On the surface of it, the primary function of wearing a wristwatch is to tell the time. But there is a whole market out there for whom wearing a timepiece is more than that. It signifies style, and the emotional attachment is real. Sabi Phagura caught up with Watchfinder & Co’s CEO, Arjen van de Vall, to talk about luxury timepieces which can add value to time.
Luxurious Magazine: How did the idea to set up Watchfinder & Co. come about?
Arjen van de Vall: Watchfinder was founded back in 2002 by a group of school friends from Kent. The business was born out of a desire to create an online resource where people could buy and sell premium pre-owned timepieces.
Back in 2002, the potential of the internet was still unknown, but the founders of Watchfinder were keen to see what these newly emerging e-commerce technologies could achieve in the pre-owned watch sector.
With a focus on choice, trust, accessibility and outstanding customer experience, the business went from strength to strength, and in May 2018, Watchfinder’s success, and future potential, were recognised when the business was acquired by Richemont.
LM: Talk us through how your company works and operates.
Arjen: We are a specialist who buys, sells and part-exchange pre-owned luxury watches. From current bestsellers and cult classics to vintage and limited-edition pieces, we have thousands of watches from more than 70 different luxury brands, all available to buy online and via our network of private showrooms and boutiques around the world.
With quality and dependability at the very heart of our business, every single one of our watches is meticulously inspected, authenticated and prepared by our team of expert watchmakers in Europe’s largest independent service centre before its available to purchase. And, for added assurance, each watch also comes with a 24-month warranty as standard.
As well as being able to buy, sell, and part exchange luxury watches directly with us at Watchfinder, we have also developed a trade programme in partnership with Cartier, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, A Lange & Söhne, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin and Montblanc.
The programme is already up and running in over 100 boutiques across the UK, US, France, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong SAR, as well as in the Net-a-Porter personal shopping departments in the UK and US.
The trade-in programme means that customers can now trade in one or more of their existing watches, putting its value towards a new Cartier, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Panerai, A Lange & Söhne, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin or Montblanc timepiece or piece of jewellery.
LM: You have recently opened a store at Bicester Village. How many other stores do you have, and in which countries?
Arjen: Yes! We were very excited to open our Bicester Village boutique at the end of November. Our other UK showrooms and boutiques are located within the Bullring in Birmingham, Bluewater in Kent, The Royal Exchange in the City of London, Lakeside in Essex, the Victoria Quarter in Leeds and Avery Row in London’s Mayfair.
Internationally you can also find us in Geneva, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Seattle, Lucerne, Tsim Sha Tsui, Zurich, and Qatar!
LM: What experience and qualities do you need to become a Watchfinder & Co. Sales Advisor?
Arjen: Passion plays a huge part. And that’s not just a passion for watches, but a passion for creating unforgettable customer experiences – taking real pride in the customer journey from start to finish. I also think adaptability is key.
Every customer buys and sells differently; some come to us knowing exactly what they want and are just looking for a speedy and seamless transaction – others come to us looking for help, advice, guidance and inspiration. Our team needs to be ready to adjust to whatever is being asked of them at that moment.
LM: Is there a typical customer profile, whether they are buying or selling watches?
Arjen: Not so much. As the pre-owned watch sector continues to grow in size each year, so does our customer demographic. Right now, online, our watches range from a £350 Raymond Weil Othello to a £242,000 Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980, so, as you can imagine, with over 70 brands and thousands of models, we have quite a broad appeal.
In 2021 we became the first watch retailer to remove gender from our business. It had got to a point where we just felt that categorising a watch as either men’s or women’s was restrictive and outdated. Everything is now listed by size, enabling customers to explore and discover more timepieces.
LM: How do you tell a real watch from a fake one?
Arjen: I would love to be able to give you a list of foolproof tips, but the truth is, when you take into account the hundreds upon thousands of watch makes and models circulating the industry, each with their own unique quirks and nuances, there really is no ‘one size fits all’ solution or rule to spotting a fake.
And that’s the exact reason we have invested so heavily in in-house experts and tech dedicated to authenticating every single watch that comes into our business. It’s a constantly evolving landscape.
LM: How big a problem is fake watches on the market?
Arjen: It’s estimated that over 40 million counterfeit watches are now being sold around the world each year. But it’s not just about volume; continued advancements in tech mean the quality and accuracy of these counterfeit watches are getting better too. Five years ago, we would have said that there were about 80 ‘bad’ fakes to every 20 ‘good’ ones.
Today that ratio has flipped. And that’s why it’s so important to be buying from a trusted specialist who has experts in-house inspecting and authenticating every watch as standard.
LM: How many watches do Watchfinder & Co. sell daily?
Arjen: Our business very much centres around buying, selling and part exchanging. To put that cycle into perspective, we can buy anywhere up to 3,000 watches a month, which averages out at around 100 watches a day.
For more information on Watchfinder & Co, visit www.watchfinder.co.uk.
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