The Hunt of Pre-owned Watches
What is so special about Swiss watches? Honestly, I spent a lot of time browsing the Internet for knowledge, do online bidding, and visiting many websites selling pre-owned watches online. In the U.K. you can find many vintage and pre-owned sellers. Some restored vintages are also available. The price looks reasonable but the shipping and insurance charges might cost you more than the watch!
I browse only those names that come into my mind, mostly the lower-middle to middle range like Omega, Fortis, Tissot, Oris, and TAG Heuer; those brands that match my budget and brands known to many. Easy to say, below RM3k or dubbed by famous PMWF – Poor Man Watch Forum http://www.pmwf.com/, below USD1k. The more I browse, the more I know about other Swiss brands. I guess my wish list becoming longer and bigger than I can afford to. Yeah, dream of a Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-Le-Coutre, Audemars Piguet, and a few elite brands. Impossible! But who knows? If it is going to be a new chapter in my life; with millions in hand – I will buy those brands! But, if I just have 1 million, I will not spend 50k or more just for a watch! That’s 5% from a million you earned! Mannn… don’t be silly. Okidoki, let’s just settled with line of affordable pre-owned… pacifying me.
Blancpain. Not many knew this oldest and elite Swiss brand. Have you seen any fakes?
Out of the Country, Government Casinos and Pawn Shops
Besides browsing the Internet, I do visiting watches outlets in KLCC (where my office was), Bukit Bintang, Pertama Complex, Lot 10, Amcorp Mall Flea Market, and other shops in major cities in Malaysia. At that time, in the early 2000, I work with a multinational company. I have the chance to travel to countries like Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, and Singapore. As a regional manager, I have routine trip to these countries. I always make time to hunt for pre-owned watches whenever I am there albeit my busy itinerary.
In Thailand, I always go to go to MBK Centre (pronounced by the local ma-bung-krong) in the city of Bangkok. You can find many shops selling pre-owned watches from the lower range Swiss to top-notch brands like Patek Philippe and Blancpain. If my trip covers mid week until the next, I will spend my Sunday at Chatuchak Weekend Market. You need a lot of energy to shop there! The market is huge by hundred of stalls - the largest in Thailand. Interestingly you can find almost a dozen of weekend traders selling Swiss, Russian, and Japanese vintage wrist and pocket watches. You can bargain. But, beware of fake vintage Swiss fitted with Russian movement! In Vietnam, this is quite rampant. So be wise to buy vintage over there.
MBK Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.
Among the countries assigned to me, I spend most of my business trips to the Philippines. You won’t see much of vintage over there especially in Manila but you can find genuine and good pre-owned watches. Go to Greenhills Shopping Center near the Ortigas Avenue in Metro Manila. There is one guarded section in the first floor of the shopping center where you can find a few shops selling jewelries and pre-owned watches.
Greenhills Shopping Center in Ortigas Avenue, Manila.
Countries like Philippines and Cambodia have government-owned casinos. It is very common to find money changers and pawn shops (kedai pajak gadai laa...) nearby the casinos. Hah ha! Pawn shop… normally, the first thing a gambler cashes out when they need money to recover back their losses in the gambling den is to pawn their expensive watches and pens!!! So, never miss any pawn shops neighboring the gambling den if you have a chance. See what they have. You’ll be surprised. I was told by a watch collector from Phnom Penh in Cambodia that the pawn shops nearby the casinos normally employ watches experts to inspect and value expensive Swiss watches. How good are they? Trade a fake Rolex in any pawn shops in KL… dare to?
If you have a chance to travel to Mumbai (Bombay) in India, try to visit the Oberoy Hotel. In the hotel shop lot, you will find a watch shop. I can’t remember the name. I heard from a friend, the shop is still in business until today. You can find a lot of NOS (new old stock) of Swiss brands. I bought a genuine automatic IWC Portofino mid 90s model for only USD300! Guess what? Soon after arriving in KL, I sell it to a watch freak for USD450! But one thing I remember, the shop have a lot of 70s Oris, Tissot, and Omega. I don’t know why these watches became slow-moving brands in India. May be the Indians preferred Rolex like most of Asian consumers. Or, they go for HMT (Citizen joint venture with the local manufacturer) or the home brand - Titan!
Besides Hong Kong; Singapore is well known as "Asian Watches Hub". You can find a lot of pre-owned watches and vintage there. I visited Passion Watch in the Funan IT Mall once. They have a branch in Malaysia now, located in Bangsar Village. You can also find few shops nearby the Furama Hotel. Heaven! If you have enough cash, shop in Singapore. Pre-owned Rolex are cheaper there. Plenty of non available models in Malaysia like Submariner and Sea-Dweller on display. Quite a handfull selection of Panerai models and other top brand as well. I bought my wife’s first Rolex there - very affordable and almost 30% cheaper from KL. In Changi Airport, don’t be surprised if you find an old janitor wearing vintage Rolex GMT Master-II!!!!
Pre-owned and vintage Rolex, highly valuated by the Asians.
Indonesia. I lost count how many times I frequented Jakarta. You need more time and becoming 'capek' if you hunt for pre-owned and vintage around the most populated city of Jakarta. Hence, the 'macet' traffic in the city might exhaust your day half way. I have a millionaire (in USD not Indonesian Rupiah, okey!) friend who collects expensive Swiss and brand new Grand Seiko. He collects Patek Philippe, Blancpain, all Rolex models, Lange, Penerai, and the cheapest collection are from top-line Omega! Damned, he is bl**dy rich, but a very humble friend. We always share knowledge about watches. You know where he get all his watches? Sincere Watch and The Hour Glass in KLCC for brand new collection and pre-owned from Singapore or Hong Kong!
"Kalu bapak mahu beli jam tua, di Jakarta tidak banyak toko-toko yang menjual pak. Ini karena, jam-jam tua ini udah diekspor (export) ke luar negara. Orang Ostrali (Australia), Singapura, sama Hong Kong ambil peluang dulu deehhhh", said my good friend Bapak Han. Hmmhh… it is true. Indonesian rich people shops in Singapore. Vintage are not preference of the Indonesia rich.
But luckily, through another friend of mine, I was introduced to Bapak Agus of Kebayoran Baru. Bapak Agus (ahli arloji vintage - in english, horology expert) is the only avid vintage collector cum trader that I ever met in Indonesia. His business is to trade 'barang-barang tua' (old stuff) like watches, gemstones, lighters, and pens. Many traders from Malaysia bought vintages from him especially the Seikos. I bought many vintage divers and chronographs from him – the 6105, 6309, 7002, and 4205 divers and 6139 and 6138 chronos. Cheap! May be at that time I don’t really care about Seiko. I sell them to Seiko collectors and traders that I know in KL. In mid 2000, these vintages are not as expensive as now. The most expensive Seiko Diver 6105 sold at only Rm800. I make Rm200 per piece because I got it cheap.
"Brader, you’ll be surprised if you study the Seiko. Seiko is more interesting compared to the common Swiss brands. Have you ever heard about Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36000 vintage? Ha ha, a friend of mine sells his Rolexes and other Swiss collection just to get the Grand Seiko watch. Swiss watches ha… most of the time you can find the watch you like. Grand Seiko, sometime haa… ada duit pun belum tentu dapat." – an otai collector told me. Whats next? Exploring Seiko?