As Coronageddon rolls on, watch buyers continue to flock to safety, spending their cash on recognized watch brands like Patek, Rolex, OMEGA, Hamilton, TAG Heuer, etc. The move is leaving lesser-known traditional watch brands and their retailers with piles of unsold inventory. The result (as you will see): Shopworn depreciation! But let’s be careful about one thing . . .
Retail prices are misleading. A great many watches from both well and lesser-known brands never sell at retail. That’s especially true at the very top and bottom of the market (Philip Stein watches are always discounted.) So when you see a watch “on sale” for an enormous discount, the “savings” may be largely or indeed entirely illusory.
With that in mind, I’m focusing on high end men’s watches from shopworn.com. They’re relatively new to the field of “gray market” (new-in-box) timepieces, but making big noise with their BuyBack Partnership Program.
Under its auspices, unsold inventory gets channeled to Shopworn with the manufacturer’s blessing. Struggling Graham Watches is the first and so-far only watchmaker on board.
Meanwhile, Shopworn is selling “unofficial” gray market watches at the same discounts as players like Jomashop, with the same style in-house two-year warranty replacing the manufacturer’s. Here are a few real eye-openers. (No commission paid.)
HYT H1 Iceberg Titanium Manual
HYT currently sells three versions of the HYT H1: silver, black or anthracite cases with bright blue, green or red immiscible liquids. This Shopworn depreciation example was [allegedly] part of a 50-piece production run with palladium gray titanium cases and blue fluid. exquisitetimepieces.com has a “regular” HYT H1 for sale for $55k. The price is worse, but the description is better, assuming a degree in fluid dynamics.
Two flexible reservoirs fixed to each end of a capillary. In one is an aqueous liquid filled with fluorescein, and in the other, a transparent viscous liquid. to keep them separate: the repulsive force of the molecules in each liquid, with a meniscus to mark the boundary between the two. as the hours go by, the fluorescent liquid advances.
The meniscus, in the shape of a half moon, marks the breaking point with the other fluid in the tube, indicating the time. at 18:00, the fluorescent liquid comes back to its original position, going backwards. the secret that gets the reservoirs going? Two bellows made of a highly resistant, flexible electro-deposited alloy, each driven by a piston. And this is where watchmaking comes in to activate the system.
Back in 2012, ablogtowatch.com pegged the price of a titanium HTY H1 at $45k. In 2019, HoDinkee had a black fluid variant at $49k. Did anyone pay $60k for a 48.8mm X 17.9mm thick LE Iceberg? Will anyone pay $33k for it?
Not if they use the Shopworn’s 25% HOLIDAY discount code. That shaves an additional $8250 off the price, walking it down to $24,750. That’s a pretty good deal, n’est-ce pas? That said . . .
Jaquet Droz Tourbillon Retrograde Reserve de Marche Rose Gold
You might think a watch selling for $104,665 below retail (after a 25% sitewide discount) is a steal – and a Shopworn depreciation champ. Well how about this then? eBay’s listing an identical Jaquet Droz Tourbillon Retrograde Rose Gold LE – one of 28 made – for $59,500. That’s an astounding $130,800 off retail.
Here’s the kicker: when I say “identical” I mean identical. It’s the same watch. Shopworn’s listing the JDTR on its own site for one price, on eBay (linking to a different product page) for another. Finding the eBay-directed page would save a buyer $26,135 off the Shopworn page’s $85,635 post 25% discount price.
What does that tell you? That you can’t trust Shopworn depreciation prices? There is that. It also tells you something important: if you shop gray market watches online ask for a discount. In Shopworn’s case, call their customer number (201-399-7339) and say the five words that can pay for your kid’s college tuition: can it be any cheaper? Because guess what? It can.
Romain Jerome Titanic Steampunk Chronograph
Here’s something else to keep in mind: Coronageddon is killing watch brands. While lawyers focus on small details, the dead brand’s inventory hits the gray market for big discounts. So it’s no surprise that Shopworn has heavily discounted the famous Titanic watch above; RIP Romain Jerome. Though you wouldn’t know it reading Shopworn’s LEARN ABOUT THIS BRAND link:
The Swiss watchmaker is a true Manufacture based in Geneva, Switzerland and had a shakeup in 2018 as the brand relaunched with a new creative vision from CEO Marco Tedeschi. Watches are made in limited numbers and produced in-house with sophisticated movements, so prices are in the upper range.
