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Subdial Clubhouse aims to create motivated trading networks of watch collectors

Pre-owned luxury watch specialist Subdial has switched to an entirely remodelled online platform that aims to introduce thousands of collectors to each other so that they can source or sell watches within a secure and trusted network.

Pre-owned luxury watch specialist Subdial has switched to an entirely remodelled online platform that aims to introduce thousands of collectors to each other so that they can source or sell watches within a secure and trusted network.

Imagine 1,000 collectors, all sharing information about their own watches and their wish list for what they would like to acquire.

Details of who owns which watches are anonymous, but the information (brand, reference, year, etc) is available to all others in the network, it makes it far more likely a willing buyer and ready seller find each other and do a deal.

Subdial may do more than make the introduction between a buyer and a seller, it may also grease the wheels to get a deal over the line by buying a different watch from the buyer, which boosts their spending power.

It works like this (a deal between imaginary Phil, Sonia and the very real Subdial):

  1. Phil and Sonia anonymously upload details of their watch collections and wish lists to the Subdial platform.
  2. This information is then searchable by Phil, Sonia and Subdial.
  3. Phil sees on Subdial that a John Mayer Rolex Daytona is for sale and wants to buy it, but he is £5000 short of the price asked by Sonia.
  4. Alternatively, Sonia might see the Daytona on somebody’s wish list and notifies Subdial she might sell hers.
  5. In either case, Phil is £5000 short, but Subdial sees that he has a Submariner in his collection and offers to buy it for £5000.
  6. That money goes into the John Mayer Daytona and a deal is closed between the three parties.

“Selling a watch works better when you already know a motivated buyer,” Subdial suggests.

“Traditionally, you have to sell to a dealer who takes on the task of finding a buyer for you, and you’re left with the long sale times of a consignment or the hefty transaction costs of a direct sale. By managing your collection on the Subdial Clubhouse, you receive anonymous notifications when buyers in the network are looking to buy models that you own. So you can sell at the right time, for more money, and without the stress,” the company claims.

Subdial runs a hybrid model where it buys some watches for resale and others are sold on consignment. In either instance, the watches have to pass through Subdial for authentication and photography.

The more members there are in the Subdial Clubhouse sharing information about their collections and their wish lists, the more likely it is to find a match and do a deal, so Subdial is offering tiered levels of membership that encourage people to transact more.

Everybody starts as a blue member, but with a couple of trades under their belts, members progress to bronze, with commission of 12% paid by the seller on any transaction, then to silver, gold and black as the volume of deals grows. At these higher tiers, commission rates drop from 12% to 10%, 8% and 6% for black members.

The obvious conclusion dealers on the platform will reach is that it pays to sell a number of cheaper watches quickly to get the black tier status and 6% commission rates for higher priced trades.

The new Subdial platform launching today is also visually improved and easier to navigate.

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It uses the Subdial’s historic pricing data to give instant estimates for anybody uploading watches to the platform.

The system offers a buy it now price, which is what Subdial will offer in cash to buy a piece, or an estimate of what it might achieve if sold on consignment, which is almost certain to be a higher number, but with no guarantee of when it will sell.

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Everything is data-driven, so information about collections that are not even being offered for sale help the system to learn and provide more accurate valuations.

Subdial is also offering specialist insurance for watch collectors in partnership with Zing, which aims to accurately cover market prices for watches, not just base cover on retail prices.

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It is said to be particularly useful at the point household insurance runs into weeds when a watch collection is worth over £15,000 and it gets complicated to convince these generalists about the value of a particular piece.

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Christy Davis and Ross Crane.

“Everything about this new platform and the thinking behind it is to use simplify the buying and selling of watches for collectors, and to make trading more enjoyable, transparent and trusted,” says Christy Davis, co-founder of Subdial with Ross Crane.

“We want to energise peoples’ collections, so that the buying, selling and trading-up brings even more pleasure to their hobby,” he adds.

Subdial was founded in London in 2018 with a goal to develop a trustworthy marketplace that delivers the sort of sophisticated yet simple user experience that luxury consumers demand.

The company raised £4 million at the back end of 2021, just months before prices for the most highly traded watches from the likes of Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe cratered.

Prior to that investment, John Ayton MBE, who made his first fortune building and then selling Links of London, became a director of Subdial in 2020.

Mr Ayton has invested in a number of luxury brands including Bremont, Orlebar Brown and Boticca.com.

He is also a founder of Walpole, a collective of experienced business leaders who mentor and support British emerging talent within the luxury goods industry.

The Subdial strategy of creating consumer-to-consumer networks of watch collectors is not new.

WatchBox has created a world-wide network of collectors who are encouraged to keep coming back to buy and sell watches.

In the case of WatchBox, there is more of a human element to its model, with trading floors of experts in America, Asia and Europe helping collectors make the most of their watches and match-making between potential buyers and sellers.

WatchBox has also launched collectors’ lounges around the world where clients can meet each other to share stories about their hobby, or to browse what pieces are immediately for sale.

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