What is the concept of Watchfinder & Co.?
Watchfinder & Co. is a luxury pre-owned watch specialist. For 20 years we have been the trusted resource for watch enthusiasts to buy, sell and part-exchange pre-owned luxury watches – everything from current bestsellers and cult classics through to vintage and limited-edition pieces. Our watches are available online and via our network of private showrooms and boutiques across the UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Switzerland and the US.
What makes the business and services you offer unique in the industry?
I think it boils down to quality and choice. From a quality standpoint, every single one of our watches has been painstakingly inspected, authenticated and prepared by a team of expert watchmakers in our service centre. It’s the largest independent service centre in Europe and accredited by 19 of the world’s leading watch manufacturers. To complement this, every single one of our watches comes with a 24-month warranty. We also pride ourselves in the huge choice we provide. And that’s not just referring to the wide selection of watches we sell but also the way in which our clients engage with us. Choice and flexibility are key. Our customers can browse our stock online or in-store, they can arrange to view any timepiece of interest at their nearest showroom or boutique, or they can order that watch to be delivered directly to their door, often as quickly as same day. With concierge services, virtual access to our experts, complimentary watch valuations, home collection, part exchange and bespoke finance solutions, we really do aim to ensure every customer’s watch is selected, prepared and delivered to them exactly how they want it.
What kind of watch brands do you sell and trade in?
Where to begin! We have literally thousands of watches from more than 70 different luxury brands. These include Rolex, Breitling, Panerai, IWC, TAG Heuer, Tudor, Omega, Hublot, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet to name but a few. Similarly, our trade-in service applies to an extremely wide variety of pre-owned luxury watches too. Predominantly these are watches manufactured within the last 25 years but there are exceptions to the rule, so if a customer is unsure whether a watch they own is suitable for trade-in they can pop in and see us or drop us a line.
At Watchfinder, what steps do you take to ensure your clients can buy pre-owned with confidence?
Quality and dependability sit at the very heart of our business, so this is hugely important to us. We have a scrupulous quality control process in place whereby every single one of our watches is inspected, authenticated and prepared by our team of expert watchmakers before it’s made available to buy. We are vigilant with our authenticity and proof of ownership checks and use multiple systems and services. We are not only part of Richemont’s lost and stolen initiative, but we also have our own in-house systems and The Watch Register.
If someone with little experience wanted to start a timepiece collection, what would your advice be?
First and foremost, only buy a watch that you love. That is the best investment you can make. My second piece of advice would be to consider pre-owned watches as well as new. The pre-owned sector opens you up to a far wider selection of watches, old and new, and can provide you with unprecedented access to some otherwise unobtainable pieces – limited-editions, cult classics that have been discontinued and, of course, current best sellers that are impossible to access new due to impenetrable and lengthy waiting lists. The length and breadth of choice in the luxury watch sector has never been greater and each year more and more watch enthusiasts are recognising trusted pre-owned specialists as the best route to accessing more of this stock. It’s a truly exciting time to start.
The length and breadth of choice in the luxury watch sector has never been greater
Which watch brands are particularly popular at the moment? Have you noticed any trends in the horology industry?
While steel sports watches from the likes of Rolex and Patek Philippe continue to remain hugely popular, we are also seeing increasing demand for the likes of Audemars Piguet and more independent brands including F.P Journe. There is a growing appetite for complications and high-level finishing over ‘tool watches’. There’s also been a noticeable return to more dress-style watches and smaller case sizes. This can be seen in the market through the popularity of the Tank Must collection from Cartier and, in particular, asymmetric watches in pop culture, such as the Cartier Crash worn by the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West.
Why do watches make a good investment?
It’s important to remember that no investment is risk-free or guaranteed. But it is fair to say that, in recent years, the investment potential of a fine watch has become far more prevalent. Huge demand and short supply have rendered a handful of brands and models more lucrative than money in the bank – and not just for watches out of the reach of the average luxury watch buyer, but for more attainable ones as well. The theme of these watches tends to focus on stainless steel sports models, such as the Submariner from Rolex, the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet and the Nautilus from Patek Philippe. Designs from these industry-leading manufacturers have grown in such popularity over the last decade that, should the opportunity arise to purchase them at RRP, they are immediately worth a substantial amount more than new.
From the entry-level £4,500 Rolex Oyster Perpetual to the £26,000 Patek Philippe Nautilus, these watches currently present some of the best short-term investment opportunities available anywhere in the world – if they can be acquired. But securing an invitation to purchase one is rare and in some cases almost impossible. Even the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, a £2,800 entry-level watch from Rolex’s sister brand Tudor, can be difficult to source. It’s not just these widely recognised brands that have come to earn their owners a tidy sum, but also a number of lesser-known independents too. The value of watches is initially driven by the collectors’ market, and as interested as collectors have been in Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, their attention has more recently been drawn to the independent watchmakers as well.
These are companies built on the legacy of a single watchmaker, such as F. P. Journe or Roger W. Smith, founded around the turn of the millennium as – following a downturn after the introduction of quartz movements – luxury watchmaking became a viable business once more. These watches are crafted by hand in very small numbers, and the earliest works of these brands, often built by their namesakes themselves, have earned enormous respect in the collector community, pushing up demand and therefore values of the brands overall. But many of these watches are out of reach of the average watch buyer. Investment is still achievable, however, albeit in a less extreme way, by purchasing pre-owned watches, ideally a few years old and especially those that are discontinued. Older watches, known as vintage, are already increasing in value for many names, whereas a more recent pre-owned watch will generally benefit a buyer by actually being cheaper than its RRP. Where this can become an investment is when the prices of contemporary models rise, they draw up those of outgoing models with them. After five years or so, a well-purchased pre-owned watch from many brands should be owing close to nothing and in many cases be worth more than it was bought for.
What do you like about the City audience and being based at The Royal Exchange?
The Royal Exchange really is something very special indeed. It’s not just one of London’s most iconic buildings but a real piece of City history that continues to adapt and thrive. This prestigious location brings a diverse mix of genuine watch lovers to our door, which means every day is just that little bit different – and we love it.
Richard Newman manages the Watchfinder & Co. boutique located at The Royal Exchange. watchfinder.co.uk