Purchasing Automatic Watch: From Where Should I Buy?

Due to its exclusivity and mechanical nature, automatic watch is more expensive than the typical normal quartz watch. So for those wanting to buy one, the question of where to buy is one of the most common question. There are many ways to buy an automatic watch which I’ll divulge in this article, as well as the pros and cons of each option.

So where do you buy automatic watch? You can buy automatic watch from an authorized dealer store, at the department store of your local mall, an online store/website or purchase it directly from the brand/manufacturer.

I’ve tried all the buying options above and I found there are some pros and cons to each of them. Hence, your choice of place to buy your watch will depend on what you want and need.

Where To Buy Automatic Watch?

There are 4 ways that you can buy an automatic watch:

  1. Authorized Dealer store
  2. Department store in malls
  3. Buy Directly From Brand/Manufacturer
  4. Online retailer

1- Authorized Dealer Store

In any big cities, there will be stores dedicated to sell watches, either just for one brand or few brands. These kinds of stores are called authorized dealer stores and is one of the best places to survey watches. Brands don’t sell to anybody, and when they do, they will only give their watches to some sellers – hence why it’s called authorized dealer (or just AD).

AD stores can be split into 2 categories: AD store for a single particular brand and AD stores that carry multiple brands. Some brands have such exclusivity that there is a demand for an AD store to carry only that particular brand, such as Rolex, Patek and other luxury brands. However, such stores are rare and far in between.

The more common AD stores will typically carry multiple brands inside them. These stores will display the watches in cabinets around the walls segregated into brands which really make viewing and searching for a watch much easier.

If you’re in for shopping an automatic watch but in a lost on what watch will work for you (classic issue with first timer), then these stores will provide a good avenue to be exposed to lots of watches in a single store. In addition, I find that the store keeper usually have good knowledge on the watches and can recommend a watch to you depending on their history of best-selling watches and what people generally buy. This well translate into better customer service than others.

(Though I still recommend that you figure out for yourselves what watch do you need to avoid regret later on. Check out my 10 step-by-step guide on how to choose the correct watch for you.)

It is due to this that AD stores are generally easier to be trusted as compared to online stores, as you know you will be getting the real stuffs and not some cheap imitation. The store keepers are more well-versed with the warranties and this will definitely help you especially if you’re new to buying watches.

Speaking of warranties, buying from AD stores have the biggest advantage of brand-backed warranties as you’re essentially buying from an official channel (as compared from gray-market in online stores, but more on that later). Again, this will be very comforting to those that is buying their first hundred dollars automatic watch.

But AD stores do have a big disadvantage as their prices are always on the high side due to the structured pricing set by the brands. But in response, you’re buying from a trusted seller with the full warranty that the brand will give you. Not to mention that you can walk from the store while wearing your new watch as no waiting time is needed (as with buying online) which will be a big plus for those needing a watch urgently.

The last advantage that I’ve personally experienced from buying a watch from an AD store is the store keeper will let you inspect the watch before buying as well as help to resize the metal bracelet for you.

If you’ve had a watch with metal bracelet, you’ll know that it isn’t a walk in the park to resize (don’t trust me? Check out what you have to do here). Thus, getting the store keeper to meticulously do it for you when you bought it is one of the advantages that you can get.


  • Official channel for the watch brand ensuring the watch is original and not fake
  • You can inspect the watch before buying it
  • Carries many models making it easier to survey watches in one place
  • Will get the original warranty from the brand
  • Knowledgeable store keepers will be able to assist you better
  • Easy to buy a watch (if you’re living in a big city)
  • You can get the watch instantly after payment
  • Store keeper can help to resize the watch strap/bracelet for your


  • Higher prices compared to other places
  • Not all models can be carried by a store (depends on its size)

Buy from Authorized Dealer Store if:

  • You’re new with automatic watches and would like to get face-to-face explanation about how to use it
  • You want to get the watch from an official channel to ensure its origin and get official warranty

2- Department Store In Malls

The next place where you can buy automatic watch easily is at department stores in malls. I’m pretty sure you’ve stumbled across some booths showcasing automatic watches while shopping in the malls, usually in the fashion section.

I personally am not a fan of buying from department stores as I often found that the selections are lesser than a dedicated AD store. Moreover, they often stock normal quartz watches that are easier to sell, though some higher-end department stores do sell more expensive automatic watches though not luxury or high end watches.

In addition to that, the hustle and bustle of department stores are not the perfect environment to view and appreciate the beauty of these machines. I mean, you can’t exactly look closely over that Tissot Visodate when there’s a noisy women’s clothes section right behind you lol!

The knowledge of store keepers in the department stores are also not up to par with an AD store. Usually, I found that department store’s employees are rotating around the various sections and they don’t have much knowledge about the watches under their care. At worst, you might be getting conflicting info about any particular watch that you inquire (which is why I always emphasize on researching for yourselves about any watch before deciding to buy it).

Despite these drawbacks, department stores are some of the easiest places to buy a watch as it can be more numerous located compared to AD stores that can be hard to find everywhere (again, this will depend on where you live). If you’re shopping for the holiday season for your family, getting a watch will be easier as you can buy everything in one store. In addition, the generous discount offers will usually apply to the watches as well.

First timer will be more comfortable to view the watches at department stores as it’s less intimidating to view watches there. You’re basically under the same store which is not the case with AD store as you’ll need to go into the store. Depending on the store, you will also get the same original warranty from the brand too.


