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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Taken from TimeZone and a couple of other grading systems. The text descriptions in these grading systems don't help me much. I'm always flipping back and forth to look at the criteria. Does a watch have to be running to rate GOOD? Does it have to be fully original to rate VG? You get the point... aahh, but a chart!

Does this chart make sense to everyone? I think it is accurate but welcome suggestions. Also welcome additions to correct or flesh out the criteria.

Master Grading Chart
Grade
Originality
Gen. Condition
DNS*
Runs
Timekeeping
Comments
Overall Cond.
New
100%
New, flawless.
None
Yes
Working perfectly, needs no service or regulation.
Watch is unworn.
100%
LNIB
100%
Flawless
None
Yes
Working perfectly, needs no service or regulation.
Watch looks to be unworn.
100%
Mint
100%
Almost flawless; may have been expertly restored or repaired.
Eye-clean; need loupe to see scratches. No dings/nicks.
Yes
Working perfectly, needs no service or regulation.
Very little use;
98-99%
Near Mint
100%
Minor handling blemishes.
Eye-clean; need loupe to see any scratches. No dings or nicks.
Yes
Working perfectly, needs no service or regulation.
May not be Mint b/c missing box & papers.
93-97%
Excellent
100%; maybe some OEM replacements.
Evident wear to naked eye on head & bracelet.
Scratches are light, more numerous than near mint. No dings or nicks.
Yes
Working perfectly, needs no service or regulation.
Looks to have been used very little.
88-92%
Very Good
Original case, dial & movement. May have replacement crystal, hands. Any redial is of high quality.
Movement may have minor stain but only minor scratches. Dial may need refinishing.
Scratches are evident to the eye. No dings or nicks.
Yes
Keeps good time, but may need minor regulation or routine servicing.
Shows normal wear by a careful owner, no abuse.
83-87%
Good
Case and movement are original. May not have all original parts. No pieces are missing.
No brassing. May have low-quality redial. Original dial may have hairline marks that are difficult to see but don't need a loupe. No rust or chipping on the dial.
Case may show dings, nicks or deep scratches, but dings and nicks not deep or through the plating.
Yes
May need routine servicing or regulation.
Wear evident
77-82%
Fair
Dial, case & movement may not be original, No pieces are missing.
Dial, case and movement show wear. Dial may have hairline marks and small chips. May see rust in movement. May show light brassing or corrosion.
There may be many dings, nicks and scratches, not too deep.
Yes, but perhaps not well.
May require service or even restoration. Not junk but needs lots of work to be made wearable.
Cosmetically rough, shows abuse. Often a working watch.
72-76%
Poor
May have missing or many non-original parts. May need replacement of dial, crystal or movement parts.
Dial may have serious staining, rust or chips. Crystal may have deep scratches or chips, may be discolored. May see rust, brassing or plate flaking.
There may be deep dings, nicks and scratches. Case is severely worn.
NO
May require complete restoration or new movement.
Shows major damage or wear. Cosmetically very rough.
66-71%
Scrap
A collection of parts. Some pieces usually missing.
Movement shows some rust or corrosion. Case shows brassing and rust.
May have significant dings, nicks & scratches.
NO
May require complete restoration or new movement.
Many would call it junk.
< 66%
* Dings, nicks and scratches. Scratches are more common than DN and usually happen much faster. Dings and nicks are signs of banging the watch around a lot or a LOT of wrist time.

I don't find the overall condition percentages too helpful. Could a watch's overall condition be 92.5 but not quite 93%? Hmmm. Makes more sense to me to use the condition and originality criteria.

What do you think? Comments welcome, no flame suit required.

brash
 

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i've seen people describe their watches as "TZ 97%" only to see the pictures of extremely scratched up bezels, bands, wrist gunk on the bottom, etc... in the end, pictures are what matter the most.
 

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Now I understand what it means when it says "93-94%" "98% !"

I thought it was some sort of scaling system but I was like, "ummm how is 94-96-70% supposed to help me ?" but now it all makes sens !

Thanks !
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I thought it was some sort of scaling system but I was like, "ummm how is 94-96-70% supposed to help me ?" but now it all makes sens !

Thanks !
The percentages make little sense to me, either, except for the higher grades. A collection of parts is 65% and below, for example; but GOOD is 77-82%. Really? 12 points higher for a GOOD watch than a handful of parts?

Can you see two guys arguing - - no way that watch is 74%, it's not a hair over 71! The text descriptions are more helpful. If a watch merits GOOD, for example, it better be running and keeping time, even if it needs routine servicing or even regulation.
 

