NWC mag is predicting a tough year in 2023 for secondhand watch resellers and falling prices on luxury Swiss, German, Japanese and British brand Bremont too. The online sector is going to be hit very hard. There are several reasons why, but first here’s a quick round up of where we are in the overhead heavy and overstocked, pre-owned Swiss watch market.
CONSOLIDATION, LAYOFFS AND INSURANCE
Recently Watchmaster in Germany suffered a huge theft of stock by organised thieves, worth about 10 million euros says local media. Might be true. A few weeks later it went into receivership and this shows how insurance companies will take a very wary view to anyone holding millions in watch stock next year. BTW Watchmaster is still trading online even though it’s in receivership – our advice is walk away, spend your money elsewhere, it’s safer.
Chronext, which was due to have floated on the Swiss stock exchange in 2021 had to cancel the share offer in October 2021 and then layoff about a third of its staff in July 2022, says WatchPro mag. Not a great start is it?
Well I have news for Chronext, your model of selling watches via a lounge network will be incredibly expensive to set up, staff up and insure. The EU zone will also see higher inflation than many other parts of the world as government borrowing is still increasing to pay for Ukraine, energy supplies, EU corruption and more. So demand in Germany, Austria, France, UK etc will weaken as people have less disposable income.
Meanwhile online trading site Chrono24 grew rapidly from 2019, but had to announce layoffs at Zeitauktion, its German subsidiary, just a few days ago. About half the 100 staff are reportedly being let go. fact is fixing up pre-owned watches is a high skill, high wage overhead that no online retailer can skimp on. It also takes time to receive genuine factory parts like hands, buckles or crowns, so you end up holding stock for months before moving it on.
All this puts Watchfinder, owned by Richemont Group in a strong position on pre-owned pricing and stock movement. They can afford to sit and wait, just like Rolex with its authorised dealer sales of certified and refurbished watches. Richemont have a worldwide distribution network already, so they can move pre-owned stock at a lower unit cost per item too. Don’t expect discounts at Watchfinder or Rolex dealerships, they can ride out this storm.
But the pain will be felt across the pre-owned market and it’s the indie resellers and smaller chains, or online sales sites, that will have to drop prices, or go bust.
SO, WHICH WATCHES WILL DROP AND WHY?
Now we are talking clairvoyancy like Clinton Baptiste baby! ( Google it, Phoenix Nights character). So let’s get into it.
First Rolex Oysters, especially pre 2021 when the range was modernised with decent movements, nicer dials and bracelets etc, are due a big percentage fall. The only thing holding up values at ludicrous levels are the restrictions in new Rolex watches frankly. Let’s be honest if you could buy a new calibre Rolex Oyster with tiffany dial for the lst price would you consider a 2015-2020 model with a poor spec at eight grand or so? No, not for one second.
Thing is, so much demand for Rolex, Patek, Cartier and other brands has been fuelled by the great crypto scams of recent years and that gravy train is coming to a shuddering halt with the FTX collapse. Other coin and NFT bubbles will pop soon too. So when Rolex ADs start emailing valued clients saying `ohh you know that Sub/Daytona/Oyster you wanted? We can get one now’ just watch used values begin to crumble.
The Rolex Milgauss is also looking really dated now, so we will predict a soft fall of about 10% in values there too. Please don’t consider buying a used Air King, no matter how cheap. It will never increase in value, collectors and traders know it’s a poor man’s watch choice so never gets serviced properly and it impresses nobody – except those who know nothing about watches.
BIG BREITLINGS & HERITAGE MODELS
Breitling make so many sharp, well designed new watches, it’s hard to see the appeal of a huge 45mm-47mm wide Navi as a pre-owned buy, unless you have huge wrists of course. The chaotic dials of the older Navitimers don’t appeal to everyone either, so let’s assume a drop of about 15% on old Navis manufactured from 2000-2020.
There’s no shortage of new Navitimers either, with a £7300 RRP in the UK. Expect jokers asking 6K and above to see reason if you make a cash offer with no PX watch to muddy the waters.
The Breitling Bentley is another pre-owned mdoel that might see a drop-off in interest. There is a wider issue with modern Swiss heritage/revival watches in general, which is that buyers find their partners and friends don’t seem bothered, or impressed. They think the 5K watch is an old thing from the 70s, and so should really be worth 500 quid or something.
You have to understand the psychology behind luxury watch buying, it isn’t about technical excellence, features or boxes and warranty cards. It’s about getting one up on your mates, showing off the latest hot fashion item and trends in pre-owned watches are fickle. Try selling a Top Time, Hamilton Intra-Matic or Tissot 1973 and see what you get offered as a percentage of new RRP – you’ll be shocked how low it is.
SECRET SALES AND THE THEFT PROBLEM
As we enter Season One of The Hunger Games: Net Zero Starvation, people will become more desperate and you can expect more violent robberies. On the street, in shops, at home – especially if you’re a footballer or celeb who likes to flash their wealth.
This burning resentment by the have nots against the have-it-alls, will explode at some point in the future, but for 2023, we will see more discreet watch retailing to the wealthy. Private security events, invite only, courier communications on servicing not hackable emails or Whatsapp messaging. All that will effectively remove many high end, pre-owned watches from Patek, Mille, Cartier, Jacob & Co, Harry Winston and more from the online retail sector and make values impossible to predict.
In Scotland you buy a house using a 19th century sealed bid process and I can see this happening with watches over 100K. Another prediction is that a major auction house will suffer an Ocan’s Eleven type heist, with some insider help and this will cause a sudden reluctance to consign super valuable watches to `reputable’ auction houses.
In short, expect more greed and corruption in hard times.
Good luck and keep ticking over.