Richemont's Watchfinder cuts pre-owned prices as Rolex and Patek Philippe values drop

Demand for coveted timepieces has been hit by slowing growth, higher interest rates and the collapse of cryptocurrency prices

A visitor takes pictures in front of a display of Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel, Switzerland March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann - RTX32FQC
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Watchfinder & Co, the online pre-owned watch-selling platform controlled by luxury conglomerate Richemont, has dropped prices by about 15 per cent as the value of used Rolex timepieces and other top models have declined.

“There is pain for sure,” Arjen van de Vall, who took over as the chief executive of Watchfinder in 2021, said.

“You see supply going up significantly for models that we would literally have killed for just a couple of months before.”

Luxury watches — in pictures

After an unprecedented surge in 2021 and into the first three months of 2022, prices for the most desired Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet models have been falling sharply.

Watch values have been hit by slowing economic growth, higher interest rates and the collapse of cryptocurrency prices.

Watch dealers and investors have flooded the market with supply, in recent months, of once-sought-after Rolex Daytona, Patek Nautilus and AP Royal Oak models, leading to a 24 per cent decline in a luxury watch market index, compiled by Watchcharts, in 12 months.

The index comprises 60 watches from the top 10 luxury watch brands by transaction value.

Watchfinder’s average selling price for a luxury timepiece is about £7,000 ($8,445), the chief executive said.

That has not changed much despite the price correction as buyers have been snapping up higher-end models at lower prices.

“It’s mostly driven by rebalancing of what it is that we sell,” Mr van de Vall said. “Some of the higher-end stuff, with prices settling down, became more attractive.”

Rolex remains the top-selling luxury watch brand on Watchfinder, both by volume and value.

However, lower-priced brands such as watches made by Richemont jewellery brand Cartier are moving up the list.

Cartier is currently the sixth-most popular brand by volume, but will soon move into fifth place amid rising popularity for the brand’s Tank and Santos models, Mr van de Vall said.

Based in the UK, Watchfinder is among the biggest online sellers of pre-owned luxury timepieces and has expanded to other markets in Europe, the US and Asia.

It also has physical stores in London, Paris, Geneva, Munich, Hong Kong and New York, giving the company particular insight into watch market demand trends.

Mr van de Vall said the correction in prices and surge in supply was not a surprise to Watchfinder, which uses data to track and predict market performance as supplies surged.

However, the breadth and the speed of the sell-off has been unexpected.

“Most people in the industry were not naive that prices would plateau and go down, but not with this magnitude,” he said.

Watchfinder is expanding to add a trading platform in the UK, apart from buying watch inventory for resale on its website and in its stores.

The new programme will allow dealers and private sellers to post watches for sale on Watchfinder, with the company taking a £175 sales commission on each watch and a 4.9 per cent share on the sales value.

Watches sold on the platform will be inspected for authenticity and condition by Watchfinder.

The move puts the company in direct competition with Chrono24 GmbH, the biggest online watch trading platform, as well as eBay.

Chrono24 recently cut about 13 per cent of its workforce in a reorganisation amid the declines in secondary watch market prices.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 6:17 AM