The StockX for pre-owned luxury watches, Crown & Caliber, has solved the problem of selling and buying premium used timepieces online.
Because it’s a pain to sell your $11,000 Omega on Craigslist.
CEO Hamilton Powell got the idea for Crown & Caliber five years ago during his career in private equity. He was having lunch with a friend who was trying to sell his Patek Philippe Gondola (a watch that retails for around $15,000) on eBay and Craigslist. First came the offers from far-off princes who swore to wire the money after receiving the watch. Then came meet-up suggestions in dark, deserted parking lots. This friend eventually drove around to local jewelry stores, which offered him a lowball $5,200. He took the money and went back to the store the next day to see his watch on sale for $12,500.
With a background in finance, Powell went to the data and found “about $5 billion dollars’ worth of Swiss mechanical watches are sold at retail, meaning 100 billion watches are floating around in this country,” he tells The Manual. “Until we had started Crown & Caliber, it was really hard for people to transact with this used inventory, since it’s so hard to trust buyers and sellers of used watches.”
This isn’t your old dining table. Buying and selling pre-owned watches is like buying and selling a pre-owned car.
“The risk is multiplied in the luxury category because of authenticity, but with watches particularly there’s an added risk of functionality,” Powell says. “When you’re buying a Hermes handbag, you want to know it’s made by the designer, but the difference is a Rolex has as much as 300 moving parts, the complexity of a car, and each one needs to be functional.”
Crown & Caliber verifies both authenticity and function with a watch-making team of 11 with histories working for Rolex, Cartier, etc., who are dedicated to servicing the watches before they get listed on the site. Sure, that Craigslist Breitling might be legit, but it also might have been filled with water and ruined on the inside.
Why Buy a Pre-Owned Watch?
Powell says their largest group of consumers between the ages of 25-40 are savy enough to realize a new watch isn’t worth the depreciation. “When you buy brand new, you get a really nice experience. For some people the chandelier and marble experience is worth it the cost of depreciation from the moment you walk out of the store with it,” Powell says. “Buying preowned, you avoid the initial depreciation since the person selling already incurred it. Then if you want to sell it one day you don’t take that hit.”
How Crown & Caliber Works
Go to the website and click sell my watch. Enter a little info and click submit. The submission goes to experts that ping “a comprehensive database of pre-owned watches,” says Powell. The database prompts what C&C can pay you for your watch.
Then you get an offer. If you like that offer, you receive a prepaid and insured shipping label. Wrap up your watch and send it. C&C will then receive the watch in secure facility to verify authenticity. If all looks gravy, they pay you and you’re done. Easy.
Go to the website and browse the racks. Know that before a luxury watch is listed, it undergoes a servicing process that Powell compares to “going to the spa.”
“Sometimes it simply needs a polishing and recalibration and in others it needs full overhaul,” he says. The watch is spruced up in like-new condition, photos are taken, and the watch is listed. “A watch sells in an average of 62 days,” Powell adds. Once taken off the market, it’s shipped out to buyer with a full one-year warranty. As a buyer, you have a return period, no questions asked.
Crown & Caliber’s top selling luxury brands include Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Cartier, and Panerai, so there’s something for everyone at C&C.