August 11, 2013
by Mark Bornais
It may seem like a no-brainer. Buy a watch on the Internet, save a few bucks, it shows up at your door in a few days and you’re good to go! Right? Well, in reality it’s not quite that simple or cut-and-dried. The decision to buy on-line versus in a retail location is one that should be carefully considered. Unless of course, you’re buying a commodity watch or don’t care about the little details.
Today, I’m going to talk about how to make sure your purchase is the most satisfying one possible and provide some guidance and tips in areas that you may not have even considered. This article should also be read by on-line watch retailers, there are some good tips for you too.
Wow! Has the Internet ever opened up some new possibilities for watch aficionados! You can now peruse and purchase watches from all over the world. Brands and models that you never would have had access to are now just a PayPal authorization away.
And, some of these cool designs can be thousands of dollars less than their staple counterparts under the bright lighting of clear class display cases at your favorite retailer. But is it really that simple?
With access to such a huge selection, generally lower prices and international shipping, why buy from a bricks and mortar retailer at all? That’s a good question and I’m sure that most of us make our watch purchases from both on-line and physical stores. When it comes down to it, people purchase desired objects via whatever method happens to make the most sense to them at the time – which is often reflected by looking for the best price. The question of course is, are you getting the exact same service and quality of product?
There are some obvious advantages to buying from a physical store. You can try the product on, you can inspect it for defects, you can negotiate terms and price, you can ask questions, compare models and brands, and much more.
Even returning a product for servicing or warranty work can be a much more pleasant experience at a bricks and mortar store. Most retailers of fine watches will take care of everything for you. You just have to drop off the watch. They’ll package it, ship it, call you when it’s back in, inspect it and hold it for you until you can return to the store.
This is in comparison with an on-line purchase where there is a cosmetic or technical problem with a watch. In most cases, you’ll have to remove the band or strap, carefully wrap and package the head. Write out a report on what’s wrong with the watch, bring the package to a shipper, pay for the shipping, pay for the insurance and wait. This whole process can be especially disappointing if in some cases, such as what happened to me a few times, the watch was defective on arrival. I didn’t even have time to enjoy the purchase before I had to wrap the whole thing back up and send it away.
Even buying from an on-line store in your home country doesn’t necessarily mean that returning a product will be a hassle-free experience. Take my recent purchase of a Deep Blue Fleet Admiral from their store in Toronto. The watch was defective on arrival as the pointers for the day and 24 hour time were not lined up correctly. I had to take photos, describe the problem, wait for authorization to return the product, etc. To make everything even more of a hassle, I had to send the watch to the US for servicing. So, within the span of a few days, I paid for shipping to purchase the watch in Canada, paid for shipping to the US and had to pre-pay the shipping back to me. It was not a pleasant experience at all.
Buying from a physical store doesn’t mean that you won’t have any problems, it just means it’s usually easier to have them taken care of quickly. I once purchased a new Breitling from an authorized dealer and spent quite a bit of time making sure that all the functions worked correctly, there was no cosmetic damage and that the watch looked good on my wrist.
After a few days of wearing it, I noticed rather significant rate errors. I returned to the dealer, spent a few minutes explaining the problem and that was it. They took care of everything else. A few weeks later the watch came back from the Breitling service depot and everything worked great. There was no additional cost or headache for me. Kudos to La Swiss in Montreal.