Should I Buy a Watch Without Papers? Buyers should know this!


One of the biggest debates in the watch collecting community is the importance of the box and papers. Some collectors say they are not important enough to deter them from buying a watch, while others say they would not touch a watch without its box and papers. But why are these items so important, and should you buy a watch without them?

There are many reasons why a watch might not have its original box and papers, so these items alone do not always guarantee authenticity. However, having these accessories may increase the resale value of your watch.

Continue reading to learn more about what is meant by the term box and papers and whether you should consider buying a watch without them.

Rolex watch with papers

Box and Papers?

The box and papers have been at the center of many heated debates within the watch collecting community, but what exactly are they?

The box is, as the name suggests, the box that the watch comes in. However, these are not just any old boxes. They are prestigious and come lined with expensive materials such as leather. There are often two boxes—the outer box and the display box—and some will have lettering that shows which company sold the watch. Some watches come with the original box, while others may have had their original box replaced with one that is engraved with the store’s name instead.

The papers are a bit more important than the box itself. What type of papers you can expect to receive with your wristwatch depends on the brand, but buyers might expect to receive:

  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Warranty Card
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Manual
  • Purchase Receipts
  • Service Histories
  • Other/Advertisements

Are The Box and Papers Important?

If you are buying the watch to wear, with no plans of ever reselling it, these things might not be as important. However, there are a few reasons why you should try to get the papers for your watch whenever possible.

Authenticity

One of the things that will often come with a watch is a certificate of authenticity, and in a world where counterfeits are common, this is always nice to have. However, these documents can be forged as well, and the presence of papers does not always guarantee that the watch is authentic. If the watch is missing the certificate, the original recipe may be enough to prove its authenticity.

Warranty

Having the warranty information can come in handy if you are buying a newer watch that is still within its warranty period. Some watch warranties will not transfer to a second owner, but many, including Rolex, will allow any remaining warranty time to transfer to a new owner.

Price

Watches that have their original box and papers will often sell for as much as 25% more than the same watch without papers. This is important to know for two reasons. First, you may be able to get a discount on a watch that does not have accessories, and second, you will know the value of your watch if you ever plan to sell it.

Desirability

Collectors will often look for watches that come with the full set because they know they will be easier to resell. So, if you are planning to sell the watch at any point in the future, you may want to look for something that comes with the papers.

History

Besides increasing the value of a watch, the papers can offer an amazing glance into the past. You might be able to see who first purchased the watch, when they bought it, and how much they paid for it. Additionally, some watches will come with old advertisements that tell you about the watch’s production.

Do All Real Watches Have Papers?

One of the biggest reasons that people might avoid buying a watch that no longer has its box and papers is because they believe the lack of these items means the watch is not real. But is this true?

While a lack of any documentation can be alarming, there are several reasons why a watch might not have these accessories.

  • People often walked out of the store wearing their watch and did not get a box.
  • The dealer may have kept the papers for the buyer.
  • The box or papers may have been misplaced or thrown away by the buyer.
  • The items might have become lost or destroyed during a move or disaster.
  • The watch was a gift and the papers were made out to someone else.
  • The buyer may have sold the box to a collector.
  • The dealer did not take the box back during a trade to save space.
  • The dealer replaced the box with one that displayed their branding.
  • The seller kept the papers because they had their information on them.
  • The dealer kept the box and papers to avoid having their name out on the gray market.
  • The watch was sold through a backdoor sale and the dealer kept the accessories to avoid trouble.
  • The gray market seller kept the box or papers to keep their source private.
  • The original dealer kept the warranty card for the buyer and the buyer never bothered to get it from them.

As you can see, there are many reasons why a watch might not have its original paperwork or box any longer, and this does not automatically mean the watch is not authentic. Additionally, if you are buying a watch, it is always a clever idea to have it verified before you buy it—even if it has papers.

Should I Buy a Watch Without Papers?

There are good arguments on both sides of this debate, and, at the end of the day, it really depends on your preferences. Buying a watch with all its accessories can add something special to the buying experience and help if you ever plan to resell the watch. Otherwise, if you simply want a watch to wear and do not care about the buying experience, buying a watch without its box or paperwork can be a good way to save a few dollars.

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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