Chrono24 is a platform, a marketplace; it does not buy watches, it does not sell watches, it does not refurbish watches. It does not even check or authenticate the watches for sale on its site.
Its light touch model has helped it to rapidly grow and reach a global audience that its CEO Tim Stracke told WatchPro in 2018 represented one in three luxury watch customers world-wide.
But connecting a network of 3,000 professional watch sellers with millions of watch customers around the world means it has never acquired the expertise on how to buy, service and repair the pre-owned watches it promotes. It is a data company, not a retailer.
That is about to change following Chrono24’s acquisition of a majority stake in Zeitauktion, a pre-owned watch dealer. Like Chrono24, the company is headquartered in Germany.
By working closely with Zeitauktion, which has sold watches on Chrono24 for many years, the company says it hopes to gain a better understanding and more insights into the dealer’s business and processes.
“After researching the global industry, we are truly delighted to finally work closer with Zeitauktion,” says Mr Stracke. “Stephan [Sohn, CEO of Zeitauktion] has built a super-efficient business based on great technology that will promote synergy with Chrono24. We are really happy that Stephan and his excellent team are now closely bound to Chrono24. Our combined forces now number 250 people. This partnership will play an integral role in further developing the CPO (certified pre-owned) business segment.”
The acquisition also brings Chrono24 into closer alignment with major Swiss watchmakers because Zeitauktion is an authorized service center for Omega, Rado, Longines, IWC and Cartier.
These brands are happy to see a healthy market for second hand and vintage watches, but not for brand new watches sloshing around the world on the gray market.
“With Swiss brands entering the pre-owned watch trade, we believe it’s never been more important to provide a first-class experience to our users and buyers,” says Mr Stracke. “We can already provide this to some degree, but working with Zeitauktion allows us to learn first-hand the level of service that is possible and improve the service for all our dealers on our platform accordingly.”
Chrono24 and Zeitauktion will create an Innovation Lab to test new products and services. The focus will be on the areas of authenticity checks, logistics & international shipping, watch service and repair, and communication with dealers and customers.
As watch brands create and formalize certified pre-owned programs, Chrono24 wants to be front of the queue to sell their watches as an authorized partner. It also wants to add the option for dealers and individuals to sell watches directly to Zeitauktion via its platform.
Acquiring one of Germany’s largest pre-owned dealers calls into question the independence of Chrono24, which cannot be seen to favor one dealer over another on its platform. Responding to the issue, the compan says that, beyond their cooperative goals, both companies will continue to run their businesses independently of each other. “The majority acquisition of Zeitauktion will have no impact on the neutrality of Chrono24’s marketplace,” a joint statement says.