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The most obvious way to guarantee you are getting an authentic watch is to visit an authorized dealer of the brand. These authorized dealers can not offer the value from reduced pricing that many consumers look for. Also, the industry is known for high employee turn-over, so many of these salespeople are not as well educated as they should be for if you are paying retail.
Many people are aware of much better deals that can be found on authentic Swiss watches on the Internet... But that can be scary since you usually must pay for the watch ahead of time, sight unseen.
Message forums, auctions, and on-line dealer websites are the 3 primary sources for finding deals on the web.
On dealer websites, look for things like testimonials, site reviews, and ratings such as those found on E-Bay or Pricegrabber. Another tip is to use Who Is to investigate the domain name or Alexa to check the page rank.
Message forums are generally individuals selling their watches. Some of the best prices can be found here, but these sellers are usually the most difficult to build trust with. Also, these individuals will generally need payment with some sort of cash equivalent, so there is no recourse from the credit card companies if the watch does not show up... Or if it arrives in a condition other than they stated... Or if it's the wrong watch all together.
The message forums are a good place to find respectable dealers, or post a question about a dealer you are interested in dealing with. Most of the on-line dealers we are aware of have been selling on the web for more than 5 years now. They should be able to offer references. Rotating inventory and a regularly updated site are also good signs. Watch out for sites that have pictures that appear they were scanned from a catalog. Unique pictures of the watches, from different angles shows what you will actually receive if you order from them... And that they actually have the watch in their possession. Another thing to watch out for is pieces with the serial number removed. We have more information on that practice below.
One thing to keep in mind, the credit card companies are on the consumer's side. If there is a genuine dispute, you can generally get the funds credited back to your account.