3. Max the access
Those high-demand pieces may not be appearing in the window of your local jeweller any time soon, but pre-owned retailers say they’re taking in dozens of those Rolex and Patek stainless steel sports watches consumers are crying out for at the moment. Why join a waiting list when you can buy one pre-owned tomorrow? Because of the vast premiums they command, some will say – but that’s the consumer choice. It’s not just rare pieces, though. Discontinued pieces surface regularly on pre-owned websites, giving consumers a second chance to pick up a piece they missed first time around.
What does this mean for the watch industry? At Dubai Watch Week, WatchBox’s co-founder Danny Govberg said he believes primary and secondary watch sales are going to combine. He may have a point, but he’s also pushing his own agenda – WatchBox announced a partnership with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in the Middle East at last week’s event.
Primary retailers aren’t saying any different, though. They seem comfortable with the growth in pre-owned because it encourages new buyers into the space and gives existing watch owners a way of releasing the equity they have in their collections. To now, few buyers will have understood they can trade in their watches for cash or as leverage against a new watch with specialist companies, but that’s changing fast. The argument is that primary retailers who partner with secondary outlets could stimulate their business hugely.
The list and reach of specialist companies is growing, too. As well as WatchBox, WatchFinder and Chronext have deep inventories, while concepts such as Chrono24’s marketplace continue to develop. Between them, they give global access to pre-owned watches.
For consumers, two questions remain. Do we want to buy second-hand watches? And can we trust the sellers we’re buying them from? The answer to the first question will depend on where you see your watch story beginning. Some will always want new, while others will be comfortable owning an ‘as-new’ watch that comes with a two-year warranty, already the secondary market norm. The trade and upgrade concept plays to generation rent’s perceptions of ownership, too – ie it’s less tangible and more transient now.
Trust is harder. Pre-owned retailers will soon have to show the provenance, in detail, of every watch they sell if they are to sustain their growth. Is the watch authentic? Was it traded in? Is it a grey market piece? And if neither of these, where did it come from? Are you the pre-owned retailer accredited by the brands you're retailing? If not, why not? Transparency and authenticity are increasingly critical.
For now, the pre-owned market is certainly shaking up the business of watch buying and collecting. It opens up new possibilities, and because the secondary space is so digitally focused, it offers some serious convenience, too. Want a Rolex GMT Master II ‘Batman’ tomorrow? If you’ve got the extra cash to pay the premium, these guys are promising they can do it.
Pre-owned is here to stay, and it looks like it could create the biggest market shift of the next decade.