his year, Bucherer became the first official Rolex retailer to join the new Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programme of the brand with the crown. All CPO Rolex watches sold at Bucherer are now authenticated by Rolex itself; they benefit from a two-year international warranty, as well as dedicated accessories, such as a Rolex CPO seal and pouch. Initially launched in Europe through Bucherer’s points of sale (in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom), the programme is set to expand worldwide through other official representatives.
The announcement by the world’s largest watchmaker that it’s launching its very own secondary-market certification marks a turning point for this fast-growing segment. Alongside official channels and physical boutiques, Rolex is by far the most traded brand online, on a wide range of platforms. One of the most famous is Bob’s Watches, which has specialised in Rolex watches for over a decade.
What will the announcement change for this platform, as well as for the many dealers who do not have a direct partnership with the brand? We interviewed CEO Paul Altieri to find out.
- Paul Altieri, CEO of Bob’s Watches
Europa Star: Rolex has just unveiled its own official pre-owned certification programme. Was this announcement a surprise for you?
Paul Altieri: Not totally, because the programme had been rumoured for several months. But rumours are uncertain by definition, so it’s a big deal to see this concept come to fruition. In general, it’s good to see brands now engaging in pre-owned, as it gives more credibility to the whole segment. I think overall it’s a positive development for the market.
For your own business, it’s a double-edged sword: Rolex wants to favour its official network, but you don’t work directly with the brand.
It’s a logical move on their part: today, the secondary market is estimated to be worth between 20 and 30 billion dollars a year, and Rolex represents a huge part of that. They want to work with their own retailers. But if you go to an official retailer today to find a sought-after Rolex model, be it first- or second-hand, you’re unlikely to find one. I am confident in our future: in the US, Tourneau [acquired by Bucherer in 2018] has been operating its own CPO programme for several years, and we have been able to compete with them.
If customers see the brand’s official CPO as a decisive factor in their shopping behaviour, that will be a huge shift.
We’ve been in this business for over a decade and I can tell you it’s a segment that requires very specific conditions: for example, today the vast majority of transactions take place online, and not through brick-and-mortar. If this programme were to move fully online, the change would be much more impactful.
More generally, if it makes this business as a whole more credible, transparent and legitimate, that’s a good thing. When we started in the late 2000s, we were already looking to impose more order in a very chaotic segment. We were the first to be fully transparent about our purchase and resale prices, at a time when the general market conditions were still very opaque.
How do you source your models?
99% through private individuals. Rolex accounts for about 75% of our business, but it used to be 100%. We’re trading more and more models from other brands, including Omega, Cartier and Tudor. We execute between 1,200 and 1,500 transactions per month and all our certifications are done in-house.
The Rolex CPO covers models that are a minimum of 3 years old. What proportion of watches on your platform are under this limit?
About 20%. In addition, almost half are sold with boxes and papers. When we started out, the situation in this market was quite different: second-hand watches were seen mainly as bargains. Today, the notion of investment is everywhere. It took twelve years to get to where we are today.