WatchBox CPO Comes of Age
Second-hand and CPO are more or less the same thing, aren’t they? Actually, they’re not the same thing at all. WorldTempus explains why.
In the beginning, there were the forums – Timezone and PuristS were some of the bigger ones. There, a handful of watch collectors, who collected watches very few people were interested in, bought and sold watches among themselves. It was the stone age of online second-hand watch sales: a closed circle of purchasers sold watches to each other, at prices unregulated by the market, with no guarantees except mutual trust. It was a highly effective system, but one that relied on a restricted community of people who knew each other.
Patek Philippe © WatchBox
Then, the online platforms arrived. First came the non-specialists, with eBay front and centre. Items sold there were still not subject to any trusted authority, and prices could be arbitrary, to say the least. At the time of writing, you can buy a “Philippe Patek” for €30.50, or a “Patek Philippe” bracelet for... 8,966.12 euros. It’s the Wild West.
Eventually, specialists entered the marketplace. One of them was Cresus, but it’s important to note that this was no upstart: its first physical shop opened in 1993. In their hands, watches were serviced and guaranteed, and then sold at prices consistent with the brands in question, who kept a very close eye on the initiative. And for good reason – many of them availed themselves of Cresus’s services when they needed to shift a few new watches that were slow to sell... On the web, Chrono24 has become the undisputed market leader, with annual sales representing over a billion euros.
Patek Philippe © WatchBox
The advent of services such as Watchfinder and Watchbox appear to have brought this history, which has evolved over around 25 years, to a state of maturity. They tick all the boxes in terms of second-hand watch sales: they are rational, coherent and secure. At Watchbox, for example, every luxury watch from some 60 brands is authenticated, valued and offered for sale at a fair market price. “Fair” in its capitalist interpretation, that is, which pits supply against demand. This authentication process supplies the C in CPO – which stands for Certified Pre-Owned.
Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi © WatchBox
Is it possible to go further? Yes, and Watchbox has done just that, in two ways. First, this company doesn’t merely handle transactions, or facilitate communication between buyers and sellers. The buyer, or in any case the first buyer, is Watchbox itself. Watchbox buys watches and owns its own stock. It’s a mark of absolute trust: Watchbox only offers for sale watches that it physically possesses, and has paid for. Watchbox buys second-hand watches for cash. Its stock is worth an estimated 60 million dollars. The business concludes one transaction every 8 minutes (purchase or sale), with an average value of 18,000 dollars, either online or at one of its points of sale.
Watchbox goes even further. It not only checks the watches, it also checks their prices. But what about the law of supply and demand? Sometimes this “law” is an ass. You only have to follow an auction or two to observe that tiny details without any objective importance can sometimes push items to stratospheric prices completely divorced from reality.
In order to avoid such pricing aberrations, Watchbox has recruited a comprehensive team of around 40 traders who oversee the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East. Advisers based in Switzerland cover the whole of Europe (Germany, Benelux, France, UK, etc.). They analyse the value of watches over the long term, in real time. In this way, Watchbox has proved its worth as an entirely legitimate business, a credible actor qualified to provide long-term valuations, and thus a reliable guarantee of a watch as a safe investment. This safeguarding role is reassuring to both buyers and watchmakers, who are protected from volatile prices.