Pre-owned luxury watches: Buy, sell and trade authenticated timepieces on Watchbox

Watchbox, watches

The digital luxury watch platform gives watch collectors a peace of mind by authenticating and reconditioning every timepiece they receive

For the longest time, watch collectors were never able to swiftly and conveniently upgrade their collections. Unlike collecting art or jewellery, for which there are galleries and traders aplenty, there are far fewer trustworthy avenues through which a watch collector may choose to offload or liquidate his watches.

Auction houses are, of course, reputable but they take months to turn watch to cash, while pawnshops and dealers are dodgy at best. Either way, the collector finds himself at the mercy of the industry.

This is where Watchbox comes in. A digital luxury watch platform for collectors, Watchbox was founded by Danny Govberg of Govberg Jewelers from the US, Tay Liam Wee whose family established the Sincere Watches retail chain and Justin Reis, an investor and entrepreneur across various industries. They are joined by Samuel Lee who spent 20 years running Elegant Watch & Jewellery in Hong Kong.

The idea originated from Govberg’s headquarters in Philadelphia where he’s already grown the business model from a traditional authorised dealer to a luxury technology company that buys, sells and trades new and pre-owned watches.

In a rapidly maturing luxury watch market, the services provided by Watchbox offer collectors a greater level of fluidity and more transparency in terms of the market value of their timepieces.

The Watch Industry’s Value

Says Reis, “In the last two decades, Liam Wee and Samuel have sold a good six billion dollars’ worth of watches, and that’s just the two of them. This means there’s a huge volume of watches sitting in drawers and safes everywhere. Ours is a platform that’s trusted and that customers can use on a frequent basis knowing they’re able to get cash for watches in a very short span of time. We’re principal in every transaction and we pay you within 24 hours of authenticating the watch.”

Tay adds, “We’ve noted a change in consumer buying patterns. In the old days, selling your valuable watches come with negative connotations. But today, with technology and with a new-generation consumer, buying pre-owned and selling your watch is not only accepted but the norm. So there’s a great opportunity here to bring this service to the marketplace.”

With vintage fever showing no sign of letting up, it does appear that consumers will continue to look for pre-owned timepieces and Watchbox distinguishes itself from other pre-owned watch sites in that it owns the inventory.

Reis explains, “In the pre-owned category, there’s an incredible amount of information online and customers are very sophisticated. We provide real-time pricing of their watch collection through our app. We think it’s important for customers to understand the value of their own collection.”

Digital transactions

Indeed, Watchbox is a multi-channel tech business that allows customers to access its services through every possible means, from online to phone to physical interaction.

Govberg elaborates, “The way people learn and explore has changed. You used to do it by going to stores. Now it’s through your phone. People are exploring all the time. Beginning with social media, then to the websites and then maybe to a phone sale where you talk to experienced people who understand value… that builds another level of trust. We’re basically giving consumers luxury any way they want it.”

Its impact on the luxury watch primary market has yet to be felt, but over time, Watchbox may create new opportunities and of course threats.

According to Govberg, five out of every 10 new watches sold by Govberg Jewelers involve a trade, meaning half of the business involves somebody trading a pre-owned watch for a new one. If a collector could offload pieces he no longer likes in order to buy a new one, it’s a win-win situation for all.

On the other hand, having a platform that sells pre-owned timepieces also means that Watchbox could potentially compete with the primary market for new entrants, namely, the millennial set for whom online shopping is practically second nature. Tay believes that a platform like Watchbox is a good way to engage them through value and help meet their aspirational needs.

Currently, Watchbox sees over 100 transactions a day predominantly in the US, with an average selling price of US$10,000 (S$13,000). Following its launch in Asia, the numbers are expected to rise. Says Tay, “From our own estimates, we think there’s half a trillion dollars’ worth of watches lying out there, all over the world.”

Every watch sold to Watchbox gets assessed, authenticated and reconditioned. The majority of its stock are within 12 to 15 years or younger.

Says Govberg, “We have customers who start the year with over 100 watches, a million-dollar collection, and yet at the end none of the watches are the same. It’s the same with the art market or with car collectors. People are constantly upgrading their collections. In the watch industry such services were never offered. The biggest collectors today, people enjoying the hobby the most, are now given the opportunity to trade whatever they want, whenever they want.”