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I'm a regular seller both on Ebay and on message boards(although not here, as there's not much of a market for the kind of stuff I sell here).

I've never used a grading system for watches, and most of my friends who sell the same kind of stuff as I do don't use one either. In fact, most of us detest grading systems, and wouldn't use one even if there was a standard.

Watches are a very complex subject, and IMO it's far more effective to just give a good description of everything that's wrong rather than try to box them into artificial categories that describe the condition less effectively than my descriptions do.

I combine this with good, clear pictures and I've had happy buyers!

To give an idea of what I'm talking about, here's the text of my description from a recent Ebay sale.

You are bidding on an Elgin 18 size, 21j 3/4 plate Father Time grade watch.

The movement runs, although the amplitude is a bit low and it would probably benefit from cleaning. The watch consistently ran about 1 min/day fast when running, but kept close time within a minute or so when I carried it for a few days(I'm guessing that the poise is probably off, although I didn't put it on the timing machine). There's a little bit of corrosion on the winding wheels and on the regulator scale. There are several bad scratches around one of the case screws.

The case is not original to the movement, although it is a "thin" model case that will only hold one of these 3/4 plate movements and not a standard full plate. The crystal is glass and looks good. There is an inlaid train on the back, although it's badly worn. The back and bezel screw on and off smoothly. There are a couple of edge dings.

The double sunk dial is beautiful. The only issue I see is a forked hairline under the second bit through the 30 minute marker. The hands are a nice, bright blue with a bit of corrosion on the spade of the minute hand.
And, here's another website that I think offers the gold standard in descriptions without using grades: FHwatch

(disclaimer: I know Fred personally and consider him to be a friend, although I've also bought a whole lot of watches from him over the years I've been collecting)
 

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Yeah, there is a lot of inflation on grading.
I try to do the opposite. That way, (hopefully) the buyer isn't disappointed, even if they're more critical.

I've seen more watches that were rated "90%" or "nearly perfect" etc., that needed a cosmetic restoration, than I care to mention - unfortunately.

Good macro pics are a must, when either buying or selling, IMO. They can go a long way toward clearing up potential discrepancies between subjective grading.

I like the TZ system, because it offers something against which to judge the watch's condition. There will always be subjective differences in grading so, as always, buy the seller then, the watch.
 

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Actually, I think this chart would just create confusion, as it differs from the TZ grading. Using TZ, there should be no nicks or dings until something is graded as "good". Since they use the same descriptors, and percentages, changing the actual requirements doesn't make sense to me. That being said, many sellers grade there watch as "95% excellent", and then it shows up with a ding....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Actually, I think this chart would just create confusion, as it differs from the TZ grading. Using TZ, there should be no nicks or dings until something is graded as "good". Since they use the same descriptors, and percentages, changing the actual requirements doesn't make sense to me. That being said, many sellers grade there watch as "95% excellent", and then it shows up with a ding....
Good point; I fixed the DNS column to show no dings or nicks until GOOD. Other grading systems allow them as long as the D&N are only visible with a loupe. No dings or nicks AT ALL is a pretty high standard for a VG watch! Thanks for the comment.
 

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Really good try.
I can't get over the percentages, which look to be based on, but not exactly in accord with, TZ. Because, to me, 50% is a watch that barely works, and that's it. So "a collection of parts" or "junk" should be less than 50%. And thus, I feel like the rest of the scale is off. But that's not your fault.

I wonder if it would make it easier to have a numerical grading system for each of the categories you've identified. Because that's an easier and more precise way of describing condition than "Excellent" or "94%." What if the watch is perfect, but has one big ding? Do you move down to "good," the least common denominator? What's the deduction in percentages?

Originality
Case Condition ("Gen Condition + DNS")
Movement
Bracelet or Strap Condition


You could either do it by numbers, or by letter grades, or by letters/symbols, or by some combination, like diamonds (Carat weight in numbers, color in letters, clarity in a mixture of numbers and letters).

Here's my "combo" idea:

Originality: O= Original, 100%; OR= Original Restoration -- some OEM replacements; R=Restoration -- Replacement crystal, hands, bridge; M=Modified (this could either be good or bad quality, but it's intended to show an intentional departure from the original design by a modifier); F=Franken, or Missing, or otherwise unoriginal; U=Unknown;

Case Condition: Number from 1-5 describing the overall condition, letters indicating any exceptions or explanations. 1 = New, 2 = mint worn; 3= regular wear; 4= abused or heavy wear; 5 = trashed. HS=Numerous, Visable Scratches; LS=Light Scratches; SS=Singular scratch (visible to the naked eye --useful for when everything is fine except for this one scratch) HD=Highly, Visably Dinged; LD=Lightly dinged, a few, non, deep dings; SD=Singular Ding or nick somewhere.

