WatchPro‘s August edition is live online today, and it examines the dramatic expansion of global players in pre-owned, vintage and ex-stock luxury watches.
Will the global market for pre-owned, vintage and grey market watches be worth $5 billion this year, as its biggest players suggest?
We may never be sure as the industry is hardly known for its transparency. But add up the value of watches for sale today at eBay, Chrono24, Watchfinder, Chronext, Watchmerchant, Bonhams, Phillips, Sotheby’s, Christies and your local pawnbroker and you will start to get a feel for the sheer scale of the secondary market.
The attitude of venerable Swiss watch houses to the second hand space has varied over the years from indifference to anger and contempt; rarely recognising or openly appreciating how the secondary market unblocks retail channels, liquidates stock that won’t sell at full price, and gives watch lovers cash for once-loved timepieces that can be spent on brand new models.
This month WatchPro sets out to shine a light into the murky corners of the secondary market. We spoke to Watchfinder (who could not say anything on the record following the company’s acquisition by Richemont), we traveled to Germany to visit the headquarters of Chrono24, we sat down with the global head of watches at Bonhams auction house and we interviewed the owner of Bob’s Watches, America’s self-proclaimed king of second hand Rolexes.
What we discovered were not a bunch of crooks and cowboys. Instead we learned how important the secondary market is to the wider luxury watch ecosystem, and how they are determined to build trust in an industry that ordinary consumers and experienced collectors have already learned to love.
Indifference and ignorance is no longer an option for Switzerland’s greatest watch maisons, which is why Richemont’s acquisition of Watchfinder is so important, and why the industry’s most respected CEOs including Georges Kern at Breitling and Jean-Claude Biver at LVMH are actively engaging with these international disruptors.
With the Swiss watch industry booming this year, the temptation for complacency will be strong, but this period of plenty is actually the perfect time to embrace the secondary market and work out how it can improve the watch buying and owning experience for everybody.