Shopworn is selling the same RJ on Chrono24.com, this time for the same price. There’s a key difference between the two listings: Chrono24.com’s SUGGEST A PRICE button. Again, no matter how spectacular a discount relative to the retail price, the seller is making profit at the discounted price. Haggle!
Buying a watch with Shopworn depreciation is both an opportunity and a danger. Always shop around, check out the brand’s health (factoring in future servicing) and hit Shopworn with the Can It Be Any Cheaper? mantra. There are some fantastic watches on the site, but it’s madness not to be a savvy shopper.
I’m sorry, I’m really not trying to blow up your comments thread, but….looking at those watches, and the prices being asked…I’m starting to think that a 90% income tax rate on the top bracket is not unreasonable…
Chairman Mao would agree!
Expensive shit keeps people employed. Puts food on their table. And generates tax revues. ‘Nuff said?
Robert, Amen to that..
I’m not a fan of a 90% top tax bracket, but that’s a 1950s American policy. Mao was way more hardcore than Eisenhower.
America is a very socialist country with what it spends on welfare to people and companies that cannot cut it in the private sector through military spending, farm subsidies, the COVID bailouts to outdated companies that should have been left to die, redundant cop jobs, Medicare for old people that never put enough into it to cover themselves, and numerous other welfare programs for lazy takers that think they are conservative even though they live off the government. America is just a socialist country that puts it on the tab instead of paying for it upfront.
As someone that is a true fiscal conservative one of the most exciting things to me about a Democratic president is that Republican politicians will actually start being fiscally conservative, instead of spending like drunk socialists with high limit credit cards like they have for the last four years. Hopefully the first step is no more COVID bailouts. The interesting thing is that crazy prices for watches imported from Switzerland are not being driven by any kind of efficient market, but by COVID bailouts and welfare.
Not going to get into a political debate on this forum.
But, you need to look up the definition of socialism. Hint: It’s not about social programs.
That is how the people in the US that scream about socialism use the term. Often while living off government “jobs” and benefits.
Bode is obviously poor and also wants to live in a society where all wealth and innovation has fled. Russia comes to mind.
Yeah, nobody wants to bring back sumptuary laws, and I’d much rather see people gainfully employed than not.
This just highlights the arbitrary nature of watch pricing. Eg, There is nothing about that Jerome piece that would justify an $18,000 price tag, let alone a $6,000 tag. To call that pricing optimistic is an understatement, and I’m not sure it’d do much better in non-pandemic times. Same for the others.
^This. It was mindblowing to learn that a Rolex could have been purchased for $250 back in the late sixties and early seventies.
These discounts look like good deals, but the reality is that all of these watches are dogs at any price. For example, the Romain Jerome Titanic Steampunk Chronograph uses the ETA/Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. That is a great, historic, durable movement. But it is also available in the Tissot PRS 516 Chronograph (reference T100.427.36.201.00) on Jomashop right now for $629.99. Compared to $6,250 for the Romain Jerome. And Tissot is still in business (Tissot is the sixth largest watch brand globally, along with being part of the Swatch Group).
Is this the closest we’ll get to a watch roundup penned by RF? I miss the New Watch Alert Friday columns.
The NWA took at least 10 hours of solid research and writing and never got the SEO or hits of an average targeted post. Basically, I was burning out on it.
Tell you what: I’ll revive it with 6 watches instead of 12. Let’s see how that goes.
Yowza. If 6 is do-able, cool. But I completely get the need to write content that gets the clicks and views. I’ll *watch* this space.
And I’ll see myself out.
Serviceability, #1. Vaguely excusably reasonable store of value, #2. Durability, ie. can knock it around, wear it in the rain (sounds silly, till you own a Patek), #3. This is why I eyeball a lot of gorgeous watches but only own sports Rolex.