Movement: Letter Grades, from A-F. A = Perfect, brand new or performing better than spec, B= Within Spec, no service needed; C=Out of spec, may need service, but is working; D=Requires service to be wearable; F=Parts

Strap Condition -- Same as case condition.

Accessories: ++ for all accessories that came with the watch; + for box; no indication for just the watch;


So the Poljot Aviator I have for sale in the Sales Corner would be
O 3LsLd B 3+

It looks confusing, but when you consider that we look at diamonds that are .89Carat I VVS2, I would think it wouldn't be hard to start some sort of grading system like this, eh?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Good macro pics are a must, when either buying or selling, IMO. They can go a long way toward clearing up potential discrepancies between subjective grading.

I like the TZ system, because it offers something against which to judge the watch's condition. There will always be subjective differences in grading so, as always, buy the seller then, the watch.
Good macro pics are the key, so the buyer can decide condition; no doubt about that. But how often are pics that good? I've picked up many a bargain b/c the seller couldn't be bothered or just couldn't take decent picks or do a thorough description. Sometimes that is a scam giveaway, but it has signaled many a bargain for me.

Even with good pics, though, you still have to apply some yardstick to see if you agree with the seller's grading, of if the seller is really trying to put one over.

Funny, isn't it, that sellers never under-grade but always over-grade.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm a regular seller both on Ebay and on message boards(although not here, as there's not much of a market for the kind of stuff I sell here).

I've never used a grading system for watches, and most of my friends who sell the same kind of stuff as I do don't use one either. In fact, most of us detest grading systems, and wouldn't use one even if there was a standard.

Watches are a very complex subject, and IMO it's far more effective to just give a good description of everything that's wrong rather than try to box them into artificial categories that describe the condition less effectively than my descriptions do.

I combine this with good, clear pictures and I've had happy buyers!
First, what's the difference? Aren't people mentally translating the more elaborate descriptions of condition into mint or whatever anyway, since condition matters in collectibles?

Second, why not both? I'm just concerned with a grading system as a metric of both condition and value. There is no reason the description cannot be as detailed as the seller wants, and the more comprehensive, the better; I fully agree. In fact I sell on the bay the same way you do, very good and detailed pics and a really complete description that is mouth-watering but fair. (I don't sell junk or fakes so I don't have to lie.) Like Reese's, the combo is better.

I also like to see the seller's grading to see how accurate (truthful) he/she is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Really good try. I can't get over the percentages, which look to be based on, but not exactly in accord with, TZ. Because, to me, 50% is a watch that barely works, and that's it. So "a collection of parts" or "junk" should be less than 50%. And thus, I feel like the rest of the scale is off. But that's not your fault.
First - and everybody please listen to his - thank you, Perdendosi, for a detailed and thoughtful reply. I'd like to see more of these than what's on the wrist today!!

I'm torn about TZ. I don't think it is complete enough (hardly mentions things like corrosion, brassing and such; and there ARE dings that really can only be seen with a loupe, tiny little suckers; but dings nonetheless. They should not reduce an otherwise NM piece to GOOD!!!!!

I wonder if it would make it easier to have a numerical grading system for each of the categories you've identified. Because that's an easier and more precise way of describing condition than "Excellent" or "94%." What if the watch is perfect, but has one big ding? Do you move down to "good," the least common denominator? What's the deduction in percentages?

Originality
Case Condition ("Gen Condition + DNS")
Movement
Bracelet or Strap Condition

You could either do it by numbers, or by letter grades, or by letters/symbols, or by some combination, like diamonds (Carat weight in numbers, color in letters, clarity in a mixture of numbers and letters).

Here's my "combo" idea:

Originality: O= Original, 100%; OR= Original Restoration -- some OEM replacements; R=Restoration -- Replacement crystal, hands, bridge; M=Modified (this could either be good or bad quality, but it's intended to show an intentional departure from the original design by a modifier); F=Franken, or Missing, or otherwise unoriginal; U=Unknown;

Case Condition: Number from 1-5 describing the overall condition, letters indicating any exceptions or explanations. 1 = New, 2 = mint worn; 3= regular wear; 4= abused or heavy wear; 5 = trashed. HS=Numerous, Visable Scratches; LS=Light Scratches; SS=Singular scratch (visible to the naked eye --useful for when everything is fine except for this one scratch) HD=Highly, Visably Dinged; LD=Lightly dinged, a few, non, deep dings; SD=Singular Ding or nick somewhere.

