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New and used Rolex worlds collide as WatchBox buys three family-owned jewellers

WatchBox, Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers have merged into a single organisation that has 17 points of sale in the United States in addition to a network of five collectors’ lounges, currently operating under the WatchBox name, in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Dubai.

WatchBox, Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers have merged into a single organisation that has 17 points of sale in the United States in addition to a network of five collectors’ lounges, currently operating under the WatchBox name, in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Dubai.

The business has no footprint in the UK due to this country’s hostile tax regime.

All of the merged companies will operate under a single corporate structure and brand named The 1916 Company that brings together primary and secondary markets in a way that puts clients first and helps them have the most fun and satisfaction with their watch collecting hobby.

WatchBox’s management tells WatchPro that it is operationally profitable, but has previously secured investment from Pershing Square Capital Management LP founder Bill Ackman (who is also a major investor in Bremont) and basketball GOAT Michael Jordan.

Financial details of the acquisitions of Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers have not been disclosed.

From today, the operation has eight multi-brand showrooms and five mono-brand boutiques on both coasts of the United States in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado and Arizona.

“We’ll probably be one of, if not the largest certified pre-owned Rolex jeweller in the world,” Danny Govberg, co-founder of WatchBox and executive chairman of The 1916 Company says.

Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers are multi-generational jewellers that have all been long-standing Rolex partners.

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Radcliffe Jewelers.
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Govberg Jewelers.
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A rendering of Hyde Park Jewelers refurbished flagship in Newport Beach, California.

John Shmerler and Damon Gross of Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers will run The 1916 Company’s authorised retail network, which will have access to the $200 million-worth of pre-owned watches owned by WatchBox.

Danny Govberg, Justin Reis, and Tay Liam Wee, who co-founded WatchBox in 2017, will continue to oversee the group.

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Tay Liam Wee, Justin Reis and Danny Govberg co-founded WatchBox in 2017.

The combined brand line-up from across the merged operations will see WatchBox’s gold standard pre-owned pieces sold alongside new watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Breitling, Omega, Jaeger-Coultre, TAG Heuer and independents including De Bethune, which is owned by WatchBox, and H. Moser & Cie.

As the businesses merge, they will ultimately operate with a single ecommerce website; the media output of WatchBox Studios across Youtube and other social media will be under the The 1916 Company banner; and consultants who operate like teams of brokers from trading floors around the world will advise clients on both new and pre-owned watches.

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WatchBox’s collectors’ lounge in New York will be renamed as part of The 1916 Company.

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It remains the case that Rolex and Patek Philippe will not allow its partners to sell new watches online, so customers will be directed towards authorized dealers’ stores.

Rolex Certified Pre-Owned

The 1916 Company has also announced that its official Rolex stores will be selling watches that have been through the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned programme from day one.

Mr Govberg tells WatchPro that it has around 1,000 Rolex watches that have been through the Rolex CPO process and will be sold with the new international guarantee.

These CPO watches can be sold online at www.the1916company.com and through showrooms.

The first partners for the Rolex CPO programme, Bucherer and Watches of Switzerland Group, have been marketing the second-hand watches at considerably higher prices than the broader secondary market, but Mr Govberg says The 1916 Company will be more competitive on price.

It is investing in a new US-based service centre that will open in January and will be capable of servicing 3,000 to 4,000 watches per year.

He also confirmed that WatchBox, which has been retired as a trading name but remains a giant in the pre-owned watch business within The 1916 Company, will cease trading in any Rolex watches without the official Rolex CPO tags and guarantee.

Primary and secondary markets converge

In recent years, there has been a trend towards companies in the business of new watches buying pre-owned specialists. Richemont bought Watchfinder, Watches of Switzerland Group bought Analog Shift, Hodinkee bought Crown & Caliber.

The acquisition by WatchBox of venerable jewellers such as Hyde Park, Radcliffe and Govberg is a new development as the worlds of primary and secondary luxury watch retail converge.

The deal would not have gone ahead without the explicit agreement of Rolex and other brands sold by the jewellers.

It signals a final step in the sensitisation and acceptance of the secondary market, which a decade ago was seen as a wild west of chancers and charlatans.

WatchBox was founded in 2017 by Mr Govberg, Justin Reis, and Tay Liam Wee to raise the experience for clients digitally as they collect, sell, trade, and learn about watches.

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The 1916 Company’s Collectors’ Lounge in Hong Kong.

The 1916 Company takes this mission to a new level by offering collectors a global partner for both new and collectible pre-owned watches, as well as fine jewellery via a global network of collector’s lounges and US-based boutiques supported by the rebranded WatchBox Studios media output.

“Watches have the power to bring people together,” Mr Reis, Global CEO of The 1916 Company, says.

“Over the years, we’ve observed our collectors’ desire not only for digital connectivity, but the rich experiences of physical interaction – they value the bonds formed with our dedicated client advisors and the friendships they’ve made across our community. The evolution into The 1916 Company is a natural progression for us, shaped by our clients’ voices and needs. With The 1916 Company, we’re reinforcing the sense of community, rooted in our existing relationships, while eagerly embracing the opportunity to forge new ones. Our vision starts and ends with our customer.”

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