Published December 30, 2022
Author Jasper Lijfering
Watch guide

To controversial topics: unpopular opinions

I’m all for stirring up the scene a bit and therefore happy to present you insight on some controversial topics; more specifically about “box and papers”, “investing” and ‘unpolished”. These are my views and believes and can be considered as unpopular opinions, but I am happy to hear your thoughts; especially if and why you disagree. But not before you have all relevant information.

Box and papers

People are usually surprised to hear “luckily not” as our response to their question if a watch we offer has box and papers. Allow me to elaborate.

I would like to start with an important reservation: I am not saying you should not buy a watch if it does come with aforementioned additional accessories, but I am saying that you should not let a deal depend on it. Let me take it one step further. I’d rather buy a watch without, since I’d most likely have to pay less, or I can use that budget on better condition or more interesting configuration. After all: I’m passionate about the actual watch, not about some paper and a cardboard box. It is up to you to decide to what extent you think I’m right, but let’s get the facts out there. 

Now I also understand that it can feel sketchy if a modern timepiece doesn’t come as a full set. By now, most consumers in the luxury market keep everything surrounding the object itself. I wouldn’t not buy a modern watch if everything else checked out but for some it might raise doubts. However, the habit of holding on to box and papers wasn’t common at all until quite recently. After all, most people don’t keep that stuff when they buy a vacuum cleaner for instance. Same goes for warranty papers, most threw it out after it expired since it didn’t serve a purpose anymore. Moreover, manufacturers didn’t intend for boxes to be kept for many years. They were merely used as packaging, usually made of cheap and perishable materials like cardboard, pleather, and plywood. Just have a look at your average Patek, JLC, Omega, or Rolex box from the 1990s and earlier. You can almost see them disintegrate before your very eyes.

It is uncommon for someone to have kept the original box and papers for decades. As per usual in the world of watches: if something is rare, it becomes desirable, and thus valuable. Occasionally box and papers can command premiums up to 25%, most notably regarding vintage Rolex watches. So, are you being swindled if you decide to pay up? 

Firstly, let’s debunk a common misconception: boxes nor papers guarantee originality. They don’t tell you whether a watch is in unaltered condition or even genuine at all. You could have a Rolex where the serial matches the original papers but with all components of the watch being changed. The dial could be a service replacement, refinished, or even completely aftermarket. Or worse, the serial numbers from the original papers could be engraved into any watch; genuine or fake. If the papers are indeed original in the first place…

While Swiss precision is often copied but never duplicated, the same can’t be said of warranty papers or cards. Banknotes are created with all kinds of anti-counterfeiting features, but there are still organizations out there that can fake them so well that most wouldn’t be able to tell. Now imagine the money that can be made by counterfeiting a warranty paper that was never made in a way that would prevent people from faking it. I’ve held an original Rolex warranty certificate in my left and a fake one in my right hand and even I had difficulty separating them, despite years of experience. The fake papers even smelled “vintage” because they were kept in an old book for a couple of months.

Besides fake papers there are also many original papers that were just never filled out. You can buy them by the dozen at any watch fair or even online. It’ll cost you a couple of hundreds but can add thousands in value. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? And before you start about the so-called “punched papers” from Rolex, vintage punch machines have notoriously been sold online, alongside dealer stamps, which too are being duplicated. In other words, it’s not that difficult to produce “100% correct” papers and nobody will be able to prove they’re not original. Just add a period-correct box and some booklets that you bought off eBay and voilà, you’ve successfully added some serious value to the watch.

After extensive research it is safe to assume at least half of the Rolex watches with papers, produced prior to 1990, are currently supplied without the certificate they were actually born with. Therefore, if anything regarding confidence, being offered a vintage Rolex with papers makes me more suspicious. Some brands also offer “extract services” or even reports of authenticity. This alongside service papers may be considered.

Next up I would like to tackle the argument that a full set is “a better investment”. The value on secondary markets is a result of supply and demand. Whilst the supply of vintage watches with warranties “magically” increases, the demand diminishes because people start to realize the scam, resulting in a declining premium at best. 

Another often made excuse of limiting purchases to full sets is that it would be easier to sell. After this plea you might consider that as arguable. I’m also denying the claim of some that true collectors seek complete specimens: hence the term ‘Collectors set”. But all the afficionado’s we know, and we know a fair share, wouldn’t ever pass on a deal for a sought-after watch due to the absence of these irrelevant things. 

I get that box and papers can add a feeling of authenticity and romance to your watch and sometimes it may, indeed, indicate that the previous owner took great care of his prized possession. Surely, you should pay whatever you think something is worth. In some cases, I too would pay a couple thousands extra. I like the colored accessories coming with the Beach Daytona set, the quirky Tudor Peanut-box or the Omega Crater box for example. Some cool provenance of the previous owner is appreciated too. But especially with vintage Rolex the high premiums are justified for all the wrong reasons. Do as you please but let this serve as a caution. And remember; you can’t wear a box and/ or papers. 


