Five reasons why buying watches online is a good option
Part 1 of our guide to buying (and selling your own) watches on line
The 2017 report prepared by GFK for Assorologi established two things - the final result of last year confirmed, albeit downward, that the watch sales amounted to the same volumes as those of 2016. Italy is worth a total of 6.7 million when it comes to watches with an average selling price on the market of € 220 that translates into a total cost of around € 1.5 billion. What this study also showed is that Italians are becoming more familiar with the Internet and are starting to change their habits.
The Internet has now become a relevant source for buying watches. If we were to consider the average purchasing price of €220 we would simply focus on one specific sector of the whole market – this purchasing price clearly indicates that most of the sales of watches concentrate within the low-end of the market and in a sector populated by all kinds of brand. The GFK study does not provide us with the specific data of each individual brand or, at least, as far as the study commissioned by Assorologi is concerned, there is no further detail available for the brand / group, because the analysis is based on consumer interviews. Trying to figure out what the specific impact of a Citizen Promaster Altichron Titanium BN4021-02E or a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King could have on these figures - just to name two completely opposite watches for price and features, or, at least, for the brands they belong to – would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I am coming from the consumer goods sector and I guess that GFK also carried out a sales analysis by aggregating the data provided by all the watch brands, thus coming up with a competitive analysis divided by industrial group – this is one of the reasons why many brands, year after year, copy products and materials from each other. The figures related to the group analysis provided by GFK are of the B2B-type (Business to Business, i.e. from the company to the retailer) and they analyse the Sell-in and that is why we cannot possibly find out how many of those products have actually ended up in the end-customer's household, rather than in a store’s warehouse or back into the retail chain.
1 – The Internet is like a huge retail window for watches
Not only have I been among the first people in Italy to buy watches on the Internet, but a substantial part of my purchases was made online at an average cost of €2000. I've never experienced any problem with my purchases, except in some cases, where I received an instruction book that was different from the original - nothing to really worry about too much. The Internet is like a big retail window for watches and American e-retailers paved the way for online sales. When it comes to emerging business and important turnovers, whether you like it or not, everything comes from overseas. I will not speak here in detail of the first retailers in the world by turnover – I will do that soon in another articles - but I will mention the most common types of business models and the reasons why you should buy online; some e-retailers only sell new products, others both new and used ones, others, again, only sell used products and actually buy your own watches, and so on. The option combinations are multiple.
In some cases these retailers do not provide you with the official guarantee from the manufacturer, but they rather sell new watches and offer their own brand coverage that can often exceed that provided by the manufacturer, so as to lure the customer into buying additional extension packages that the original manufacturer would not be able to provide the buyer with. The TAG Heuer Monaco Sixty-Nine, the TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 12 and the Alfred Dunhill City-Fighter that were reviewed on these pages were bought through two major American retailers; Autentic Watches (a Californian e-retailer) and Ashford (from New York), respectively.
Italy still has a lot of catch up to do from this point of view and is currently experiencing a slow, but inexorable transformation moving from the retailer to the online sales. It is undeniable, however, that with just a few clicks you can have access to a virtually unlimited range of used and new watches and that is exactly what drives consumers to the Internet.
2 – Selling before buying; the Internet could be your starting point for your own virtual store
There are multi-product platforms, like eBay, or platforms dedicated to buying and selling watches, like Chrono24. Chrono24 is the leading platform when it comes to buying and selling watches worldwide. In case you want to buy a new, a used or a vintage watch, volume-wise and deep-wise, no other platform can be compared to Chrono24 when it comes to medium-high range timepieces.
Considering the type of customer, eBay is a leader on the market if you are looking for a limited edition G-Shock or a New Old Stock Promaster released a few years before. However, despite the fact that it sells every type of product in each single price range, Chrono24 is your favorite destination if you are into mechanical or quartz watches, both modern and vintage, new or used.
For some time now Chrono24 has been a direct retail shop (B2C, Business to Consumer) for many brands, many of which do not have the strength or the interest to open their own single-brand-store and have identified in Chrono24 a virtual platform, where they can showcase their products to a highly segmented clientele using the site to buy watches. You can also sell your watch directly by showing it to a wide audience of possible buyers - this is the best way to make a bit of cash and get ready for your next purchase. Among the new online stores, Catawiki and its auction system are slowly getting on to the market; the site offers a different business model and deserves a separate article.
