells them to their customers at a markup.
The “grey market” refers to dealers that are selling these watches but are not Authorized Dealers.
Are Grey Market Watches Authentic?
Yes. Assuming you buy a watch from a legitimate grey market dealer, the watches are completely authentic.
However, keep in mind that not all grey market dealers may be legitimate. There are reputable, well-known grey market dealers that have been around for years like Jomashop, and others we’ll cover later in this article. But not every dealer is reputable.
And if you are doing business with a small company, you will want to check their background. Do some digging on watch forums such as Reddit to see if anybody has placed successful orders from a shop you’re thinking of buying from. But you can also stick with big businesses and trusted sellers with high ratings on marketplaces like Amazon, Chrono24, eBay, and etc.
Are Grey Market Watches Legal?
Yes, grey market watches are legal. Otherwise, we would be talking about black-market watches.
The companies selling watches on the grey market have no official authorization from the manufacturers, but there is nothing legally forbidding them from selling these watches to you.
Where Are Grey Market Watches Sourced From?
As mentioned, authorized dealers do not sell on the grey market. However, most of the watches on the grey market are sourced from Authorized Dealers. Others come from individual sellers.
Watch brands require authorized dealers to purchase watches in specific amounts. Even if they are primarily interested in stocking up on watches in high demand, they may also have to purchase models that are less likely to sell.
As a result, authorized dealers sometimes end up with inventory they cannot move at full price. However, they generally cannot offer individual customer discounts under the contracts they sign with the manufacturers.
To free up space and cash flow from watches that aren’t in high demand, an authorized dealer sometimes sells watches in bulk to grey market watch dealers.
Sometimes, individual sellers may also supply grey market watches.
Platforms like Chrono24, a watch-specific marketplace that functions like eBay, allow these private listings once sellers complete the registration process. The platform can establish trust through this vetting process, and both sellers and buyers can gain a reputation over time following their transactions, ensuring that both parties stay safe.
Why Buy a Watch from the Grey Market?
There are a few different reasons to consider purchasing a grey market watch.
- Grey market watches are authentic. There is zero reduction in quality over what you would get from an authorized dealer.
- You can usually purchase a grey market watch at a significant markdown.
- You may be able to get around waiting lists and/or geographical distribution restrictions.
Better Deals and Discounts
You might save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on an authentic watch by using the grey market.
I typically purchase my watches from the grey market for this reason. While you can’t usually find great deals on brand-new watches that have just been released, you can typically snag a great deal on older, or less popular models.
Increased Global Inventory Access
Through the grey market, you can access watches that would otherwise not be available to watches in your region.
Brands sometimes target specific regions with specific watches, exclusively limiting the sale of those watches to those regions. This means, if you’re in a region they don’t sell this watch, it’s typically very difficult to get your hands on one unless you buy secondhand.
Avoid Waiting Lists
Some very popular watches, like those from Rolex, may have a waiting list when purchasing through authorized dealers. The same watch may already be available on the grey market.
My Experience Buying Watches From the Grey Market
Many of my own personal watch purchases have been purchased from grey market watch dealers. Purchasing only from reputable dealers, I’ve found watches purchased this way are much more affordable than their MSRP price often sold by authorized dealers.
As I’ve never had an issue with any of these watches, I’ve never needed the manufacturer’s warranty. I’ve figured the cost savings from buying the discounted watch could be put toward a repair, or a watch service, if ever needed, and I would still ‘break even.
Speaking of warranty…
Do Grey Market Watches Come with a Warranty?
Watches purchased from the grey market do not come with a manufacturer’s warranty but may come with a warranty from the grey market dealer themselves.
Since the grey market dealer has no affiliation with the brand, the brand has no incentivized to provide warranty service for the watches being sold. Instead, dealers usually have their own warranty – which may or may not be as good as a warranty from the brand itself.
The profit margins for grey market dealers are narrow. This limits the overhead they have available for repair departments, or more likely, a small handful of independent watch repairers.
Why You Should Avoid Buying a Watch From the Grey Market
- There is no manufacturer’s warranty when you buy a watch on the grey market (but there may still be an unofficial dealer’s warranty).
- Its box and papers may not be included. You might want the box and papers for their collectible status. Also, if you do not have them, it could reduce the resale value if you decide to part with the watch in the future.
List of Grey Market Watch Dealers
Some grey market dealers only sell watches. Others sell watches along with a wide selection of other merchandise.
Here are some examples of legitimate places you can shop for grey market watches.
You can find both new and used watches for sale at Jomashop, along with a wide range of other luxury items such as handbags and sunglasses. The company has been in business since 1987 and is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Some brands this store stocks include Omega, Seiko, Tissot, Hamilton, Bulova, Longines, and more.
Unlike some of the other sites on this list, Chrono24 specializes in watches. The marketplace carries numerous brands, including Rolex, Cartier, IWC, Oris, Tudor, Seiko, Omega, Zenith, TAG Heuer, and many others.
You can also sell watches through Chrono24.
The company says that more than 500,000 people browse and shop on the site daily, and more than 4,000 private sellers are successful every month.
Amazon is a site that needs no introduction; it is among the largest and most powerful businesses on the planet. On Amazon, you can enjoy the fast and easy ordering experience you have come to know so well.
Independent sellers carry brands like Tissot, Bulova, Seiko, Invicta, Citizen, Timex and more.
Overstock is based in Salt Lake City, UT and has been operating since 1999.
The site lets you shop for deals in departments such as home improvement, outdoors, furniture, bedding, and more. But along with these housewares, Overstock also stocks watches occasionally.
Some examples of brands they have carried include Omega, Hamilton and Citizen.
While they also stock fragrances, sunglasses, and other items, this site mainly focuses on grey market watches, as you would guess, given the name. Shop for Oris, Bulova, Gucci, Tissot, Breitling, Omega, and other watches through WatchMaxx.
Keep in mind that this is not a full listing of all major grey market watch dealers. There are also other options out there worth exploring. If you have a specific watch in mind, it makes sense to shop around for the best deal, so long as you’re buying from a legitimate seller.
The grey market has become a huge part of the global economy for luxury watches. So now, let’s evaluate what we’ve learned about it.
- The grey market is legit, safe, and legal if you shop from trusted sellers.
- Grey market watches are sourced from ADs and individual sellers.
- You can save money buying authentic watches through the grey market.
- You can access watches through the grey market that might otherwise be unavailable to you.
- You lose out on the manufacturer’s warranty, but may be offered an unofficial dealer’s warranty.
While the grey market does have some drawbacks in the areas of warranties and packaging, it offers you the opportunity to save hundreds or thousands of dollars on authentic watches from top brands like Rolex, Omega, Seiko, and others.