Into the Belly of the Beast: An Inside Look at eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee Process
To paraphrase the movie Tommy Boy (1995): You can get a look at a watch by taking off its case back and poking around – but we’d rather take the watchmaker’s word for it. Well, not many of us are qualified watchmakers – let alone know the ins and outs of the hundreds – nay thousands – of different watches made over the years.
So, it used to be that buying a timepiece on eBay was the Wild West of watches because those without intimate and detailed watch knowledge were left to their own devices to sleuth through pictures and determine what was right and wrong for themselves.
Then, a short while back, eBay sought to change all of that and introduced its Authenticity Guarantee service. Eligible watches sold on eBay for over $2,000 would be sent off to their expert authenticators who would check the piece to make sure it was legitimate and verified authentic before sending it on to the buyer.
Pretty simple, right?
Well, call us skeptical. So, as a team who has, over the past few years, handled thousands of watches and seen all the clever ways they get cut up, messed with, and put back together (with increasing creativity and convincingness), we wanted to see just how this process worked.
Fortunately, the kind folks at eBay were willing to grant that request, and we spent four days behind the eBay Authenticity Guarantee service curtain in Dayton, Ohio.
Dayton, Ohio: Stoll & Company
Anyone using eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee service since it launched in 2020 has noticed that your watch ends up doing a short layover flight to Dayton, Ohio. While this might seem strange to many, to those of us in the industry, we know it as the home of Stoll & Company.
Led by legendary watchmaker Ron Stoll, the company operates a highly sophisticated service center that does everything from the distribution and repair of brand-new watches to maintenance and repair for retailers and brands from around the world.
But this is no small operation; it has multiple clean rooms and air filtration systems. And it’s at the back of the facility, in a separate area near Ron’s office, where eBay authentication happens.
The Authentication Process
So how does it work? While there are a few simple steps, the expertise of Stoll & Co. staff is anything but simple.
First, to keep a thorough record of what comes out of the box, the watch received by Stoll & Co. from the seller is unboxed on camera. At this time, the timepiece gets a unique code that stays with it during its time at the facility.
The watch then moves from receiving into the watchmaker’s cleanroom, where the caseback is opened, the movement is checked for its authenticity, and to ensure it’s functioning as described.
If it receives a passing grade from the cleanroom, the timepiece then moves to the authenticator’s desk. The authenticator inspects the watch – plus any boxes and papers for both authenticity and collateral – and checks the piece against the eBay listing to ensure it matches the description. Which means that if your watch is described as brand new, and the authenticator sees obvious signs of wear, it will not pass.
Again, if the watch makes it past the authenticator’s expert eye, Stoll & Co. then generates custom physical and digital documentation attesting to the watch’s authenticity. Finally, it is packed in premium eBay packaging and shipped to the lucky buyer via secure, expedited, signature-required delivery.
Amazingly – and apologies for burying the lead a bit– but all of this happens within a day or so. Thus, not delaying the excitement we all feel when a watch is on the way.
If the buyer makes a return – the whole authentication process happens again to protect the sellers the same way the buyers were protected. This time, however, the team verifies that the watch is being returned to the seller in the same condition that it was originally shipped to the buyer.
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming response to the Authenticity Guarantee service has been so positive that transactions have increased on the platform as buyers feel that somebody has their back in the watch buying process. In fact, earlier this year, eBay responded by rolling out an opt-in service for watches priced between $1-$2k for the nominal cost of $80 (plus tax) so that buyers within this all price points can get the full Authenticity Guarantee experience and peace of mind that comes with it.
Documenting the Process
Like we said earlier, you can get a look at a watch by taking off its case back and poking around – but we’d rather take the watchmaker’s word for it. So we documented the process and will let the watchmakers walk you through it as Ron and Emily Stoll and the eBay Authentication team show you how a combined 400 years of watch experience are hard at work to make sure your next eBay purchase is exactly what you wanted.
For more information about eBay's Authenticity Guarantee, visit ebay.com/AuthenticWatches.
(Video by Watchonista. Images © eBay)