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Millennials and Gen Z are fueling a boom in the second-hand watch market

Oct. 13, 2022 Updated Fri., Oct. 14, 2022 at 3:28 p.m.

Watches sit on display at a RealReal Inc. store in San Francisco on March 4, 2022.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
Watches sit on display at a RealReal Inc. store in San Francisco on March 4, 2022. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
By Andy Hoffman Bloomberg

The pre-owned luxury watch segment will surge by 75% by the end of this decade, accounting for nearly half of the overall market, with younger buyers fueling the trend, according to a report.

Annual sales of second-hand watches will jump to 35 billion Swiss francs, or $35 billion, by 2030 from 20 billion francs now, consulting firm Deloitte said in an industry report that surveyed consumers and watch brand executives.

The boom in high-end used timepieces has led watchmakers such as Richemont to expand in the segment with its acquisition of Watchfinder. Deloitte expects more brands to launch their own secondary-market sales channels to capture more share and buy back stock to manage supply. The Deloitte report also predicts that established second-hand sales platforms, including Chrono24, Subdial, Watchbox and Hodinkee, will continue to expand.

“The growth potential for the pre-owned market is enormous,” said Karine Szegedi, the head of consumer, fashion and luxury at Deloitte Switzerland.

The study also heralds an acceleration of trends currently shaping the Swiss industry and global luxury watch market. It predicts a jump in the number of watches sold online compared to traditional retail outlets, a further shift by brands to more expensive products and a market driven by younger consumers who view luxury timepieces as investments.

Interest in luxury watches surged during the pandemic as housebound consumers, flush with cash from lack of travel and dining out, began lusting over fancy timepieces online. Prices for pre-owned Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet timepieces soared to record levels before falling back sharply beginning in April as cryptocurrency values and stock markets declined.

The Subdial50 Index, which tracks global market prices for the 50 most traded luxury watches by value, has fallen by 18% in the past six months. Still, Deloitte says the price pullback does not mean the secondary market is shrinking.

Younger buyers born in the Millennial and Gen Z eras are more likely to purchase second-hand watches, as they are more comfortable with buying pre-owned items online and are looking for cheaper prices, according to the report. Almost half of Millennials said they would likely buy a second-hand watch in the next year, compared to just 12% of Baby Boomers.

“Our audience is so different than who you assume a traditional watch buyer to be,” Ben Clymer, the founder of online watch news and retail website Hodinkee said in the report.

“They’re much younger, they’re buying and selling watches much more often, and they care about pre-owned.”

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