It is no secret that the resale industry is growing rapidly. But in the past year, one accessory, in particular, has risen to the top of the most-wanted list: watches.
According to The RealReal’s 2021 report, customers spend $1,600 more on secondhand luxury watches than last year. Meanwhile, on online consignment retailer Fashionphile, searches for the term “watch” have increased by 73% since 2020. According to McKinsey, an American-based consulting firm, pre-owned luxury watches were worth $18 billion in 2018. It is expected to rise to $30 billion by 2025.
There are more people interested in watches than ever, but luxury brands such the big four: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Richard Mille continue to be the most popular. Richard Mille and Audemars Pièget continue to produce limited quantities each year, in order to ensure quality and exclusivity. Rebag’s chief marketing officer Elizabeth Layne says that watchmakers and brands produced fewer products last year due to closures of factories during the pandemic as well as supply chain problems. She says that there is a rising trend in the number of artisans and watchmakers going out of business due to the economic impact of the pandemic: “All this has increased the demand for secondhand luxury watches.”
But the watch gold rush is not driven by scarcity. Layne says that social media content as well as editorial content that focuses on watches, have more accessible factors. Blogs like Dimepiece are a good example. They feature luxury watches content that is geared towards women, an audience that has been overlooked in the male-dominated industry for a long time. Dimepiece was established in March 2020 by Brynn Wallner, who first saw the site in her role as multimedia producer at Sotheby’s in 2019. Wallner describes how she became interested in watches and says that “the watches department reached out” to her. Dimepiece is a combination of high art and everyday wearability that appealed to me.
“I noticed how the consumer was treated.” Wallner says that there are some trends where the man should buy this watch to climb Mount Everest. But for female watches it was more like, “Here’s a dainty watch.” Wallner says that women want to spend their money on fine things, and that’s what we do with bags and shoes. So why not add watches? Fashionphile reports that searches for “women’s watches” have increased 92% in the past year.
Younger generations are also showing interest in the market. According to TikTok’s app, luxury watch content received over 173,000,000 views. With that in mind, popular creators like @nicovanderhorst, @topbrandwatches, @watchoutforalex, and @watch.eric gives followers a front row seat to the world luxury watches. From videos about purchasing a watch for your first time to behind the scenes glimpses of a career as a watchmaker, to videos about how to buy second hand watch.
Layne also attributes the rise in popularity of luxury resale websites to the secondhand watch boom. “While some items are still very expensive, but they are easily resold secondhand, many designer brands are much more affordable.” The popular Heure watch from Hermes is available for $3,000 new, but Rebag has secondhand options at half the price. Furthermore, customers don’t have to go to a shop with no knowledge of the models or prices. Instead, they can access all information online and make informed decisions before making their first appointment.
There is also a general increase in secondhand luxury sales. Consumers have been investing in quality, long-lasting items since the pandemic. Luxury sales are expected to surpass pre-COVID figures. Rebag shows that most watches sell in a matter of days. A Rolex Batman watch (worth $20,000), was sold in just minutes.
Layne says that he believes there is a wider consumer base who now views watches as an investment category. Layne states that customers and watch sellers are doing extensive research to determine the value of watches. Some models have a retention rate exceeding 158%.
Watches are also valued for their sentimental qualities. Lyst, a global fashion search engine, reported that there was a 42% rise in searches for “couple,” engagement, and “wedding” watches by 2021. The most sought-after style is the Rolex Preowned 40mm Submariner. High-end luxury watches can be passed down, much like wedding rings and engagement rings.
Layne believes that demand will continue to rise and that this trend won’t stop: “We don’t think that the watch bubble is going to burst any time soon.”
Perhaps it is “time” for you to get on board with the current trend.