Movement: Letter Grades, from A-F. A = Perfect, brand new or performing better than spec, B= Within Spec, no service needed; C=Out of spec, may need service, but is working; D=Requires service to be wearable; F=Parts

Strap Condition -- Same as case condition.

Accessories: ++ for all accessories that came with the watch; + for box; no indication for just the watch;

So the Poljot Aviator I have for sale in the Sales Corner would be
O 3LsLd B 3+

It looks confusing, but when you consider that we look at diamonds that are .89Carat I VVS2, I would think it wouldn't be hard to start some sort of grading system like this, eh?
Good idea - sounds like what they do sometimes with pocket watches, which is to start with a grade of 10 and then deduct points for each defect, so a 2-point watch is a junker. I like your idea to do a number grade for dial, case, movement and maybe band. That may be too involved, and people who market lots of used watches are not gonna go for it; takes too much time. There has to be a balance between usefulness and how much time is required, but I have seen watches described as - for example - NM on the exterior, VG on movement. Would it be THAT much trouble for professionals to do it, since they do the same thing with a mental inventory when they evaluate a piece? Start with a 10-pt band and knock off points for aging, slack, scratching, whatever.

I like thorough descriptions that cover the waterfront on movement, dimensions, condition, originality, etc. How many times have we seen ebay listings that don't even say whether the watch is running or keeps time? I looked at 3 listings in a row a while ago, none of which listed case diameter, forcing potential buyers in each case to ask. But you and I are not speaking to the herd, but to the WIS on this forum. We ain't typical and we ain't pied pipers.

I don't have a problem per se with TZ, but their descriptions are very incomplete and I find the percentage grades useless, although a 98-100 must be in great condition. But 71 vs 78%? What if the watch exterior is EXC except for a dial that is heavily aged/spotted or that shows radium-blotching? For example, TZ-VG says "scratches are evident, but no nicks or dings." What is evident? Holding it up to my eye? Able to see it from across the dinner table? Need a loupe? Very frustrating and lazy. TZ was one of if not the first to promulgate a grading scale and it got hardened into stone.

Found several other grading schemes:

Antiquorum (very similar to your proposal and used for high-end auction pieces)
TimePast (good thoughts on grading dials)
Antiquorum explained better

Still, TZ is widely used and it would be difficult to supplant it with another standard. This is why I worked from the TZ, b/c no matter what we come up with on the forum it is probably not going to take over, lol; especially since a lot of WUS members seem to think it is a waste of time. My real goal was to put the TZ scale - somewhat fleshed out - in chart form for easier comparison and save time.

Thanks again for a very cool comment.
 

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First, what's the difference? Aren't people mentally translating the more elaborate descriptions of condition into mint or whatever anyway, since condition matters in collectibles?
The problem I have with any grading system(and why I refuse to use one) is that any grade assigned is just an arbitrary value that lumps together factors that might or might not carry the same weight with different collectors. I(and the collectors I know) don't care about a one-word condition description, most of us are concerned with how a watch presents.

As a prime example, I collect and deal almost entirely in watches that have fired enamel dials. These are dials that are known to chip and crack, and can have other problems come up with them. The attempts at grading scales I've seen for these typically assign some sort of deduction for a hairline or edge chip. The problem with this is that when I'm buying one, the amount I devalue based on a hairline depends on the location of it-i.e. I will devalue a dial less for a small hairline at 6:00 than I will for one that runs all the way across the dial from 10:00 to 2:00. Similarly, an edge chip that is hidden or nearly hidden by the bezel is a lot less significant to me than a chip at the edge of the seconds bit.

Try to develop a grading scale that accounts for all of the potential factors, and you end up with something that is a lot more complicated than just describing what's wrong in the first place! And, that's the principle problem I've run into with the auction houses and Ebay sellers I've seen who have tried to develop their own grading system-I spend more time consulting the grading guidelines than I spend looking at the items. At least one high volume Ebay seller I'm familiar with has a page-long list of qualifiers that they tack onto their grades, and end up just turning the listing into a mess.

