Keeping It Real
Vestiaire Collective leads the way in online shopping for luxury second-hand goods, and high-end watches are now taking their place on the platform
Anegative stigma used to be attached to the concept of second-hand when it came to clothes. Fashion was all about newness and nobody would admit to wearing someone else’s cast-offs. But then the vintage revolution came along and suddenly our options for what to wear expanded far beyond the current collections.
Today, second-hand luxury has morphed into a billion-dollar business—literally. Previously owned luxury goods worth US$60 billion were sold in the US alone in 2016. And it has a new description to match its shiny status: pre-loved.
But while pre-loved clothes, shoes and handbags have been changing hands at a rate of knots around the globe, watches were late to the party—until Vestiaire Collective, the fabulously fashionable, very French luxury website that sparked this whole revolution, decided to bring them into the fold.
Vestiaire Collective was launched in 2009 by a group of men and women who could easily have been plucked from the pages a Vanity Fair Best Dressed list. Firm believers in the idea that one woman’s trash is another’s treasure, they wanted to get all the unworn Chanel, the hidden Dior and the forgotten Louis Vuitton back into the marketplace where they belonged.
Imposing a strict no-counterfeit rule, enforcing heavy vetting for all products, and presenting the pieces in an elegant website, Vestiaire Collective was an instant success, changing the way European women shopped over a few short years. This year Vestiaire Collective is coming to Asia, and bringing with it an unparalleled collection of modern and vintage watches. The statistics are impressive. There are currently 14,000 watches online (10,000 for women and 4,000 for men), with 1,000 new models submitted every week. Between 80 and 90 per cent of the watches are mechanical, and the majority are from Rolex, Cartier, Hermès, Chanel, Omega, Audemars Piguet or Jaeger-lecoultre.
Impressive, right? But watches, unlike shoes or handbags, don’t have such a strong tradition of being sold online. So how is the team at Vestiaire Collective going to get people onboard?
“The online watch business is becoming huge. It is one of our focuses for this year,” says Bertrand Thoral, head of menswear and watches for Vestiaire Collective. “Our main asset is that we are the European leader and a key worldwide player in the fashion resale business. We have customers who know and trust Vestiaire Collective and are therefore more likely to sell their high-worth items with us.”
And while buying online makes a lot of sense to watch lovers, as it gives instant access to thousands of timepieces around the world, the thorny issue of verification sometimes puts people off. Which is why Vestiaire Collective is particularly committed to stamping out any counterfeit goods that appear on its site by going through a stringent in-house verification process with every timepiece.
“The authentication of our watches is completed by our watch expert, Fabrice Guéroux,” says Thoral. “During the online curation, we have the first level of authentication. We can ask to have more information, photos, invoices, and we will refuse a watch if we have any doubt in terms of authenticity. When the watch has been sold, the seller will ship the watch to our offices via DHL, where Fabrice will authenticate the item and deliver the authentication certificate. We’ve seen obviously fake pieces, and real products but with fake mechanisms, so sometimes to the untrained eye it can be hard to spot.”
With vintage models rubbing shoulders with timepieces from the latest collections, and watches costing hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting next to eminently affordable options, the beauty of pre-loved is that there is just so much to fall in love with.
pre-loved luxury From left: Every timepiece sold at Vestiaire Collective goes through a stringent inhouse verification process; the luxury website offers a very impressive spread of watches—majority of which mechanical—from brands like Rolex, Chaumet and Cartier, to name a few