David Duggan talks to One to Watch about four decades of buying watches and why he loves the chase.
I’ve been buying watches for forty years. I started as a young man. My brother, John, loved the finest, rarest coins and I used to work in his office in Blackburn. It was a wonderful introduction into the world of meeting and negotiating with customers. I began in 1975 and would show the coins to my brother who would then make the offer. After a few months I learned the business and he started to let me do the deals. I eventually moved on to pocket watches but quickly became intrigued by the world of luxury wristwatches.
I love finding the right new home for a watch. I think it must be in the blood – as well as me and my brother, my great uncles were business men. It doesn’t matter whether I am buying a watch for £1,000 or £100,0000, I love engaging with customers and making sure they’re delighted with the price they achieve. I’ve never been a collector. For me, the thrill is in finding that perfect watch and then making sure it ends up with the right owner.
I remember the first wristwatch I ever saw being sold. I was in a jeweller’s shop. I was sitting next to a dealer and I watched as the jeweller bought a Rolex from a customer for £50 before turning straight to the dealer and selling it on for £100. That instant saleability fascinated me. That was in 1983 and I never looked back.
I love the quality of a fine watch. When I learned about the perpetual calendar – the way it allows for 29 February every four years – I was blown away. From then on, I was hooked on the complication. Patek Philippe did the best complications and so I focused on them. You see them in pocket watches, of course, but to get all that into wrist watch, when the area is so small, is remarkable.
Reputation is everything. If a potential customer has a particularly valuable watch I always advise them to get a second opinion – one from a reputable dealer like us and one from an auction house. We try to base all our offers on auction price. It’s a risk to tell a customer to go and ask someone else’s opinion, but I believe in being honest and often we find people will come back to us and sell us their watch even after they got the second opinion.
Don’t try and clean your watch before you bring it in. Some of the dials on vintage watches will oxidise with time. Don’t be tempted to give them a polish, as you could be wiping away precious value. That oxidisation process will turn your watch a beautiful colour which adds value – it’s known as a ‘tropical dial’. We have the capability and tools to put anything right and would always rather see a watch in its natural condition first.
We love our customers. When you buy or sell a watch you’re not just passing on a timepiece, you’re passing on history, sharing a bit of your family’s story. Whenever we buy a watch from a client, we learn a bit about them – they might be buying one as a wedding gift, or selling one to pay for a child’s education. All of this matters. Patek Philippe say it best in one of their advertising campaigns: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe; you merely look after it for the next generation.”
Talk to us. Our expert team has more than 150 years’ combined experience in the complex field of horology. We don’t just know watches. We also know how to match the perfect watch with each individual and their personal lifestyle. We are members of the British Horological Institute as well as an associate membership of Sotheby’s – both awarded in recognition of our outstanding levels of knowledge and service.
For more information on the types of watches we’re currently interested in, take a look at our sell your luxury watch page. And if you have a watch you’re thinking of selling, even if it’s not listed, contact us today.