Crown & Caliber aims to take the risk out of the pre-owned luxury watch market, but how does it stack up?
Buying a pre-owned luxury watch can be a harrowing experience, especially online. With a market full of unscrupulous sellers and incredibly convincing fakes, there are plenty of dangers to look out for.
If only someone could come along, absorb all of that risk, and offer consumers a safe purchase at a fair price.
That’s exactly how Crown & Caliber’s business plan works. It buys, inspects, and then sells watches to the consumer, guaranteeing authenticity and quality.
But, the used watch market is full of perils and price gouging, so how do we know Crown & Caliber is the real deal? Let’s take a deep dive into which watches it offers, how it works, and if you should use Crown and Caliber for your next luxury watch deal.
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What Is Crown & Caliber?
The CEO and Founder, Hamilton Powell, started the company after a close friend expressed the headaches he went through attempting to sell a luxury watch. Crown and Caliber is a watch dealer, not a broker, meaning the company owns every watch listed on the site.
Crown and Caliber deals in watches, but focuses on people. The company now has over 40 employees, more than ten of which are Swiss-trained watchmakers. It focuses on providing an excellent product with top-notch customer service, but the company mission doesn’t stop there.
Crown and Caliber partnered with MAP International, a charity that provides disaster relief and medical treatment to people affected by crises. As an example, every watch that Crown and Caliber sells provides a five-day dose of antibiotics to someone in need.
Which Brands Does Crown & Caliber Carry?
Crown & Caliber only deals in luxury watches. You won’t find many Casios or Citizens here. You’ll find brands like Rolex, Omega, Tudor, Patek, Panerai, Blancpain, IWC, Breitling, JLC, and other very high-end houses.
At the time of this article, the site has over 281 Breitlings, 178 Rolexes, 230 Omegas, and 74 Jaeger-LeCoultres. It also has a handful of choices from AP, Vacheron Constantin, and Breguet.
Prices range from $1,300 for an Oris Big Crown in excellent condition without its papers or box, up to $67,000 for a Big Red Daytona in very good condition, with its original box, sans papers.
Obviously, selection and pricing will vary depending on what Crown and Caliber has in stock, but at this point, there are almost 1,900 pieces for sale on the site. If you’re in the market for a pre-owned luxury timepiece, you’ll probably find something to suit your taste.
Navigating their Collection
Searching for the right watch on the Crown and Caliber site is incredibly easy. You can search for your favorite brand or reference number, if you know what you’re looking for. If not, Crown and Caliber makes it incredibly easy to narrow things down.
If you aren’t set on a particular brand, but you do know the style you’re looking for, Crown and Caliber has you covered.
The site breaks down the inventory into “Curated Collections,” which include divers, pilot’s watches, sports watches, and racing watches, among many others. You’ll also find a section for watches under $5,000, trending pieces, and limited editions.
One of the most interesting collections, “Watches for the Corner Office,” has some expensive, executive-level pieces that are perfect for celebrating the big promotion.
You can further narrow your search by price, dial color, material, case size, and approximate age. Crown and Caliber makes it very easy to find that special watch, even if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for.
Selling Your Watch to Crown & Caliber
Crown and Caliber buys its inventory from sellers looking to finance a new purchase or simply cash-out on a watch that they don’t wear anymore.
A seller can head to the Crown and Caliber website and input their watch’s information. Shortly after (sometimes instantly), Crown and Caliber will provide the seller with a quote for what the company is willing to pay for the watch or the amount it will take on a trade.
For particularly rare watches, you might need to contact Crown and Caliber directly. The company bases its quotes on data and market trends, which helps the seller achieve a fair deal.
If the seller likes the quote, they’ll send the watch to Crown and Caliber. The watchmakers then break the watch down completely, piece by piece. They inspect it for authenticity and then pay the seller. The watchmakers then replace any worn or damaged parts.
Crown and Caliber staff then cleans the watch, services it, and then adjusts the watch until it runs as perfectly as possible. By the time the watchmakers finish, the watch looks and works as best as possible—sometimes better than new.
After this in-depth inspection and service, Crown and Caliber lists the watch on its site. Again, prices are set using market trends and data, taking into account the service and labor required to bring the watch to its like-new condition.
