IF you have ever wondered if that old watch gathering dust in a drawer might be worth a few bob, then a chat with Martin Dunn might be in order.

The market for quality second-hand timepieces is buoyant right now as more and more people decide to cash in on family heirlooms and unwanted gifts. Martin, 38, from Redcar, east Cleveland, is watch manager at North-East pawnbroker Ramsdens.

WHAT is the most expensive watch that someone has brought in?

Pretty much every day of the week we get watches that cost £5,000 to £7,000. Gold prices are high at the moment so that helps to bump up the value of the higher-end watches. We see Longines, Breitling, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer, vintage pieces, you name it. There is always something different.

I’ve even dealt with a £14,000 18-carat gold Rolex.

Sometimes, people come into a branch looking to trade up on their own watch for one we have on display. There is usually a deal that can be done. That is one of the aspects of the job I enjoy most.

We trade through our branches and also online. One of our branches recently sold a Rolex that was encrusted with diamonds. In fact, there were so many gems on it you’d struggle to use it to tell the time. Ones like that have a very limited market because not many people want a big bit of bling on their wrist, but it was an amazing watch.

How can you tell a fake from the real thing?

Weight is often a giveaway.

The overall quality of the materials and workmanship that has been used is another obvious sign. It is very rare that we get hit with any fakes. I think that people are deterred because we are known for carrying out a series of very rigorous checks to make sure people aren’t passing off something that isn’t kosher.

How do you avoid handling stolen goods?

We work closely with the police.

They keep us regularly informed of items that have been stolen. We circulate pictures of stolen watches to our branches, so staff can be on the lookout. You have to use your common sense. If a young lad comes in with a £5,000 Rolex that he wants to pawn then you immediately start asking questions.

How has the recession affected business?

The market is very strong right now. I was branch manager at Ramsdens, in Coulby Newham, which is where I started building up my knowledge of the watch market. It is a side of the business that has really taken off.

If items need to be repaired or cleaned I can do our minor repairs, buffing and strap replacements.

For more complicated specialist work we outsource the repair and the watch comes back as good as new.

It is sad to see watches come in that have an inscription on the back that says something like: “Best wishes, love you always”, and here it is being sold. People bring things in that they got as a birthday or anniversary gift, but the relationship has broken down.