Regardless of what you’ve read or heard; generally speaking “wristwatches” are a terrible performing asset compared to the Dow Jones, metals, real estate etc. Bear in mind, the majority of timepieces plummet in value after purchase. Think about all that Armani, Versace and Tommy Hilfiger stuff. But not only cheap watches show tremendous downside on the re-sell price; how about Hublot, Panerai, and some highly complicated pieces from brands like IWC or the lion’s share of bejeweled executions… With that being said, the luxury watchmarket -in particular the established brands, and more recently independents- potentially have an interesting ROI (return of investment). Yet it easy to discard pieces as “bad investment” but nobody can answer you what’s the best investment. Any dealer claiming this and selling you a watch as such is full of bullshit and should be avoided at all times. Even if one would be able to answer that question; why would he be selling it then? 

Now the interesting question arises: should you buy a watch as an investment? I would always prioritize an investment in your enjoyment rather than financial gain. I think it is great many of us can enjoy such wonderful products, often without losing money and occasionally even making a good buck on it, preferably to use on your next purchase. But it feels a bit poor to ultimately let that be the decisive factor. It strikes me as odd to think about the (re-)sale during your buying process of such an emotional purchase. 

So do we, as a professional watchdealers, never buy watches as an investment? Trading watches is capital intensive, so for us cashflow is king: resulting in buy, sell, buy, sell… But from time to time we purchase ‘sleepers’, a watch we believe the market isn’t aware of its importance yet and therefore is undervalued. A lot of factors come in to play to predict -if- and -by what extent- the market will pick this up. But throughout our following we can create more appreciation and “make market” in an ethical way by advertising it as a so-called “value buy”, rather than “following market” or even worse: manipulating market.  

It isn’t that hard to manipulate the market. With the right capital and connections, you can exercise a lot of “influence” on the price by the good ol’ “Cartel-model”. Adding insult to injury: most (unexperienced) rely on Chrono24 for the current market price. Failing to realize the difference with the actual going rate of a model, which in some cases is far apart. This isn’t some far-fetched conspiracy theory, it happened rather recently with contemporary hyped models. The bull market wasn’t fueled by passion but merely driven by potential profits with a dealer frenzy in the mix. So if you do want to get into it, you have to realize the risks. I am no financial advisor but happy to tell you about the pros and cons compared to traditional investments. 

Let’s start with the positive aspects. First and foremost a watch is something you can enjoy physically. If you were to invest in another alternative asset like wine or whisky, the value disappears once the bottle is opened. Watches might also be more accessible and enjoyable to learn about than the stock market, and to many it has a more comprehensible intrinsic value. Lastly it possibly is more anonymous and less transparent. Which might be interesting for tax purposes, but the lack of transparency can also be a pitfall in the buying and selling process.

Which brings us to the downside of investing in watches. This asset class offers lower liquidity and higher costs (maintenance and transaction fees) and risks (it can get stolen, or you can get ripped off if you don’t have any knowledge and/ or trustworthy connections). It also demands more capital to start with a diversified and less volatile portfolio. Properly investing in watches whilst hedging as much risk as possible requires at least tens of thousands of euros. Last but not least is something that is the most dangerous part but simultaneously the most attractive: emotion. And my heart and my wallet are oftentimes not cohesive.

My advice would be to buy what you like for the amount the watch is worth to you: than you can never lose. Fuck the market, enjoy your watch!


One of the most frequently asked questions is if a watch is “unpolished”. In many cases asking this exposes your lack of expertise and experience. Nothing wrong if that does apply to you, but there are many dealers out there trying to take advantage of gullible buyers. Some of you may be outraged or offended by this, but I’m spreading my views for protection purposes. Winning information prior to your purchase is the right thing to do, and by extension asking the seller questions is a method that should be applied sensibly. So let me explain why this isn’t the right thing to ask when buying a vintage watch. 

Many have read somewhere this subject is relevant or even mandatory; yet fail to realize that unpolished isn’t a condition standard at all. If you aim at a NOS (new old stock) example; it’s wishful thinking for most popular brands, toolwatches especially, disqualifying 99% of them and leaving the few exceptions in a different price bracket. Regardless, a watch can be unpolished but worn-out or properly polished but in pristine condition. Résumé: rather the degree and quality of polishing is of importance. “Overpolished” however, ís a condition standard and only let specialists do the job. Some artisans are so skilled they can make it appear mint, even brands themselves offer laser recharge services like AP, Patek and some Rolex centers like Bexley. Subsequently it sadly is sometimes advertised as unpolished by the seller or some auction house. It is very hard to determine the difference between truly unpolished and refurbished, even if you have cognizance. 

Conditions is of the utmost importance, but I hope you now realize asking if a watch is “unpolished” has little do to with that. 


Thanks for listening to my rant. I hope I was able to back up my views, formed over the past decade, in a logical manner. Again, you do not have to share my thoughts. Even more so, I invite you to share how our opinions differ. But please present a substantiated claim and in a professional fashion. We can all learn from each other.