How is newly launched WatchCollecting.com disrupting the way collectible watches are globally bought and sold?


Months on from the Collecting Cars team moving into the business of watches, WatchCollecting.com is certainly making waves.

By approaching the traditional watch auction way of doing things in a somewhat alternative way, it is not only disrupting the space, but going from strength to strength as a business while doing so.


WatchPro caught up with Adrian Hailwood, Head of Watches at Watch Collecting, to find out more:

WP: Watch Collecting is certainly disrupting the traditional way of watch auction. How does the process work?

AH: Watch Collecting is a low cost, high touch 24/7 online auction platform. The process is simple; a seller provides us with all the details of their watch, including history and condition and a reserve price is agreed.

We arrange 20 to 30 professionally shot, high-resolution images of the watch, showing all angles and details, including the box and any paperwork. We write up a listing using the supplied information and the images, which is then sent to the seller for their approval. Once approved the watch is scheduled to go live in a 7 day timed auction.  A watch can go from initial enquiry to a live auction listing viewed by over 70 countries in as little as a couple of days.

Behind the scenes there is a tremendous amount of work packed into that short time, including verification of the seller, minute inspection of the images by our specialists, researching the listing details, clearing the watch with the Art Loss Registry and the serial number with WatchCSA. We stay in touch with the seller at every step of the process including through the close of the auction and beyond.

WP: How is Watch Collecting different?

AH: It differs from the traditional auction process in many ways; it is quicker, yet for that short time we are far more engaged with the seller. It is more secure in that the watch does not leave the owner’s possession until the watch has been paid for, and the costs to both buyer and seller are far less.

We charge the seller nothing, the buyer only 6% above £10,000 and a flat fee of £600 below. Auction fees are a subject that many people find misleading in that traditional auction houses often charge both buyer and seller, the seller paying as much as 30% on top of the hammer price. Our fees are dramatically less. A full explanation of auction fees and our alternative approach can we found in our blog – Commissions, Premiums, Smoke & Mirrors – Don’t Let The House Win.

WP: You’ve seen results already too?

AH: We have seen extraordinary results, including breaking the world record hammer price for a double-sealed Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 on our first day.

To date we have sold nearly £3million of watches. We only report ‘hammer prices’ as that is the amount the seller receives, making it clear for future consignees what their watch is likely to return them. If you ignore the ‘achieved prices’ from the big auctioneers, inflated by 30% of buyer’s premium, many of our hammer prices represent a record for that reference, 100% of which goes back to the seller. Even if you take ‘total price’ into account the results for our Omega ‘Snoopy’ Speedmaster at £29,680 and our steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time at £31,906 are outright records for those particular watches.

WP: As the secondary market goes from strength to strength, how do you expect to capitalise on that?

AH: The secondary watch market has many parallels with the secondary car market. Watch collectors globally are waking up to the fact that there are benefits to buying a pre-owned watch, whether is it the saving of VAT and depreciation on regular model, or the opportunity to secure those few watches unavailable at retail. If the growth and success of our sister company Collecting Cars is any measure – £100 million in 2 years, then our sales model is a compelling one. As the number of watch collectors grows and as more people become aware of how the market works, they will realise that we offer great value to both buyer and seller.

WP: What are the benefits of choosing to sell my watch with Watch Collecting as opposed to other options?

AH: In most cases Watch Collecting will return you more than a dealer would pay, or an auction house would return. We are unapologetically pitching towards the middle and upper end of the market as below £10,000 the fixed fee of £600 becomes a progressively higher percentage. This said, the break-even comparison with traditional auctioneers is around £2,000 hammer price and we turn around your watch far quicker.

Whilst we don’t yet have the global scale of Collecting Cars with their 20 million plus monthly social media reach, we are scaling the way people find out about all the collectible watches available via our online auction.

WP: A similar question on buying, you make the process as seamless as possible for both sellers and those purchasing?

AH: The process of buying is simple and straightforward. Once you sign up for an account and enter a payment card, all the verification checks happen automatically in the background. If, having read the watch description and viewed all the images, you have any further questions, there is a feature in each auction to enable buyers to raise queries about the condition or background of the watch.

Once you place a bid, you will be notified by email anytime you are outbid and if this happens within the last two minutes of the auction, the clock will automatically reset to two minutes, allowing you ample time to consider one more go. This avoids the ‘fastest finger wins’ mentality of some online auctions. If you win you will have your fee deducted automatically and then be introduced to the seller. Payment can be made either directly or via our international escrow partner Trustshare. Shipping and parcel insurance assistance is on hand should you need it.

WP: The website looks great, how important is it for you to stay ahead of the curve with the online and tech side of things?

AH: The platform is created from scratch by our dedicated in-house Tech Team. This is crucial to allow us to continuously improve the user experience and add new features. With Watch Collecting and Collecting Cars using the same underlying platform, each can learn from the other. Collecting Cars is solving the problems of scale and globalisation and passing them to us, we are solving the problems of KYC and Escrow transactions.

WP: What auctions do you have coming up? Any special watches worth looking out for particularly?

AH: The fun of an ever rolling 7 day inventory is that you never know what is coming up. If something exciting is consigned, it is in, listed and done, all within such a tight timeframe. We do have an important collection of contemporary Patek Philippe coming from Singapore in the next few weeks, some vintage Heuer in the pipeline from Europe and a rare Limited Edition Patek Philippe here in the UK.

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