Becoming a watch dealer can be fun and rewarding and will not require a large capital investment to start. Watches are among the most valuable collector's items, and some individual examples can fetch above $10,000 in the right market. No special licensing is required beyond a local business license.
Decide what types of watches will bring the most profit. Some dealers stick with old pocket watches and nothing else, while others collect any type of timekeeping device. The rarest watches are obviously the priciest, but locating enough of an inventory to become a dealer will be difficult. One type of watch that is gaining popularity is the Light Emitting Diode watch of the 1970s. These are still quite available, and many have escalated in value.
Choose a market. While a storefront would bring in off-the-street customers and also offer other services, the online world is where most collectors are turning to sell inventory. The amount of traffic on some websites is staggering, and the ability to have ongoing sales or auctions allows thousands of items to be sold 24 hours a day. Watches tend to be relatively small and easy to ship, limiting the amount of space required for storage. Drop shipping is also available online for some watch sources, new or used.
Acquire inventory. Buying lot deals on auction sites is a great way to accumulate a large inventory in a short amount of time. Locating vintage watches at charity resale stores, such as Goodwill, can be rewarding and fun. Pawn shops, while having an excellent selection, will usually be pricey. Estate sales are a fantastic way to build a substantial inventory for little capital.
Price accordingly, after researching the market. Online auction sites, such as eBay, can reflect quite accurately what the market will pay for a certain model of watch. Too many watches selling for too high an asking price will never sell. Several text sources for pricing watches exist, and one of the most extensive is "Classic Wristwatches 2008/2009: The Price Guide for Vintage Watch Collectors", by Stefan Muser. This book, updated biannually, contains over 1,300 watches and their current market value. The Internet makes researching prices quick and efficient, and will often have images of quality specimens for comparison. Auction sites, where most watch dealers operate, will have searching tools that allow for detailed analysis.
Acquire parts for repairing "dead" inventory. Up to half of the used watches in the average dealer's collection will be nonoperational. This leaves many valuable parts available for fixing or creating watches that can sell for profit, or resold through customer repairs. A large box of "button" batteries, common for most quartz watches sold since the 1980s, is essential. Many times a valuable watch will be tossed aside because of a dead battery, when it is in otherwise pristine condition.
Keep inventory coming in at a stable rate. The key to making a substantial income as a watch dealer is a rotating inventory. Building the collection of higher quality units, while increasing the number of average units, will stabilize sales and allow for a residual monthly income that you can count on.
Inspect watch "lots," or multiple watch bundles, closely. Some can contain one or two good specimens while the rest is junk.