The secondary market for luxury watches is estimated to be worth anything from $5 billion to $15 billion per year.
The total size is so difficult to calculate because so much business is done by sole traders and small businesses buying and selling online and via social media (mainly WhatsApp these days, it seems).
The likes of Watchbox, Bob’s Watches and Watchfinder, which are starting to get brand recognition outside of the niche collectors’ community, are the exception, rather than the rule in a highly fragmented and unregulated market.
One company only trade professionals are likely to have come across is Boneta Inc., a business buying from and selling to retailers.
Almost all its inventory is luxury watches, with perhaps 1% comprised of branded jewelry, according to the company’s New York-based owner Erik Boneta (pictured top).
Mr Boneta says the business is turning over around $100 million in sales per year, with demand rising thanks to the secondary market rapidly gaining legitimacy.
What was once considered squalid and potentially illegal grey market trading is now a widely embraced part of the luxury watch ecosystem that brands and major retail groups want a piece of through certified pre-owned programs.
If we are in the middle of a gold rush for pre-owned luxury watches, Boneta is providing the picks and shovels rather than getting caught up in the fever.
Mr Boneta is keen to distance himself from being branded with a grey marketeer label and works with the biggest businesses in the industry to keep stock turning for retailers and brands.
“We buy direct from brands, retailers on aging inventory and store trade ins,” he explains, and is critical of flippers who just walk into stores looking for hot Rolexes. “We never ask retailers for new watches,” he states.
With a world-wide network of offices, Mr Boneta feels the time is right to step a little more into the light in order to stimulate more inquiries from the trade.
“We have inventory larger then most, and do $100 million-plus in sales every year consistently,” Mr Boneta reveals, making it one of the biggest watch dealers the world has never heard of.