Buying a Watch From Crown & Caliber
Buying a watch from Crown and Caliber is a fairly straightforward process. For this article’s sake, I’ll be hovering over an Omega Speedmaster Day-Date, in very good condition. No box, no papers. This is purely for research purposes, of course.
For reference, Crown and Caliber uses a system of five condition grades; unworn, mint, excellent, very good, and good. “Unworn” and “mint” are self-explanatory. Light scratches start appearing on “excellent” watches.
Watches in the “very good range” have some scratches and wear, while watches in “good” condition have signs of heavy wear and age.
This particular Speedmaster has a listed price of $1,650—down eight percent from its originally listed price of $1,800. Crown and Caliber has five images available, which I can hover over for a very high resolution close up.
So good are these images that I could pick out a stray buffing fiber that originally appeared like a scratch on the bezel.
Once I saw it lay across the crystal as well, I knew what it was. Crown and Caliber doesn’t cheat you with the images.
You’ll find all of the important specifications listed under the images. Crown and Caliber lists the model number, the approximate age, any important dimensions, as well as the material of the case and bracelet or strap.
If they have the information, Crown and Caliber makes sure it’s available to you before you purchase.
If I chose to buy this Speedmaster, I could purchase a one, two, or three-year protection plan, at $119, $169, and $219, respectively. This protection plan would come in addition to the Crown and Caliber warranty.
Payments are standard. As far as I can tell, you’re not able to make an offer on a watch, though an email to a customer service rep might provide a concrete answer. The company accepts almost all of the popular forms of payment, including PayPal and Affirm.
Watches ship for free within two business days, insured in transit by Crown and Caliber. If you receive your watch and it’s not what you were expecting or just don’t like it on your wrist, you have seven days to contact Crown and Caliber to request a free return.
The company will cover the shipping costs, as well as insurance.
Crown & Caliber’s Warranty
Warranty disclosure and descriptions can be very intimidating, but Crown and Caliber’s is as basic and straightforward as it comes.
Any watch you purchase will come with a one-year warranty. It’s available only to the original purchaser, so if you gift or sell your watch to another person, they’ll have no right to the warranty.
The warranty covers the basics. You’ll be able to make a claim for any defects in materials or workmanship. Basically, if within the year of your purchase, your watch starts keeping terrible time or the hands fall off the movement, Crown and Caliber will fix it.
Things you won’t be able to make a warranty claim for include wear and tear, damage from mishandling, any mods, or any improper use.
Crown and Caliber will pay for shipping and any parts and labor under valid warranty claims. This is about as transparent of a warranty as you’ll find in the second-hand watch market.
Keep in mind that if your watch is still under warranty from its original manufacturer, you might not get a warranty from Crown and Caliber. If this is the case, you’ll have to contact an authorized dealer and go through the manufacturer’s warranty process.
Watch 101, Unwound Blog, YouTube
Crown & Caliber certainly believes in an informed customer. Watch 101, one of the pages on the site, is an excellent resource for watch enthusiasts of all kinds. Here you’ll find information like a pronunciation guide, how-to videos, as well as the Anatomy of a Watch guide.
As a bonus, Crown and Caliber created the Unwound Blog—a place for all things luxury watch-related. You’ll find interviews with celebrities, businessmen, doctors, and popular YouTube personalities, as well as articles and videos from the staff at Crown and Caliber.
While the content creation has slowed a bit on the blog’s site, the Crown and Caliber YouTube channel releases a video about once a week. You’ll find many of the same videos, as well as content related to the nuances of a particular brand, or buying guides to hone in on the finer points of luxury watch shopping.
Final Thoughts: A Smarter Way to Buy?
If you’re shopping for the best possible price on a watch, Crown & Caliber is not for you. They provide a very high-quality product, and they’re more than fairly priced for the effort they put in.
But, with that said, you can certainly find a cheaper option through a watch broker or even a gray market seller.
Would I buy a watch from Crown and Caliber? For many reasons, yes. I like that there is virtually no risk of purchasing a counterfeit timepiece.
I also like knowing that Swiss-trained watchmakers will have serviced the watch, at least somewhat reducing some of the headaches that may come with a used or even vintage piece.
I appreciate the quick, free shipping and the peace of mind that a free return policy provides, as well.
If I had to choose one more reason why I would buy from Crown and Caliber, it would be that they’re a company that cares about giving back.