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Key factors that fueled the growth of pre-owned luxury watches

Key factors that fueled the growth of pre-owned luxury watches

Understanding the ecosystem

Text: Meeran Mekkaoui

Image: Supplied

Luxury watches continue to lead the pre-owned market...

Over the last few years, the world of horology has truly shifted to embrace the luxury of having a pre-owned watch. At WatchBox – driven by technology, innovation and high-end clientele – the online marketplace has become the world's leading platform for the market, bringing together a global community of watch enthusiasts and experts across the globe.

Celebrating its presence in the Middle East, WatchBox took part in the 2021 edition of Dubai Watch Week with an informative activation that shed the light on a curated selection of watches and workshops that discussed the state of the luxury watch market, and the culture of collecting, product quality standards, personalized services, and more.

We had the chance to sit down with Danny Govberg, Co-Founder & Chairman of WatchBox, to discuss the company's recent funding and expansion plans, its 360-degree experience, the understanding of the pre-owned watches concept and more. Read our exclusive interview below...

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Can you tell us about WatchBox’s participation at Dubai Watch Week?

WatchBox marked the second anniversary of WatchBox Middle East, a joint venture with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, during Dubai Watch Week, as we made our initial debut in the region alongside Dubai Watch Week 2019. After the wild ride of the last two years, being able to stand side by side to learn, discuss, share the love of watches, and quite simply, collect together with this community, was truly special.

Dubai Watch Week brings together a global community of brands, watchmakers, remarkable collectors, journalists, and enthusiasts – it really feels like a family reunion, and at the same time, is a space where improbable meetings and encounters take place. The Seddiqi family has created an unparalleled experience with this event, and we couldn’t be prouder to call them our partners.

Throughout the event, WatchBox welcomed guests into a dedicated WatchBox lounge, positioned adjacent to the brand exhibition hall, where a curated selection of watches from our global inventory was on display. WatchBox’ advisors were onsite to discuss the state of the luxury watch market, and introduce visitors to our culture of collecting, product quality standards, personalized services, and more. We also had a pop-up WatchBox Studio where interviews with leading watchmakers, collectors, industry executives, and guests of Dubai Watch Week were filmed throughout the week.

Why did you decide to open WatchBox in the Middle East, Dubai, specifically?

WatchBox’s expansion strategy is built upon developing a truly connected global community and marketplace, targeting geographic regions with a strong growth forecast for the luxury watch segment. The Middle East, and Dubai specifically, represents a massive opportunity for the pre-owned category. Long-established retailers like Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons have done a remarkable job in building demand and consumer interest in the luxury watch category across the Middle East, and prior to our partnership, the market lagged behind other major watch centres in offering a trustworthy secondary market solution; offering trade-in services and selling desirable and collectable pieces no longer in production – or not readily accessible on the primary market.

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Through our joint venture, we have established extraordinary relationships with collectors across Dubai and the broader region, and have been able to successfully curate a dynamic inventory to meet the tastes of the local market. As part of our forthcoming expansion, we will establish a new location in Riyadh to support the burgeoning interests of Saudi watch collectors. We’re excited to bring the WatchBox concept to KSA with the support and guidance of the Seddiqi family, who have paved the way in delivering a standard of excellence for product, service, and sharing in the passion of watch collecting.

When it comes to pre-owned luxury watches, WatchBox isn’t just a click-and-buy experience, right? You offer a 360-degree experience. Can you elaborate more on what that experience is?

While our website represents an important segment of our business, our greatest client relationships and our success to date have come from the intersection of brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce, where the conditions of personalized service, education, and tech-aided convenience are at peak levels. We call this ‘personal commerce.’

Personal commerce addresses the limitations of an online-only shopping platform, connecting consumers with highly trained and educated concierge-style associates. Instead of click-and-buy, we specialize in click-and-call, as the majority of our sales today actually take place over the phone. We use our website and digital marketing strategies to help drive leads, and then build relationships with our clients and support their collecting behaviours over the phone and in-person – plus through educational initiatives such as our library of thousands of hands-on video reviews.

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Do you think people are fully aware and have a proper understanding of the whole ‘pre-owned’ concept?

When we started WatchBox in 2017, the concept of ‘pre-owned’ was in a very different place than it is today. Historically, the pre-owned space was championed by parties not authorized by the brands, so similar to the genesis of the car industry and its embrace of the pre-owned category, we set out to redefine the modern pre-owned watch experience. Our founding mission was to bring authenticity, pricing transparency, and confidence to this category, ultimately to elevate the global pre-owned experience and its perception. Today’s pre-owned ecosystem – and the rise of top players in the space – have helped to proliferate and validate this message.

We have reached an exciting point in this evolution where the conversation is less about the “primary” or “secondary” markets, and more about the overall global watch market and the state of collectable luxury watches. The collector remains at the centre of this conversation, and as long as we are taking care of our customer.

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What are your thoughts on why pre-owned watches are becoming so strong, more in recent years?

Education. The pre-owned world was once relegated to an ‘underground network,’ and it has now arrived on ‘Main Street,’ where a client can have the same level of service, care, and consideration when buying a pre-owned watch as they do when buying the newest introduction. WatchBox’s business model is built around serving the needs of our clients; delivering the most desirable and collectable watches with a guarantee of authenticity and the highest quality standards; ultimately elevating the pre-owned experience and perception.

The market for luxury collectables has been transformed throughout the pandemic era, opening watch collecting – which was once considered a niche hobby – to a much broader audience, and accelerating changes that have been taking place over the last decade thanks to social media and the internet. The market is getting bigger and bigger, yet there is a relatively fixed supply of new products coming into the market from the brands. The demand for high-end watches by the most recognized and established brands simply exceeds market supply, leading people who never previously considered purchasing a pre-owned timepiece to enter the category.

The secondary market affords access to timepieces not readily available on the primary market, from the in-demand and recently discontinued Patek Philippe 5711 to so many pieces in the modern Rolex catalogue, and the extraordinary collections by leading independent watchmakers that have low production numbers.

And of course, the growth of the sharing economy and rising consumer interest in sustainability.

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WatchBox just received a huge amount of funding for global expansion plans. Congratulations! What does the future look like for WatchBox?

Thank you – we are incredibly proud of this milestone and excited for what lies ahead. We will be investing heavily in media and technology as we continue to scale our platform, which will be in parallel to physical expansion into new markets across the U.S. and internationally. Throughout 2022, WatchBox will develop a presence in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, and Dallas, plus Zurich, Tokyo, and Riyadh.

Also read: Which watches have the best global recognition?

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