Rob corder
WATCHPRO editor-in-chief and co-founder Rob Corder.

CORDER’S COLUMN: WatchBox has smashed through walls between primary and secondary markets

The 1916 Company, which is officially founded today, could become the biggest watch retailer in the world.

Cast your mind back to 2017, the year that WatchBox was founded.

It was a year before Richemont brought a veneer of respectability to the pre-owned luxury watch market when it bought UK-based Watchfinder for a rumoured £250 million.

Until then, everybody in the second hand watch business was treated as a pariah by the hallowed Swiss watch industry.

Not a single modern watch was selling for over its retail price; not even steel Daytonas or Royal Oaks.

In fact, even brand new product was heavily discounted as the grey market was flooded with watches that authorised dealers could not sell.

How things have changed.

WatchBox says it will generate sales of $500 million this year and, with the acquisition of historic American family jewellers Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers to create The 1916 Company, it believes it will be the biggest retailer of pre-owned Rolex watches in the world.

The 1916 Company is part of the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned programme from day one, its executive chairman Danny Govberg tells WatchPro it will have 1,000 watches with official Rolex CPO tags attached, on sale from today.

The group will have primary brick and mortar multibrand and monobrand showrooms in four states; one of the biggest new and used luxury watch ecommerce sites in the world; a media business churning out YouTube videos and other social media to hundreds of thousands of customers, and an active client base of around 60,000 high net worth individuals in five continents of the world.

The acquisitions that have led to this organisation, where new and second hand watches are treated as equals, was sanctioned by Rolex and other brands that would have taken fright at the very idea just a few years’ ago.

It has taken balls of steel to invest in pre-owned focused companies that are now giants, not just among their peers, but alongside the world’s biggest primary retailers.

All in the face of outright hostility from the Swiss.

They may not yet be on the same scale as Bucherer, Watches of Switzerland Group, Hour Glass, Seddiqi and the like, but I would not bet against The 1916 Company reaching those heady heights much sooner than you think.

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  1. Having worked in the secondary watch market in 2017, you are wrong about prices. Daytonas have always been over retail, since 1988. Royal Oaks no, and some nautilus were, the 5711 was, having been under retail about a decade beforehand

  2. Since the Pandemic with its “free money” flippers and the shabby way the Authorized Dealers have treated new Rolex customers, I have felt that the grey market is MY WATCH STORE/DEALER. The grey market provides availability and affordability, combined with authenticity and warranty. The negative benefit of paying over list price for Rolex/Audemars Piguet/Patek Philippe is outweighed by me not having to buy watches & jewelry that I don’t want, just to earn the “right to buy” the watch I did want!

    What will be interesting to see is how will the 1916 Company price pre-owned Rolex, given that the AD side of the 1916 Company is participating in the Rolex CPO program. Time will tell.

  3. How much “free money” do you think individuals received? Or are you meaning the “flipper” orgs sucked up piles and then drove the market?

    No individual, to my knowledge, was getting handouts high enough to be buying the crazy marked up watches.

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