Noah Brier | February 2, 2023

The Secondhand Watch Edition

On luxury, markets, and certification

Colin here. The famed watchmaker Audemars Piguet (AP) recently announced a certified pre-owned program in 2023. It follows Rolex’s announcement of the same strategy in 2022. AP’s Royal Oak watches, just like certain models of Rolex, command high prices on the secondary markets—a place customers have to turn when faced with bare shelves and long waiting lists.

Unfortunately, secondary markets can be murky. They’re rife with counterfeits, and hard for brands to control the image and perception of what they sell—a rarified luxury good with super tight brand codes. Sites like eBay, Chrono24, Stockx, and specialized dealers try to add guarantees and levels of assessment to ensure the customer is getting the real deal, but it creates a “your mileage may vary” type of dynamic for the customer looking to part with serious money. These high-touch luxury brands don’t have sufficient control of the experience. 

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Why is this interesting? 

These official pre-owned launches are interesting from a business/market perspective, and from a brand strategy and management one. The logistics are simple: the watches will be sent to Rolex for certification before they are released back to authorized retailers to sell as second-hand. 

According to the Times:

Many industry experts said the program, which began through the Swiss retailer Bucherer and is to roll out to Rolex’s authorized dealers later this year, would bring order, transparency and greater liquidity to a global resale marketplace that is projected to achieve around 79 billion euros (which would now be the equivalent of $84.5 billion) in overall sales in 2033.m“ It’s a revolutionary move,” said Danny Govberg, who is chairman of the pre-owned dealer WatchBox, as well as Govberg Jewelers, an authorized Rolex retailer based in Philadelphia. “This is going to create for the official Rolex jeweler a uniform standard. Right now, there is no standard.”

For AP and Rolex, taking control of secondhand sales means that they can ensure quality, brand standards, and even the presentation of a second-hand watch upon purchase to the customer. And, when Rolex is assessing and certifying a used timepiece, there is a customer willing to pay a premium for the trust. Sure, good second-hand dealers that have built a reputation over time (like HQ Milton and the like), will still continue to thrive, but the addition of a brand seal will undoubtedly create a market dynamic. And one would expect to see Omega, Patek, and Cartier follow this year. (CJN)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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