Philipp Man, CEO, Chronext


Esquire (UK) - - Watches -

Chronext is run by 26-year-old co-founder Philipp Man, who raised £14m in ven­ture cap­i­tal to launch the pre-owned watch spe­cial­ists in 2013. One of the largest re-sell­ers of vin­tage lux­ury watches in the world, it has a stock of 21,000 pieces for sale on­line, and serves 34 global ter­ri­to­ries.

How did you get into this busi­ness then? “My co-founder Lud­wig Wurl­itzer and

I were al­ways watch-ob­sessed. At col­lege, we started an aca­demic book ex­change; it’s su­per-ex­pen­sive to buy all your books at the be­gin­ning of the year, so we de­cided we could en­able peo­ple to sell them on at the end. We thought, ‘This is the great­est idea of all time!’ Then we re­alised how lit­tle money there was in books. Then we thought about con­sumer prod­ucts that be­have most closely to stocks. And watches are like high-stan­dard com­modi­ties. We started in our kitchen.”

How’s the mar­ket do­ing to­day?

“Ex­tremely well. Over the past few years, new watches have be­come so much more ex­pen­sive that peo­ple are start­ing to see it as a ma­jor al­ter­na­tive to buy­ing a new model. The mar­ket is grow­ing, grow­ing, grow­ing. That said, if some­body wants a new watch, they will prob­a­bly al­ways buy a new watch. But there will be a lot of cus­tomers that will be 50–50. Ul­ti­mately, it’s good for the brand be­cause if some­body buys a pre-owned watch, it gives the con­sumer an ac­cess point at a lower price, to en­gage with the brand they pre­vi­ously wouldn’t have had the op­tions to.”

Let’s say I’ve got £5,000. Give me a tip. “A steel Rolex Sub­mariner with no date. A [ref­er­ence] 146060M.”

Be­cause Rolexes hold their prices? “Typ­i­cally, yes. Not all mod­els, but this model is a clas­sic. It’s also a model Roger Moore wore as James Bond. See­ing that he re­cently passed away, I think it will go up quite a lot. Watches need sto­ries to be sold, you know, it’s a bit like af­ter Pi­casso died, the value of his paint­ings went through the roof.”

What’s the most ex­cit­ing piece you’ve seen? “A Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tour­bil­lon, which is £1.3m, roughly. They make about five a year. It’s a beau­ti­ful watch. To have so much value in your hands is very strange and very, very scary.”

Play­ing devil’s ad­vo­cate: no one re­ally needs a watch any­more, we’ve all got the time on our phones, et cetera. Why are we still so fas­ci­nated by them?

“We buy watches for var­i­ous rea­sons. Num­ber one: ex­clu­siv­ity, in­vest­ment and so­cial sta­tus. Some­thing that you can pass on to your kids. It’s one of those rare things that some­one can own for their whole life. Not to sound ro­man­tic but it gives it some con­ti­nu­ity. Al­most like a wed­ding ring.”

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