3 – Buying on the Internet allows you to save time and money
If you are looking into evaluating three different watches for your purchase, you can think about two different scenarios; the first scenario entails you accessing, one two or even three different stores, in case the three brands are not all sold by the same dealer. You must also enter the retailer's shop because what you are looking for is not on display, although that retailer is a dealer of the watch brand that you are interested in. Imagine now the same scenario online; you are at home in front of your PC or tablet and browse the Internet looking for those same timepieces by accessing as many dealers’ sites as you like. In both cases we are considering a scenario, where we are dealing with authorized dealers, so as to make the comparison valid and understand how this purchasing channel works. When it comes to the searching part, the advantages, in terms of time and efficiency, are all in favor of the web; considering that most people work all day long, if you are interested in viewing the watch with your own eyes in a store, you have to wait for the weekend (i.e. usually Saturday only). In a fast era, where there is little time for everything, online store newsletters can reach you everywhere, the communication channel has evolved over the years and is much more engaging than before – nowadays, during you lunch break, you can fish out your smartphone and look for what you are looking for based on your desired price and even refine your search using more parameters. If you have PayPal or other advanced forms of payment that allow you to make a quick purchase online, everything gets easier. On the contrary, the online picture of the object of your desires is fundamental, because you are not touching the watch with your own hands and this approach is still an element that goes in favor of purchasing in a physical store.
4 – An urban legend – buying watches online might be dangerous
Let's just debunk this myth - if buying watches online were a risky activity, the whole e-commerce world would collapse. Often, those who run online business stores have to take extra measures when it comes to being careful, because they have to meet strictest standard requirements and processes of an ordinary retailer. Online businesses are now extremely controlled and are subjected to ratings carried out by accredited bodies, and the success of their business activities is crucial to guarantee the continuity of the business itself.
These certificates or badges also allow you to identify serious online shops from more questionable ones that, in the big sea of the Internet, still exist, but will probably have a very short lifespan. Moreover, when you buy online, you can take advantage of policies, such as "satisfied or your money reimbursed" and, in most cases, the new watch you have just purchased comes directly from the warehouse, it has never been touched before by other customers’ hands and it has been sitting in the warehouse for a very short period of time, because e-commerce stores base their success on the fast rotation of products. This is another advantage of an online retailer if compared to a traditional one: I entered stores all over Italy, where the watches I tested were supposed to be new ones, but, in more than one case, they had no protection film on, because they were actually on display in the window or had been tested by other customers before, some of them even showed some scratches.
However, there are extremely serious jewelers that keep each watch with all the protective films on from the moment they have received them from the factory and until the end-customer’s purchase has finalized. Rocca 1794, a historic retailer, is among those that pay the utmost care towards the end customer – just take a look at the way it displays watches in its windows and you will understand what I am talking about, it is a form of respect that other emblazoned retailers do not have or no longer have.
5 – Online buying means saving money
Here we are tackling a very large chapter that I will elaborate further on in a dedicated article, because the complexity of the business models of those, who sell watches online, is so high that you risk being misled or understand little about it. However, I can say that there are shops that are exclusively online (100% virtual shop) and shops with mixed models (both retail and online). What would be an example of a famous 100% virtual store? Amazon! While an example of the second case is could be the Brandizzi jewellery shop in Rome, or Bernard Watch in Texas. The latter two cases represent two best-in-class examples within this sector.
Brandizzi also sells new timepieces with an official warranty and second-hand-watches, while Bernard Watch does the same, but without offering the official warranty, but rather a specific coverage. Both e-retailers are very reliable sources and a first sign of how serious they are is the way they present their products to the public. They take high-quality pictures of all the products they sell and they precisely provide information about the features and status of each product – you can then buy what you see.
Throughout Europe, the most important online store is definitely Montredo (or at least within its specific sector), Montredo sells used and new watches and it is the only e-retailer to sell new watches with an official house warranty. The e-retailer source its stock from the unsold ware of retailers around the world (i.e. drop shipping) and from many brands’ need to make space in their warehouses, especially when it comes to references that have a low or very low rotation.
The e-retailer was born in Berlin - the European capital of start-ups. The retail price of its watches is higher than those sold with an unofficial warranty, but the level of customer service and customer support are unbeatable.
(Photo credit: property of the respective owners cited in the article)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®