eBay’s announcement this week that it has authenticated 7,000 luxury watches for its marketplace has been met, broadly, with indifference by major pre-owned specialists.
Philipp Mann, CEO of Germany’s Chronext, which claims to be the world’s largest fully transactional marketplace, says the eBay announcement changes nothing. “It is just PR,” he suggests.
“The only way to have 100% trust would be for eBay itself to authenticate everything. That is not what is happening because they are giving a stamp based on a retailer’s own authentication,” he continues. “We do this authentication for eBay in Germany so we know how it works.”
Chronext sells luxury watches in two ways: 65-70% of sales are for authenticated watch retailers that sell to consumers via the site. The remaining 30-35% are watches that Chronext buys, services and repairs, then sells with its own warranty.
Danny Govberg, who runs Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia and the global Watchbox pre-owned platform, is marginally more positive about eBay’s plan. “eBay is beginning to realize that they have a huge opportunity in the pre-owned space. Many do not realize they are the biggest already in the world by far; a billion a year in sales of lux watches. I think this is only the beginning of them getting more aggressive to maintain their leadership position. Starting with authenticity guarantee is a good first move,” he suggests.
Paul Altieri, CEO of Bob’s Watches, thinks the eBay authentication announcement is insufficient. “I applaud them for taking steps to help clean up the massive integrity/counterfeit problems that have with sellers offering non-authentic goods. But I really feel this comes up too short. You need a 3rd party independent party to verify and authenticate. “Certified” is a much stronger word but I notice they don’t use it. But given the size of their platform, I am guessing the logistics prevent it,” he says.
“It’s an acknowledgement — finally — that this massive platform has an integrity problem; they always have. I would never recommend buying a Rolex watch from eBay knowing what I know about its sellers, past experience, and the quality of fake watches today. The fakes have gotten too good for the average customer — even a dealer — to identify. We don’t buy from eBay because we cannot trust their sellers and the products they sell,” Mr Altieri adds.
*eBay has responded to a request for an interview with WatchPro and we are working on setting a date.