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Les Ambassadeurs joins the pre-owned market
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Les Ambassadeurs joins the pre-owned market

Thursday, 04 July 2019
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Les Ambassadeurs, one of Switzerland’s leading retailers with stores in five Swiss cities, has launched a new service in its boutiques for customers wishing to buy and sell pre-owned watches. All the watches on sale are certified and come with a 15-month guarantee. Customers can also put an existing timepiece towards a new purchase. Interview.

“Have you been dreaming of owning a unique vintage collector’s watch or would you like to make a smart investment? You will find a large selection of many different brands of sought-after and certified second-hand luxury watches in our new ‘certified pre-owned’ lounges.” This is how Les Ambassadeurs, a Swiss luxury watch retailer with stores in Geneva, Lucerne, Lugano, St. Moritz and Zurich, announced its arrival on the pre-owned market. Chief Executive Joachim Ziegler talks about this new venture.

Joachim Ziegler, CEO Les Ambassadeurs
Joachim Ziegler, CEO Les Ambassadeurs
What prompted the decision to open four of your five stores to pre-owned watches?

Joachim Ziegler, CEO, Les Ambassadeurs: Clearly the pre-owned market is part of a watch’s life cycle, even if we do approach these pieces from a different angle. It’s our business to serve our clientele, and so when we saw there was a definite interest in certified pre-owned watches among some of our customers, we decided to include them in our offering. We also propose a solution for the watches our customers currently own, which we can either buy from them or deduct the corresponding amount from the cost of a new acquisition. Customers want this type of purchasing experience. You have to realise that not everyone buys a watch for future generations.

It's estimated that the second-hand watch market is worth $15 billion a year and is growing so fast it could eventually exceed sales of new watches. Presumably Les Ambassadeurs didn't want to miss out on the opportunity?

That the market is worth 15 or 50 billion doesn’t matter. What counts is that this is a service our customers want. Everyone in the profession agrees that pre-owned will be an increasingly important aspect of watch sales. The question wasn’t were we going to enter the market or not, but how we would go about it. Our solution is for customers to be able to find everything they are looking for in our stores. One-stop shopping, as they say.

The bulk of the second-hand watch market is online. How competitive can brick-and-mortar be?

Online and in-store shouldn’t be seen as a case of “either/or”. One should complement the other. Selling certified pre-owned watches is a matter of trust. Les Ambassadeurs is an established name, renowned for its professionalism and quality of service. This is essential when dealing with the second-hand market where, and I’d like to emphasise this, it’s important to actually have the watch in your hand. Possibly even more so than when purchasing new. This is why we are rolling out this service in-store with certified watches and a 15-month warranty. Our online presence will come next.

The pre-owned market has been in the shadows for too long.
Joachim Ziegler
The automotive sector is often quoted as a model for watch retail. Has this been the case?

I think service is the key, backed by many years of experience. We provide customer service through our own ateliers and our own watchmakers. It’s a question of knowing what it is that interests watch enthusiasts and how to respond. The pre-owned market is a good example of the type of service we wanted to develop, because it has potential. Our role is to go on exploring new territories with the same determination to give our customers the best. In Zurich, for example, they can spend a day learning how to assemble a mechanical watch, something that is proving immensely popular. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similar experience in the automotive sector.

Who certifies your watches?

We work with a panel of experts and, proof that we are serious about this, we guarantee our pre-owned watches for 15 months.

Les Ambassadeurs, Geneva boutique
Les Ambassadeurs, Geneva boutique
Is there a risk that pre-owned could cannibalise existing business?

For the moment, we’re talking about two relatively distinct clienteles, so to answer the question, I don’t feel there is any cause for concern as to sales of new watches. Furthermore, I’m convinced that in the more or less short term, customers who are interested in pre-owned will begin to take an interest in new watches, and vice versa. All of which will naturally create a surge in interest for watches in general. Obviously this is a positive development for us.

Possibly less so for your partners?

The vast majority of our partners have responded very positively to our new service. Having pre-owned watches in our stores will generate considerable additional footfall, and this will benefit our partners. These watches are on the market anyway. Then it’s a question of what we want to do with them. Give them the chance of a new life through safe and reputable channels, and everyone stands to gain. The pre-owned market has been in the shadows for too long. It was time to take matters in hand and offer a service with the guarantee of established names. This is what we are doing by integrating pre-owned into our business model.

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