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Pawning Your Timepiece: Do Pawn Shops Buy Watches?

The fast-paced world of pawnbroking is often shrouded in misconceptions. A common query that many have is, "do pawn shops buy watches?" The simple answer is yes. Whether it's a Rolex or a Casio, a timepiece is a valuable item that can be traded in for cash or a loan at a pawn shop. In this in-depth guide, we will walk you through the process of selling your watch to a pawn shop, and how to secure the best price for your timepiece.

Part 1: The Art of Pawning

Pawning, the age-old practice of exchanging goods for monetary loans, is a convenient way to secure a quick influx of cash. It offers an alternative to traditional lending avenues, providing a solution for those who require immediate funds.

On the surface, the process appears straightforward. A customer brings in a valuable item, such as a high-end watch, which the pawnbroker assesses. The pawnbroker then offers a loan based on the item's assessed value. If the customer agrees, the pawnbroker holds onto the item until the loan is repaid.

Do Pawn Shops Buy Watches in the UK?

The pawnbroking industry is widespread in the UK, with many establishments accepting a wide variety of items, including watches. This is particularly true for establishments such as E.J. Markham & Son Limited, a jeweller and pawnbroker located in Colchester’s bustling cultural quarter. Known for their exceptional customer service and fair valuations, they buy a variety of valuable items, including watches, for cash.

What kind of watches can I pawn?

Most pawnshops are interested in a wide variety of watches, from luxury brands to vintage timepieces and even some high-quality fashion watches such as Hublot. High-end luxury brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier are always in demand. These brands have a reputation for quality, longevity, and style, which makes them desirable for pawnbrokers. Even older models or pre-owned pieces from these brands can fetch a good price due to their resale value.

Here are some of the pros and cons of buying a modern luxury watch, these are the same factors that pawnbrokers have to keep in mind when buying vintage watches as well:

Pros of Buying a Modern Luxury Watch:

  1. Status Symbol: Luxury watches often serve as a status symbol, representing one's wealth and sophistication. For instance, brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe are globally recognized and admired. This makes the more 'modernb' luxury watch a bit easier to sell. 
  2. Craftsmanship: Luxury watches are highly regarded for their exquisite craftsmanship. Unlike vintage watches, this can be a semi-automated process with some watchmakers using machinery for various tasks in the watchmaking process, however, a 'factory' made watch can often be more durable as they are more likely to have improved weather sealing etc.
  3. Durability: With premium materials and meticulous craftsmanship, luxury watches are typically long-lasting and can withstand the test of time more than their cheaper counterparts.
  4. Investment Value: Some luxury watch models, particularly limited editions, can appreciate in value over time, making them a potentially profitable investment. The Rolex Daytona Paul Newman, for example, has seen its value skyrocket in recent years. 
  5. Emotional Value: A luxury watch can be a meaningful heirloom passed down through generations, having emotional worth apart from its monetary value. This might seem pointless to mention, but this does play a part in selling watches and prove to be the deciding factor for someone wanting to buy a luxury watch.

Cons of Buying a Modern Luxury Watch:

  1. High Initial Cost: Luxury watches can be quite expensive, with some brands and models costing tens of thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to many people. This also has to be considered by a pawnbroker as they may be sitting on a luxury watch for a long period of time without finding the right buyer. A pawnbroker will have to negotiate on their buying price to find a reasonable profit margin while selling the watch below retail price (and below other second hand dealers).
  2. Maintenance Costs: Luxury watches require regular servicing to maintain their performance and appearance, which can add a significant additional cost. 
  3. Potential for Depreciation: Not every luxury watch appreciates in value. Some models might depreciate, especially if they are not well-maintained or if the brand falls out of favor.
  4. Risk of Counterfeits: The luxury watch market is rife with counterfeits, and it can be challenging to distinguish a genuine watch from a fake one unless you are an expert. Vintage watches can also be a treasure trove for pawnshops. If you have a well-preserved timepiece from the mid-20th century or earlier, this could hold its value and may leave you with a nice profit.

These vintage pieces often have an air of nostalgia and a unique charm that many collectors appreciate. However, vintage watches may be more difficult to sell compared to a more recent Rolex due to the buyer's market being a bit more 'niche'.

