Bob’s Watches, a business created just eight years ago in California, could sell second hand watches worth $45 million this year, according to its owner Paul Altieri.
We are the biggest buyer and seller of Rolex watches in the States,” Mr Altieri assures WatchPro, a claim we have not independently verified.
“From those early days it has grown like crazy. We did $32 million in sales last year and this year we are projected to do $42 to $45 million. That is a lot of watches,” he adds.
The market for pre-owned watches has been transformed by improvements to ecommerce platforms and the ability to use digital media for promotions and advertising.
There are almost as many business models as there are dealers in modern second hand and vintage timepieces, and Bob’s Watches has thrived due to a focus on giving customers what they want in an open and transparent way.
“Back in 2008 I started to get a sense that the pre-owned market was heating up. I kept hearing more and more from customers who wanted to know what their watches were worth, what I would pay for their watch, and what could they buy from me. I realised that there was no open source information on the prices of second hand watches, and whether they were getting fair offers for them from dealers. The Bob’s Watches idea evolved from there,” Mr Altieri recalls.
“I was just trying to solve a problem for customers by publishing fair prices that they could see,” he adds.
The business sells watches from most of the top Swiss watch brands, but Rolex dominates. “It was mostly Rolex, and Rolex dominates the pre-owned market. Rolex only has about 25% market share in the new watch market, but in the pre-owned space, they dominate it,” says Mr Altieri.
With the business doubling in size over the past two years, Bob’s Watches has outgrown its current premises in Huntington Beach, California, and is looking to move to half an hour down the coast to Newport Beach where Mr Altieri wants to take a 10,000 square foot space that can be used for the ecommerce office and a customer-facing retail unit.
Mr Altieri was expecting difficulties convincing city authorities that he needed to combine a large ecommerce business with a small retail space, but officials in Newport Beach surprised him with their willingness to help. “We have been down to the planning people at city hall and said that we need 10,000 square feet, but 90% of what we do is office-based. About 5% of what we do is walk-in retail. So we asked the planning people whether we need to be office or retail, and the feedback we got from them was that they wanted to be accommodating. They said to me they understand that there is a transformation going on out there in the marketplace, and they want to be accommodating. “We want you to move to Newport Beach, and we are not going to button you into office or retail,” they said.”