ZURICH (Reuters). Swiss luxury watch brands have long viewed the pre-owned watch market as a potential threat to their businesses, but now their minds are changing as they see it can provide valuable information on prices and demand.
Initially seen as the cannibalism of new watch sales, the pre-owned watch market has become the best place to assess the value of a watch over time and provide liquidity for watch owners who wish to exchange their watches for new ones.
Richemont, which owns Cartier, has so far been the only major luxury goods company to enter the second hand market by purchasing the Watchfinder online store in 2018.
Watchfinder just launched a home collection service to make transactions easier during the pandemic.
Justin Reis, executive director of the WatchBox pre-owned watch platform, said the market for pre-owned watches is estimated at $ 16 billion, and WatchBox’s business grew at about 25% a year, including last year when new watch sales dropped sharply. bump.
“We’ve seen so many new tailwinds pushing this sector. There has been a cultural change as people become more determined about collectibles, ”Reis told Reuters.
Reis said prices for popular Rolex, Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet models have risen by about 25%, and smaller independent brands such as H. Moser & Cie, FP Journe or De Bethune are also gaining traction on WatchBox.
WatchBox and Watchfinder were conceived as online platforms, but now also have multiple physical showrooms.
H. Moser & Cie CEO Edouard Meilan told Reuters that demand for the brand’s new watches has increased thanks to “good work” from WatchBox and colleagues in the used market.
“Some brands are still trying to fight this market instead of working with it,” Meilan said. “We track this almost day in and day out, it gives us an idea of prices, what we need to produce,” he said in an interview ahead of the Watches & Wonders virtual industry event, which kicked off Wednesday.
Watch brands like Audemars Piguet and well-known retailers like Bucherer have already started selling pre-owned watches, and eBay recently launched an authenticity guarantee for luxury watches sold on its marketplace.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst John Cox, who has estimated the size of the used car market at around $ 20 billion, said brands used to see the aftermarket as a channel for gray market discounted goods, but tighter controls helped fix that problem with some pre-sales. their models are now selling for a higher price.
“This is a positive development,” Cox said. “This is part of a change that could ultimately rejuvenate an industry that has struggled for much of the past decade.”
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz. Edited by Jane Merriman