This year has seen a proliferation of pre-owned watch dealers popping up around the world with different business models and varying levels of professionalism. Some are one-man-bands that previously traded only within close circles; others, like Watchfinder, are selling watches worth over £10 million per month.
The situation today is confusing for customers, and no easier for jewellers looking to participate in the growing secondary market.
Hoping to cut through the chaos is US-based Watchbox, which aims to create a standard, or set of standards, that will help both consumers and retailers to buy and sell with confidence.
The business, which is run by Danny Govberg, the owner of Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia, has a similar business model to Britain’s Watchfinder, which was bought by Richemont earlier this year.
All of the watches offered for sale at Watchbox are owned by the company, and are only sold once they have been serviced, repaired if necessary, polished, fitted with new straps, boxed and given a warranty.
The business already has stock of watches worth around $60 million, according to Mr Govberg, but aims to increase that to an inventory worth over $100 million.
Creating standards is easier said than done. A customer might be looking for a specific pre-owned Panerai Radiomir and will find examples on Ebay, Watchfinder, Watchbox, Chrono24, Chronext and myriad smaller ecommerce sites. A specific Radiomir will be labelled in significantly different ways. What does ‘mint’ mean? Does a listing have the year of manufacture? Does it have a warranty and what is that warranty worth? Is it actually available or just listed to attract inquiries? What is the correct price to pay?
Retailers taking trade-ins face the problem of offering the correct price to customers for watches they may know little about. Can a store’s sales executive correctly value thousands of different models from hundreds of brands?
Watchbox wants to solve these challenges for both retailers and consumers, and bring a degree of standardization to a pre-owned market thought by some to be worth more than $7 billion per year.
The acquisition of Chronofy is one part of the solution. The smartphone app, which is being promoted to retailers that want to take trade-ins, gives instant valuations for hundreds of the most popular watches, and has a call center retailers can speak to for advice on less common models.
Mr Govberg hopes this solution will make Watchbox an ally of retailers that want to take trade-ins but do not see it as part of their core business.
“What we are going to do is try to become is a solution for the retailer to take a trade-in quickly; get them the price so they can do the deal for their client. They send us the watch and we wire them the money the next day. The retailer then can give the full value to the customer,” Mr Govberg tells WatchPro.
Working with retailers to acquire pre-owned watches should quickly build Watchbox’s inventory. These watches go through the company’s authorized service centre, which has access to genuine parts from all the biggest watch brands, they are photographed, tagged with important information about the watch, and then put on sale backed by the Watchbox warranty.
One standard Mr Govberg refers to is that when a pre-onwed watch is described as ‘mint’ it means something.
“If you see our watches, they are mint. A Patek Philippe from Watchbox, or an F.P. Journe, they are perfect. They have new Patek straps or F.P. Journe straps. You would not know that they are not brand new. I want to create a standard that people can depend on, that they are proud of and amazed at the condition. Doing that will separate our platform from others,” Mr Govberg suggests.
Ultimately, Watchbox also wants to sell through the same jewelers that are feeding it with trade-ins. The idea, which is still in its infancy, is for a network of Watchbox retail partners to have in-store and online points of sale that can sell any watch that is in stock from Watchbox.