One of the most prolific horological auction houses at least here in the United States is Jones Horan. They don't use grades, but just give an honest critical evaluation of condition that cuts right to the meat. Here's a good example from one of their recent sales

Waltham 5-minute repeater model 1872 (without exposed winding wheels), 16S (special size for model 1872 repeater), HC mvt in GF OF original (see condition report) Wadsworth case, SW-LS, WE-SSD, lever escapement, 17J, GJS, gold train, plain parallel pattern NI damascene, s#3793881, among the very last waltham repeaters produced
CONDITION: Mvt: NR, will tick but should not be wound until cleaned, good staff, very gummy, repeat mechanism is complete but the repeat is so gummy that it only intermittently releases, causing the watch to run its chime for several minutes and not necessarily run down; the governor train is concealed so it cannot be tested after quick lubrication, a complete OH is certainly necessary; somewhat bright plates show some localized corrosion speckle or etching, a number of MFS, good slots & settings with minimal marring, tiny oxide on bright work with rust bloom on gongs; snap-on dial has hl from 12 through center; hands original with some rust bloom on hour; the case looks like a recased improvisation, but is actually original; these cases were manufactured without cuvette as an inexpensive way to market unsold repeating mvts; numbers of identical cases of this type have been seen on waltham repeaters, including one of the few known minute repeaters from a special lot of ten unusual repeaters (yours truly personally inspected that GF OF HC minute repeating watch, and owned the first HC minute repeater ever found by the collector community which he sold to the Time Museum collection in 1977); the slide tail has been broken off without affecting slide function; case shows very light wear, some MFS, no dents or dings; bow good, crown shows very light wear; good glass crystal; a nice original GF example in need of complete overhaul, polishing, and slide restoration
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The problem I have with any grading system(and why I refuse to use one) is that any grade assigned is just an arbitrary value that lumps together factors that might or might not carry the same weight with different collectors. I(and the collectors I know) don't care about a one-word condition description, most of us are concerned with how a watch presents.

As a prime example, I collect and deal almost entirely in watches that have fired enamel dials. These are dials that are known to chip and crack, and can have other problems come up with them. The attempts at grading scales I've seen for these typically assign some sort of deduction for a hairline or edge chip. The problem with this is that when I'm buying one, the amount I devalue based on a hairline depends on the location of it-i.e. I will devalue a dial less for a small hairline at 6:00 than I will for one that runs all the way across the dial from 10:00 to 2:00. Similarly, an edge chip that is hidden or nearly hidden by the bezel is a lot less significant to me than a chip at the edge of the seconds bit.

Try to develop a grading scale that accounts for all of the potential factors, and you end up with something that is a lot more complicated than just describing what's wrong in the first place! And, that's the principle problem I've run into with the auction houses and Ebay sellers I've seen who have tried to develop their own grading system-I spend more time consulting the grading guidelines than I spend looking at the items. At least one high volume Ebay seller I'm familiar with has a page-long list of qualifiers that they tack onto their grades, and end up just turning the listing into a mess.

One of the most prolific horological auction houses at least here in the United States is Jones Horan. They don't use grades, but just give an honest critical evaluation of condition that cuts right to the meat. Here's a good example from one of their recent sales
You've made some good points and are making real common sense. A one-word grade in and of itself verges on useless. But who does that? Almost always when I see a watch grade, there also is a description of some kind.

But, I disagree that a one-word grade for overall condition is irrelevant, because to me it is a guide. If I hear FAIR or POOR, I'm gone; because I don't work on watches. [My fingers are like summer sausages, or something.) On the other hand, VG, EXC or NM gets my attention. In fact, so does GOOD, but I know it is more likely to have issues. So I think the one-word grade has a real descriptive value. And the actual description gives me more info and lets me evaluate the seller's acuity and honesty.

Hey everybody, I'm NOT arguing in favor of a one-word TZ-type grade instead of a thorough description. Why not both? I don't think grading systems are going away. I support a very thorough description PLUS a an overall grade verified by the description.
 

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Good macro pics are a must, when either buying or selling, IMO. They can go a long way toward clearing up potential discrepancies between subjective grading.

I like the TZ system, because it offers something against which to judge the watch's condition. There will always be subjective differences in grading so, as always, buy the seller then, the watch.
Yep. While I always assign a TZ grade to the watch and strap/bracelet being sold, I try to provide a good description and lots of detailed photos. The OP's system is a good one, but the fundamental flaw to any such system is the subjective nature of grading. Given that, a set of good photos will always be the best grading system available.
 

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A subjective grading system, like this, should be a supplement, or one of multiple descriptors. IME, a series of several clear, macro pics is one of the best.
 
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