(Adds definition of used, website links)
ZURICH, April 7 (Reuters) – Swiss luxury watchmakers have long viewed the pre-owned watch market as a potential threat to their business, but now their minds are changing as they see it can provide valuable information on prices and demand.
The used or second-hand watch market, which was originally seen as a cannibalization of new watch sales, has become the best place to assess the value of a watch over time and provide liquidity for watch owners looking to exchange their watch for a new one.
Richemont, which owns Cartier, has so far been the only major luxury goods company to enter the second hand market, acquiring Watchfinder’s online store https://www.watchfinder.com in 2018.
Watchfinder just launched a home collection service to make transactions easier during the pandemic.
Justin Reis, executive director of the second-hand WatchBox platform https://www.thewatchbox.com/ch/en, said the market for pre-owned watches is estimated at $ 16 billion and the WatchBox business is growing at about 25% per year. , including last year, when new watch sales were hit hard.
“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.
The head of H. Moser & Cie, Edouard Meilan, told Reuters that demand for the brand’s new watches has grown thanks to the “good work” of WatchBox and colleagues in the used market.
“Some brands are still trying to fight this market instead of working with it,” Meilan said. “We watch him almost day in and day out, he gives us an idea of prices, what we should be producing,” he said in an interview ahead of the start of the virtual industry event Watches & Wonders, which kicked off on 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 Coltrowitz. Editing by Jane Merriman and David Evans)