Pre-owned watches

“How can brands operate in the secondary market?”


Español Français
November 2017

“How can brands operate in the secondary market?”

“Online watch sales are soaring and they’re not set to stop."
“How can brands operate in the secondary market?”


ou find all kinds of things on the internet and we feel it’s important to offer a serious approach in the premium segment, with quality guarantees. Moreover, the market lacks transparency, especially about prices, and also quality when it comes to pre-owned and vintage watches, which is our niche.

We founded TrueFacet three years ago in a growing online market and with state-of-the-art technology for pricing the watches we sell. We analyse a huge amount of data to set the right price. We offer guarantee certificates that insurance companies will accept, and we service the watches.

The watchmaking industry hasn’t yet adjusted to the new digital reality, and traditional distribution is dying. Besides that, the brands have short-circuited the traditional family retailer networks, which had personal relationships with their clients and their own identity, by launching their own boutiques, accelerating their extinction.

"The watchmaking industry hasn’t yet adjusted to the new digital reality, and traditional distribution is dying."

The result has been a levelling out and homogenisation of watch distribution. Without meaning to, the brands have destroyed the important, strong link between traditional retailers and their customers that had existed for generations, killing a large part of the passion that went into the business, as well as a lot of expertise. Today, the boutiques take orders, they’re no longer genuine vendors. A few brands, like Rolex or Patek Philippe, have been cleverer, preserving or even stepping up their relations with quality, local retailers. And they didn’t follow the rush on China either, and they’ve retained a large American customer base. Today, they’re benefiting from that long-term strategy.

Even so, in growing many brands have lost the ability to convey their peculiarities, their capacity to communicate what made them so special, with their workshops in the Joux Valley... At the same time, the watches themselves have become more and more complicated, which has accelerated the disconnection from the baseline customer, especially the younger ones. The latter are very keen on buying preowned watches online at a low price.

The challenge facing the brands is this: how can they act on this ‘secondary’ market in order to preserve their own market? Because their perceived value is at stake via the internet. Today, we have a catalogue of 8,000 watches and we’re sending out the following message to the brands: we can help you, we’ve gathered mass data on people who are interested in your watches, whereas the traditional distribution model has broken down.

Supporting small brands

Today, the smallest brands, the independent ones, are obliged to work with agents, which affords them little visibility and slim margins. We want to support these small brands as a priority in the future by introducing an e-commerce platform for new watches dedicated specifically to them, quite separate from the already extant pre-owned model. That will serve them both as a marketing and a measuring tool, gathering very useful data. And maybe even, ultimately, help get them into traditional, quality retail stores! The pathways between digital and physical stores need rethinking.

Today, 90% of our customer base is American, but we want to expand beyond the United States. Our main competition comes from person-to-person sales platforms like eBay and Chrono 24. Unlike them, we offer selected watches with service, guarantees and experience. We source our watches from a variety of suppliers; they may be retailers we partner with or industry professionals in 65% of cases, but also private individuals in 35% of cases. We don’t show who is selling the watch, but we authenticate everything. We’re not like Amazon; we try to create a community with more of a ‘family’ spirit. Often, our buyers become vendors. Our sales commission varies from 8% to 20%. Delivery takes three to four days on average.

The American market is rapidly becoming digitalised. We’ve noticed that we’re attracting the attention of the brands and industry professionals much more than when we started. It has to be said that the Swiss brands have for years been striving to control their distribution network and today, with the internet, they have the impression that they don’t control anything anymore. But the web has advantages too, especially when you see the proliferation of references and the way stocks are managed, which has done the multi-brand retailers so much harm. We’re a better choice than a ‘liquidator’ because we preserve a certain brand image and guarantee a fair price. We believe that, ultimately, there will be room for both multi-brand retailers and quality digital platforms.”