Philipp Man, CEO, Chronext
ON THE BOOMING PRE-OWNED WATCH MARKET
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.” chronext.co.uk