If you want to buy a mechanical timepiece with pedigree, you need to avoid treacherous fakes and thrifty salesmen. Here’s how to find a vintage masterpiece:

Ask for a letter of 

“When you look to buy a pre-owned timepiece, you need to find out about it’s provenance,” explains Bester. “Watches without their original boxes and papers should come with a warning as they may be stolen or fake, and it’s up to you to demand proof of some kind from the current owner.” There may be valid reasons for why they are missing, and then your next step is to have it validated by experts to get a letter of authenticity. “These letters are issued by the official agents at a nominal fee, but only when it has been certified and checked for theft against a worldwide database – stolen watches are rife today and can be identified by their unique serial numbers,” says Bester. If these numbers have been removed, then you should be suspicious, and watches with missing numbers will be confiscated if they are taken in for a service or repair at an approved workshop.

Start looking in the right places

“Auction houses are very good places to start for they usually attract a lot of buyers and sellers,” explains Bester. “The advantage of auctions over internet sites are that they give the prospecting buyer the opportunity to get up close to the wares, provided of course you’ve done your homework on the subject!” Auctioneers aren’t necessarily watch experts, so you need to do your own research before raising your hand. “Second-hand dealers may be a good option if they prove to be knowledgeable, offer a decent range to choose from and most importantly, offer you piece of mind that they don’t trade in stolen goods,” says Bester. The last option? The Internet. It may seem easy as you can buy most things, but in reality, it’s very tricky. Tread carefully, and research the site through complaint sites such as Hello Peter or email previous site users to see if they’re happy with their purchases.

The official retailers are still the safest bet

“None of the above sellers are official appointed retailers, and therefore cannot be “governed” should a deal go wrong,” explains Bester. The bottom line? “The market is flooded with stolen and fake watches, so find someone you can trust that will look after your interests,” says Bester.