  • Widely available and accessible even for those living outside big city
  • Ease of buying at the same time as you’re shopping for other stuffs
  • Carries many models making it easier to survey watches in one place
  • Will get the original warranty from the brand
  • You can inspect the watch before buying it
  • You can get the watch instantly after payment
  • Can take advantage of the generous discounts that department stores usually offer


  • Not all department stores carry higher-end automatic watch
  • Shop assistants are not really well-versed with the watches

Buy from Department Store if:

  • You want to buy watches with the convenience of while shopping for other stuffs

3- Buy Directly From Brand/Manufacturer

Sometimes, the watch that you like might not be available in a store – it could be the watch was quite expensive that your local watch shop don’t think they can sell it. Or it could simply be that particular watch model is not made available in your country, for whatever reasons the brand might have. In these instances, you can buy the watch directly from the manufacturer through their websites.

Although online stores were usually associated with gray market watches (more on that later in the next section), watch brands had embraced online stores. Well, they would be nuts not going for online as that’s where most people shop nowadays. Till date, I noticed that some brands such as Tissot, Citizen and Swatch, just to name a few, have included a buy option from their official website.

By having an official online store, watch brands can ensure their buyer of authentic watches, which is one of the biggest concern whenever buying online. You’ll get the real thing, alongside with the official packaging, boxes and warranty – all without taking a step from your home. The brands will be able to maximize profit and ensure their stocks can be cleared in time.

However, there are some disadvantages with this method.

Firstly, the price that you’ll get from buying online with the official website is almost the same as what you will pay at a store. In addition, you still have to pay for additional shipping charges that will wildly vary depending on where you live. And then you’ll have to wait for your watch to come to your doorstep.

Another major disadvantage is something inherent when you’re buying online – you can only inspect the watch when it arrives and if there’s some issue with it, you’ll have to claim warranty, post it back and wait for few more days to receive the replacement. Because of this risk, buying online is not something that I’d recommend if you need to get your watch as soon as possible.


  • Easy way to buy watches without going out of your home
  • Ensure you’ll get the authentic watches
  • Can browse and compare prices of various models easily
  • Can buy rarer models that are not available at your local watch stores


  • Prices can be higher after including shipping charges
  • Will need to wait for few days before the watch is delivered
  • Possibility of getting a lemon/malfunction unit and have to go through hassles to get replacement

Buy from Department Store if:

  • You would like to get that exact watch that is not being sold in stores anywhere near you.

4- Online retailer

Last but not least, online retailers, one of my favorite way to buy a watch. There are various types of online retailers that can be segregated into groups such as e-commerce sites (e.g jomashop.com, longislandwatch.com), online stores (such as Amazon, Ebay, etc.), forums and even Facebook groups.

The similarity between all of these online channels? Most will sell many watches at huge discounts and they can really help to get you the watch that you want with huge savings. But then again, how did they do that? Well, basically these watches are called gray market watches.

Watches sold on these online channels are often called gray market watches because their are not the official channel. The thing is the brands control the pricing of the watches as they want to ensure that there is enough profit for them and their authorized distributors. Having watch shops cutting prices is a sin as it will distort the field making it unfair to their other distributors.

Gray market sellers get their watches from the other countries and then sell it elsewhere. It’s definitely legal to do so (though the brands will say otherwise) but the fact is the watch is totally legit and you’ll get the real thing, at 20% to 30% off the MSRP prices, even after adding shipping costs!

The downside with this is you won’t get the official warranty coming from the brands so you’re on your own if something happens to the watch after you buy it. Luckily, most retailers have their own warranty or replacement policy so you’re covered in that regards.

Now, I’m not saying that all online retailers sell legit gray watches, even the sites that I’ve mentioned above. Some do sell fake watches disguised as real ones (which are scums of the lowest level!) and there are cases like that happening. Thus, do your due diligence on which sellers would you buy from. Comb through online reviews for red flags and such prior to buying from them.

Ensure the sellers has a clear warranty/replacement policy that will replace your watch like-for-like or full refund in case of lemons. Inspecting the watch when you get them is then more crucial so that you can act as fast as you can. Do compare the watch with known pictures of it online from other owners to get a real feel of how it should be.

All of this means that buying from an online retailer carries the highest risk of all the places where you can buy an automatic watch. However, it comes with the high reward of huge discounts off it, which can be cumulative to the tune of thousands of dollars if you’re an avid watch collector.

Another rule that I always use is to not buy an expensive watch from these online retailers and stick to official channels. This threshold can vary from person to person, though I’m using a $1,000 mark personally. As there is a huge risk with buying these watches from online, you really want to reduce the risk as much as possible. Besides, anything below $1,000 means the watch does not use any complicated in-house movement so I can always get it fixed from my local watchmaker.


  • Easy way to buy watches without going out of your home
  • You can get the huge savings from buying gray market watches
  • Most online retailers stock huge amount of watches, even those already discontinued
  • Easy to compare prices and watch models


  • There are some retailers selling fake watches
  • There will be waiting time before the watch arrives
  • No official warranty from the brand so you need to ensure the retailer have their own warranty policy
  • It’s best to limit the value of watch bought from gray market sellers

Buy from Department Store if:

  • You want the best value for money watches and am perfectly fine with the additional risks involved.


There are many ways for one to buy an automatic watch and all of them comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of where to buy your watch will depend on which buying channel that you prefer the most.

If you want the least risk, then an authorized dealer store will be the best method to buy your watch. However, if you want the cheapest watch, then online is definitely the way to go.

I hope this article will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if there are other things you need to know.


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