Here are some of the pros and cons of buying a vintage watch, these are the same factors that pawnbrokers have to keep in mind when buying vintage watches as well:

Pros of Buying a Vintage Watch:

  1. Unique and Distinctive for niche buyers: Vintage watches typically have unique designs and aesthetics that are hard to find in modern timepieces. The distinctiveness of these watches can add a certain charm and character that can peak the interest for certain buyers. For example, a 1960s Omega Seamaster has a design that is quite different from today's versions. A vintage watch is technically anything older than 25-30 years old (when it was manufactured) however, depending on who you talk to within the watch industry, they may consider earlier watches (e.g. a 1920's Cartier watch) to be 'vintage'.
  2. Potential Investment: Some vintage watches can appreciate in value over time, making them a potential investment. Especially if the watch is from a well-known brand or has historical significance. For instance, vintage Rolex or Patek Philippe & Cartier watches often see their value increase over the years. Vintage watches are also more difficult to find, so your pool of buyers might be smaller, but once you find your target audience you can quickly become a popular figure.
  3. Craftsmanship: Many vintage watches showcase exemplary craftsmanship and quality that are often lacking in mass-produced modern watches. Each vintage watch may have been painstakingly crafted by hand, adding to its value and appeal. 4. Historical Significance: Owning a vintage watch can feel like owning a piece of history. For example, a watch from the World War II era could have historical significance and tell a story from that time period.

Cons of Buying a Vintage Watch:

  1. Maintenance and Repair: Due to their age, vintage watches might require more maintenance and repairs than new watches. Parts may be hard to find, and not all watchmakers are skilled in repairing vintage timepieces.
  2. Durability: Modern watches typically have more robust and durable designs with improved technology for shock resistance, water resistance, etc. Vintage watches might not be suitable for certain activities or environments due to their delicate nature.
  3. Lack of Modern Features: Vintage watches lack modern features like LED lighting, digital displays, GPS, and heart-rate monitors which are common in today's smartwatches.
  4. Uncertain Provenance: Unless you're buying from a trusted source, it can be difficult to authenticate a vintage watch. There are many counterfeit vintage watches on the market, making it challenging to ensure you're getting a genuine product.

But don't worry if you don't own a luxury or vintage watch. Modern watches from reputable brands like Seiko, Citizen, and Swatch can also be pawned. While they may not bring in as much money as luxury or vintage pieces, they still hold value and can provide you with the quick cash you need. Remember, the condition of your watch also plays an important role when pawning it. A watch in good working condition with minimal scratches or blemishes will get a better offer than one that is damaged or not working. So yes, the question "What kind of watches can I pawn?" has a broad answer. Whether it's a luxury timepiece passed down through generations or a modern watch you've worn every day, there's a good chance a pawnshop will be interested in it. In fact, pawning your watch can be an easy and effective way to secure some quick cash when you need it most!

Part 2: Understanding the Value of Your Watch

Before you rush off to your local pawn shop with your wristwatch, understanding its value is essential. The value of a watch can vary dramatically, influenced by factors like brand, model, age, and condition.

Brand and Model

The brand and model of your watch are critical factors in determining its value. For instance, luxury brands like Rolex, Omega, or Patek Philippe will typically fetch higher prices due to their reputation for quality, craftsmanship, and durability. Some models may also be in higher demand, adding to their value.

Age and Rarity

The age of your watch can also influence its value. Vintage watches, particularly those from renowned brands, can sometimes be worth more due to their rarity. However, this is not always the case. A watch's value can decrease if it is in poor condition or if the model is not sought after by collectors.


The condition of your watch is arguably one of the most crucial factors in determining its value. A watch in excellent condition will generally fetch a higher price than one that is damaged or heavily worn. This includes the functionality of the watch, as well as the condition of the strap, casing, and face.

Part 3: Preparing Your Watch for Sale

Before you visit a pawn shop, prepare your watch for sale to ensure you get the best offer.

Clean Your Watch

A clean watch will generally fetch a higher price than a dirty one. Clean your watch carefully, using a soft cloth and warm water. Avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage the watch.

Package It Professionally

If you have the original box and paperwork for your watch, bring these along to the pawn shop. This can help to verify the authenticity of your watch and could increase its value.

Replace the Batteries

If your watch is battery-operated, ensure it is in working order before you visit the pawn shop. This may involve replacing the batteries.

Part 4: Selling Your Watch

Now that your watch is in its best possible condition, it's time to sell it.

Research Pawn Shops

Not all pawn shops are created equal. Research local pawn shops to find one that is reputable and offers fair prices. Look for businesses with positive customer reviews and a good reputation within the community.

Know Your Watch's Value

Before you visit a pawn shop, research the current market value of your watch. This will provide a benchmark for negotiations and help you determine if you are receiving a fair offer.


Remember, the price a pawn shop offers for your watch is not set in stone. Don't be afraid to negotiate to achieve a price that you are happy with.

Part 5: Conclusion

In conclusion, pawn shops do buy watches, and with the right preparation and knowledge, you can ensure you get the best possible price for your timepiece. Whether you're looking to part with a luxury watch or a beloved timepiece, pawn shops offer a convenient, quick solution. Just remember to do your research, know your watch's value, and be prepared to negotiate.

If you're local to the Colchester area and need expert valuation or pawnbroking services, E.J. Markham & Son Limited is a trusted destination. With over 180 years in the business, they can provide expert advice and fair valuations. Visit them in-store or contact them online today.