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It’s official: watch brands are circulating black lists of flippers

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It has become a term as familiar to the watch industry today as it was to real estate investors a decade ago. Flipping is the act of buying a hot watch from an authorised dealer and selling it immediately on the secondary market for a huge profit.

Steel sport watches from the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet are never on display today and can only be bought by customers loyal for years to their local retailers, but that has not stopped an army of flippers combing the world for any opportunity to buy them.

If procured, these unicorn watches sell for mark-ups of 100% or more.

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A 2016 pre-owned Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010, which has a recommended retail price in the UK of £23,440 is for sale on Watchbox with box, papers and a two year warranty, for £54,000.

An identical watch, sold initially in 2017, can be bought on Watchfinder for £67,500.

A debate at Dubai Watch Week this morning, entitled “Making the Watch List”, gave a rare insight into how the industry is responding to an issue that some think is undermining the luxury watch industry.

Mohammed Seddiqi, chief commercial officer for Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons (pictured top), one of the most prestigious luxury watch retailers in the world and an authorized dealer for virtually every major watch brand in the business, let an audience of several hundred customers and journalists behind the curtain of how the industry is tackling the issue of waiting lists.

“It is a big challenge. People get upset. But you need to be loyal to your retailer,” he began in answer to the question of how to get on a waiting list for watches such as Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Aquanaut; Rolex’s Daytona, Submariner or GMT Master, or Audemar Piguet’s Royal Oak.

“Some reference — quite a few — have a 12 year waiting list. We do not even know if those watches will still be in production after that amount of time,” Mr Seddiqi conceded.

Convincing an authorised dealer to sell these watches is a full time profession for an army of flippers, but retailers and brands are working hard to stamp out the problem.

In the UK, it is common practice for Rolex dealers to hold back warranty cards for two years. WatchPro has seen highly secure safes dedicated to storing these warranties, such is their value.

Mr Seddiqi says that Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons considered holding back warranties, but decided against because it works hard to pre-qualify customers before they can buy the hottest watches.

For the first time, he also disclosed that some watch brands, which he did not name, police secondary market in search of people flipping watches and reporting the activity back to the dealer that originally sold the pieces.

“From the brand perspective, if they find a watch has been flipped, they inform us. If we find out, we black list them. They will never be able to buy a watch from us again,” Mr Seddiqi revealed.

No brand is ever likely to confirm the practice of compiling these black lists, but the revelation by the chief commercial officer of such a prestigious partner as Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons is as startling as it is reliable.

5 Comments

  1. Individual client loyalty should play a role in determining whether or not a person is afforded an opportunity to acquire a specific timepiece in high demand. For many collectors and enthusiasts, once we purchase a much desired watch, the only place it will go after it leaves our presence is our heirs.

  2. The manufacturers limit production of these watches. That is why this speculation exists. And then get upset because someone else is making the money? LOL!
    If one person buys the watch he can do whatever he wants with it. It is his property. Client loyalty? I’m paying for the watch. At retail price! Should I feel honoured by that favour? East Germany had something similar with the Trabant!
    What amazes me is that both customers and media align on this clubbing thing.
    If people love watches and can afford it why make everything more difficult?
    Isn’t enough that a steel watch already costs the same that a VW golf?

  3. I don’t know how things work in UAE, but blacklisting in the West is illegal and discriminatory, very dangerous turf to play on if you are UK, EU or USA company. I can understand why brands and ADs don’t like flippers. On hot pieces like 5711/1A and 116500 they make more money than a manufacturer and retailer combined. So obviously I can imagine Rolex & Patek and their ADs being upset. But I wouldn’t touch this blacklisting subject with a bargepole if I was an AD or a brand. The brands have done this to themselves, they have created this opportunity for the flippers and the grey market as a whole. They control the supply. If you are constantly advertising your watches (Rolex spends a billion a year on advertising) you create a massive demand, but at the same time you control the supply by limiting the production, you are solely responsible for this mess. It diminishes the wearability of their watches, as people view their products as a tradable commodity and not as a watch.

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Tags : Ahmed Seddiqi & SonsAudemars Piguetdubai watch weekPatek PhilippeRolex
Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder