If you are a collector who enjoys flipping watches, you’ll want to focus on obtaining a watch with box and papers. If you just want to enjoy the watch and not the clutter that comes with it, then you can skip this post.
When dealing in pre-owned watches, every watch is different and there are many variables that come into play. Often times, watches are traded without the complete set of boxes and papers. This may be discouraging to collectors who are interested in preserving as much resale value as possible, but does not necessarily indicate the authenticity or legitimacy of the watch. Here are some of the common explanations for why a watch is without the B&P:
Why doesn’t this watch have box and papers?
The original owner purchased the watch, walked out with it on their wrist not thinking twice about taking the box and papers home with them.
The box and papers were misplaced or lost.
The watch is vintage and has been passed down or picked up at an estate sale.
The box and papers may have been damaged or destroyed during a move, etc. (The watch is fine because it was on the wrist.)
The watch has been sold or traded several times.
The box and papers are still in the closet or attic of the original owner who forgot where they were. (When this happens, sometimes our clients contact us and we forward the found box and papers to the new owners.)
The watch was a corporate gift in which case the warranty information was made out to the company that purchase the watch and they didn’t give it to the employee who was awarded the watch.
The watch was purchased overseas and the owner left the box behind to avoid issues at customs.
Space and sanitation
Some watch dealers do not even take the box in when they do a trade. The papers could potentially be free advertising for the original dealer, but most of all space and organization is a huge issue when you have a large inventory – it’s a big pain to have to dig through all the boxes for the correct set while the customer is waiting. Also, some of the boxes are dirty, damaged, or have an unpleasant smell from the previous owner… so it’s better for the dealer to sell the watch without the nastiness and inconvenience.
It’s a lot like trading a car
If you’ve ever traded a watch you might know that it’s a lot like trading a car. You loved it when you had it, but now your eyes are on the next new thing with the mindset of “get me out of this and into that with as little of a loss as possible and I’ll be happy.” Most people don’t fully detail their car before trading it in – just like most people don’t bother to wash their old watch or dig up the box and papers before trading it in.
If you’re trading your Rolex with the original papers or card, your full name is on it along with the name of your local Authorized Dealer. The old Rolex paperwork might even include your full address! You’re putting your contact information out in the world along with letting everyone know that you’re a person who can afford a Rolex and probably have more watches and jewelry at your residence. For privacy reasons such as this, some of our clients request that their name be blacked out or removed from the papers.
Why gray market watches don’t have box/papers?
Gray market sellers get their watches from authorized dealers and distributors who are moving product out the back door at cost or below so that they can get rid of unsellable/stale inventory or pay their Rolex bills. There are few main reasons why they typically sell without the box and papers:
Selling just the watch makes it easier for shipping, especially when moving a high volume of watches.
The original dealer keeps the box and papers (especially the papers) because they don’t want their store to be associated with a watch being sold online or on the grey market. If the grey market seller is posting photos of the warranty card and dealer name, this could cause the dealer a lot of problems, and to potentially lose the line.
The original dealer does not want people from all over the world contacting them about the watch (warranty, valuation, etc.) especially after they dumped it without making anything on the sale.
This might be the biggest reason of all that almost no watch buyer thinks about:
If the gray market seller gives the original dealer stamped warranty card or book, they are also giving away their source of watches.
It has the boxes but why not the warranty card?
Warranty cards sometimes contain personal information of the original owner. We have many clients who request for us to not include the warranty card, or black-out their name/address from the cards for privacy reasons.
The warranty card may have simply been misplaced, put in the wrong box, or accidentally thrown out. We’ve been told by some clients that since the warranty was long expired on their watch, they thought the card was useless and pitched it.
There are some Authorized Dealers who keep the warranty cards on file for their customers. This is as a convenience for the customer who may have to go back to the store years later with a warranty claim, however, it’s also a subtle way that the dealers protect themselves. For example, Rolex dealers do not watch their customers to buy a watch and sell it online days or weeks afterwards. This would potentially raise a red flag at Rolex Headquarters and they might investigate whether their dealer is selling watches at a discount or wholesale. If this is the case, the customer may not want the AD to know they are flipping the watch.
The watch may have been obtained without box and papers, but a box from stock was added to the deal. At KeepTheTime, we’re known for offering credit to those of our members who do not want the box. Instead of shipping them something they will just throw away, we buy the box back and save it for another member who will appreciate having it included in the deal. Don’t worry… boxes are typically not matched to the specific watch being sold. Most manufacturers ship the boxes separately from the watches. When the watch is sold from the display case, the dealer grabs a box from a shelf or storage area. At KeepTheTime, the box in the photos is the exact box you will receive.
How can I be sure the watch is authentic if it doesn’t include the box and papers?
Never make a decision on a watch based on box and papers alone. Box and papers does not indicate that a watch is authentic. If they can replicate a watch, replicating the box and papers would be a cinch. Buy your watch from a trusted source that guarantees authenticity, whether the watch includes the box and papers or not.
For more reading about box and papers check out the following posts:
It’s nice to get the box and papers if you can. But with just like the overall condition, pre-owned watches without the boxes and papers are priced to reflect what’s included or missing. KeepTheTime always lists what comes with the watch, and most listings will show photos of the box and papers if included.
We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.