Brands like Hodinkee are changing the way we buy luxury watches.
In theory, the need for luxury watches has been all but eliminated: time-telling phones have taken on the status of essential organs. And yet, paradoxically, the desire for them has shot up. The internet doesn’t allow you to inspect anything up close, try it on, or even ensure its legitimacy, so it might seem like a funny place to purchase something worth thousands of dollars. But that hasn’t stopped everyone in the new and vintage watch markets from trying to make serious online sales a thing: companies are coordinating short-term rentals over the web and as of today leading watch website Hodinkee is set up as an authorized retailer to sell brand-new timepieces. The new Hodinkee shop takes the burden off the customer to wade through ugly watches, authenticate them, and haggle with dealers. You can just hook it up to Apple Pay.
Hodinkee’s announcement stresses that its new shop (and app) is not for customers who “wants to see every single watch from a manufacturer on their wrist before making a final buying decision.” That’s because, according to the company, today’s watch customer buys these items the way the rest of us order in a burrito. “We’ve had a customer who bought a watch for $175,000 on a Tuesday evening on his iPad,” Hodinkee’s chief operating officer Eneuri Acosta tells me over the phone.
The trigger-happy way consumers are now willing to buy watches speaks volumes about the way the market has matured. It’s no coincidence that the Paul Newman Daytona Rolex set the record for most expensive wristwatch ever sold by multiple millions just last month. Thanks to a tsunami of factors coming together at the right time, people are seemingly more interested in watches than ever before. “Customers who are shopping online are spending a good amount of time doing research just because there’s more information out there than there was previously,” says Acosta. “That has led to a more educated consumer and that drives more confidence in making a purchase.”
And while the Paul Newman is widely considered the most important wristwatch of the 20th century, it’s possible it wasn’t even the most important sale to take place that week. As I rehashed the momentous occasion with James Lamdin, the owner of New York City vintage-watch shop Analog Shift, he put more importance on the sale of an Omega Speedmaster 2915-1 at auction in Stockholm just a couple nights earlier. According to Lamdin, it’s a watch that typically sells around $120,000—but it went for $270,190 last month. “That’s a bigger indication that the watch market has changed for more people,” Lamdin said. And whether you want to credit the sale of the Newman, the Speedmaster, or just the growing number of options watch buyers have, Lamdin said one thing is certain: “The watch market is incredibly strong.” And Acosta says that while the past two years have been a struggle for luxury watch companies, “in 2017 the industry is rebounding.” A third of Hodinkee’s sales come over its mobile app, and the new shop offers next-day shipping. The lesson: even watches can benefit from our Amazon Prime-enabled late-night impulse purchasing habits.
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