Worldwide, billions of euros are involved in the trade of used watches where owners would even buy a premium quality single watch winder for their precious possession. And also in the Netherlands, second-hand Audemars Piguets, Patek Philippes, and Rolexes are sold like hotcakes. Enthusiasts easily deposit thousands of euros.
Compare it to the market for classic cars, says Jasper Lijfering, owner of Amsterdam Vintage Watches. “The product is new and hard to get, as with Rolex, which is very exclusive with certain models. As a result, there is a lot of money in the market.”
The 25-year-old took over the company from his parents. The cheapest watches in his shop start at 2100 euros, and the most expensive one costs 65,000 euros. Lijfering can count rapper Lil Kleine among his clientele, who clearly shows his love for expensive watches via Instagram.
Stand the test of time
According to Lijfering, the fact that people are willing to pay such an amount for a vintage watch can be compared to art: “It is not subject to fashion and has stood the test of time. In addition, you buy a story and emotion. You don’t buy a Rolex because it runs better, but because it lasts a lifetime and you might want to give it to your son afterward.”
In total, there are 5 billion euros in the market for used watches, according to research that Bloomberg writes about.
Traditional companies are responding to this, such as jewelry store Schaap en Citroen, which opened their boutique Vintage Watches a month ago in the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam. The Swiss luxury brand Audemars Piguet started this year with the sale of used watches of the brand.
The popularity is partly fuelled by the desire for nostalgia, the craftsmanship of the past, Raoul Mulder explains. He follows fashion and watches closely, because of his job as a manager in the Amsterdam branch of clothing maker New Tailor. “It is also a bit of a counter-movement, in which the classical elements come back and the great of a few years ago no longer fits in.”
Mulder, who himself wears a Rolex from 1972 (“How expensive it was I prefer to keep to myself”), also makes the comparison with a classic car: “It is much more fun, despite the start-up problems and the fiddling. Isn’t it fantastic to have a watch that winds itself up?”
Gucci vs. Hema Hotels
In addition, a watch is actually the only piece of jewelry for a gentleman, according to Lijfering. “Aesthetics play a big role. And also human nature: that you want to have what someone else can’t get.”
It is therefore also a way to express yourself, he adds: “A T-shirt from Gucci is not a hundred euros better than one from the Hema.”
The growth is partly due to the fact that since the crisis ‘value has been looked at differently’, says Mike van Kinderen, director of marketing at Schaap en Citroen.
If you want a special watch, you can’t escape the market for used ones. Because there are few new copies, the price of pre-owned watches is inflated. “A second-hand piece is worth more than a new one sometimes,” says Van Kinderen.
The most extreme example of this is the auction of a steel Rolex Daytona from last year, for about 15 million euros. “That was also due to the previous owner,” says Evert Stodel, who also works at Schaap en Citroen.
“That was Mr. Paul Newman himself, after whom a Rolex dial is named. This watch also had this dial, so everything came together, it can’t get much more extreme,” he says enthusiastically. “A similar kind of watch was also auctioned a few months later for only three tons, which is still a bizarre amount of money of course. But the origin is certainly important.”
Lego for adults
The collective value, which is therefore also influenced by the previous owner, partly determines the price, Stodel explains. “Small children collect that one Lego brick or Dinky Toys, adults do that with watches.”
They are guided by emotion, for example, because they like to look for a watch from their year of birth. Stodel: “It’s new and can’t be found anymore, then it will be the vintage market.”
In order to meet that demand, Schaap en Citroen is ‘actively’ looking for used watches. “We do this, for example, with visits to auctions and advertisements.” The company also accepts watches from customers ‘who sometimes want something different’ as a medium of exchange. From whom and to whom the company (re)sells watches, the gentlemen do not want to say: “We do not really make statements about our customers.”
For Lijfering, too, the hunt for new pieces is the most challenging part of his job. “We get a lot from private individuals: people who want something different, or have inherited something or have ever received one from their act,” he says. “Or, if they need money, for that matter.”
A lot of time goes into checking, but that is of great importance. “Collectors want to make sure he is the way he came out of the factory in 1950. Of the thirty that we are offered, we buy one on average,” says Lijfering. Then it takes another three months before the piece is in the store, the first maintenance is done.
“The coolest story? That was from a gentleman who brought two Rolex Submariners because he found the 6000 euros that Rolex asked to have them overhauled too expensive,” says Lijfering. “He had once bought them for 300 guilders, for his work as a diver. He wanted to sell them because he went blind.”
Because the watches were still in their original state, the market value was around 20,000 euros. “If he had had them overhauled, they would have been worth less,” says Lijfering, who could then resell them for just over 20,000. How much profit he made on it, he does not want to say.
Before jewelers accept such a watch, it is of course checked whether it is a real one and whether it has not been stolen. “There are sometimes pieces in between that we can’t accept,” says Stodel. That does not necessarily mean that it is a fake, but it can be a composite watch, ‘marriage’ in professional jargon.
“Then, for example, a different dial is used to make it more expensive,” stodel explains. “We don’t participate in that, that’s a slippery slope because the pieces are no longer original.”
The expensive watches are also popular among criminals, but they do not come in at Schaap en Citroen, so assure the gentlemen of Schaap en Citroen. “These men are not customers of ours, they buy their watches on the parallel market,” says Stodel, skilfully bypassing the term “black market.”
At the jeweler, they strictly adhere to the procedures to prevent money laundering, van Kinderen explains. “Every customer must identify himself or herself if he or she wants to pay an amount of 10,000 euros or higher in cash. This already excludes that entire segment,” says Van Kinderen.
Criminals do indeed usually get their watches in other places, explains crime journalist Paul Vugts. “That of that parallel circuit is true: they get their bling-bling from traders where you as an ordinary customer do not enter,” he says.
Criminal Danny K. was even convicted on the basis of overheard conversations at a dealer in expensive exclusive watches, says Vugts, who followed the trial for Het Parool.
“These criminals often spend their first money on expensive watches, expensive cars, and expensive girlfriends with whom they sit at VIP tables in certain batting clubs,” says Vugts.
The shot criminal Gwenette Martha is known to have been a great lover of the watches of Audemars Piguet and two expensive Rolexes were found in Jason ‘jayjay’ L., suspected of involvement in liquidations.