I think it’s clear that I’m a fan of the Heuer Camaro at this point. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, and I acknowledge that, but I also think it’s a model that has to be worn on the wrist before judgment can truly be rendered. After buying my first Camaro (story here), I added it to my list of nightly searches in hopes that I would be able to add another one to the collection. It took nine months, but I would eventually add not one, but two more Camaros in the same week (the other one can be found here). This particular Camaro was found on eBay, and was listed as a Buy It Now from a seller in Argentina.
Here is the point where I feel the need to add a disclaimer to this story: do not do this if you’re self-aware enough to know you’re a terrible judge of people, or if you don’t have significant experience buying watches online. The following is not always advisable and it’s the easiest way to get in trouble. Alright, on to the story.
I submitted an offer that was ~25% below the Buy It Now price (not far from the true market value to begin with). The seller wrote back that he couldn’t accept the offer as presented, but if sent via direct wire, he could meet my price. Now, that fact alone would cause many, many buyers to run for the hills. Guy in Argentina? Terrible quality pictures in the listing with two sentences of detail? Accepts bank wire for a price that’s 25% below market value? All red flags. But quite honestly, in this hyper-competitive buying environment for fresh-to-market pieces, I’m willing to push the envelope a little bit. Though simple, I think it would be helpful to discuss how I “buy the seller” in a situation like this. It has always worked for me, but remember the disclaimer up above!
- Look at their eBay profile (or forum profile). Do they sell items of similar value? Do they have an actual eBay store? What does the feedback say? In this case, the seller had over 2,000 items sold and operated a store through eBay. While the wire request introduced some risk, it was clear that he had listed the Camaro with the expectation that it would sell through eBay and be paid for with PayPal. Some people mean what they say, and in this case, I judged that he was truly ambivalent about the selling venue as long as it netted him the same price.
- Talk to them. You can learn a surprising amount about people through just a few emails. If they reply quickly and with decent detail to normal questions, it alleviates a lot of hand-wringing. Another tip is to ask a question multiple times or in different ways – if they don’t answer the same way or become easily irritated, be ready to walk away. This seller was courteous in all of his replies, quick to respond, and was able to produce additional pictures of the watch from various angles.
- Gather as much information as possible. Google their name. Look for them on Instagram. Ask for references. If none of that can provide comfort, don’t be afraid to walk away. In this case, I didn’t ask for references due to the seller’s eBay history, Instagram feed, and replies to my emails. For someone with less of a track record, however, references would be a necessary step.
None of the above is rocket science, but in this case, it all worked out. I received the watch in the exact same condition as the pictures and it has kept perfect time. I’ll eventually send it off to the watchmaker, but for now, I plan to wear the hell out of it, so be prepared to see it on the Instagram feed quite often.
The Nitty Gritty
Everything about this example screams “original.” The patented sunburst finishing of the Camaro case is still vividly present, and the patina on the dial and hands is a wonderful, deep yellow color that could be a product of spending its life in the Southern Hemisphere until now. The silver dial is unblemished, and the tachy track is in perfect shape. One of the true beauties of this find is the movement / caseback. While the gasket has dried and there is some gunk around the edges of the case, the Valjoux 72 movement itself is truly untouched and there are no service markings on the caseback. I’m inclined to believe that it’s never been touched by a watchmaker, and for vintage enthusiasts, it gets no better than that.