Everyone thought it would be Amazon; instead, eBay has confounded expectations by becoming one of the biggest marketplaces for pre-owned luxury watches. And the figures are impressive. A watch sells on eBay every five seconds from an average of 150,000 daily listings. The platform moved more than 2 million timepieces in 2019 and in the region of 8 million over the past three years. Knowing that the e-commerce giant reported a 21.5% operating margin on revenue of $10.8 billion in 2019, revenue from watches can be estimated at close to one billion. This aligns with the group’s efforts to build up its luxury business. “eBay has one of the world’s largest selections of luxury goods, from rare and designer handbags to fine wristwatches, and the value and selection available to buyers can’t be found anywhere else,” comments eBay Verticals Vice President and Manager Sam Bright, in an interview with Luxury Society.
Now an established player on the secondary watch market, which eBay estimates at $5 billion, the platform is in a position to publish its own 2020 Luxury Watch Report. Aimed at the general public, the report lists the top trends on the platform in styles, brands and models. Topping the list is Rolex, the most in-demand brand that accounts for 25% of its sales, followed by Omega, Breitling, TAG Heuer and Patek Philippe. The five trends to look out for, according to eBay, are Rolex sport watches, vintage styles, rose gold, coloured dials such as emerald green and salmon, and growing demand for new materials and original case constructions. As far as breadth is concerned, with thousands of listings, choice goes well beyond entry level. Last year’s highest price tags were for a Patek Philippe Grande Complication that went for $535,500, followed by a Richard Mille RM-11 Flyback Chronograph in rose gold and titanium ($148,000) and a platinum Audemars Piguet Millenary MC 12 Tourbillon ($145,000).
An authentication programme
Six-figure transactions such as these require buyer confidence – a thorn in the side of online marketplaces which are regularly accused of letting fakes slip through the net. In addition to a Money Back Guarantee, eBay offers several layers of protection, as Sam Bright explains. “We know that our community wants an added layer of confidence when buying in these categories, and to further establish eBay as a trusted shopping destination, we introduced eBay Authenticate. The programme ensures that the luxury items shoppers browse on eBay are verified by third party authentication experts and sourced through select, top-rated eBay sellers.” This isn’t the first measure the marketplace has introduced to weed out fakes. Set up as far back as 1998, the Verified Rights Owner programme works with 40,000 businesses and industry groups to enable rights owners to report possible intellectual property infringements which eBay then investigates. Authentication also extends to sellers, of which 39% are individuals while the remaining 61% are businesses that range in size from large retailers, the likes of Govberg Jewelers and BeckerTime, to smaller sellers such as Luxury Bazaar.
As eBay explains, with conversion on authenticated inventory twice that of similar non-authenticated inventory, confidence and measures taken to gain buyer trust are key to success. Much of this success is likely to come from transactions by female buyers: last year, sales of women’s watches by Cartier increased by 22%, 11% for Rolex and 6% for TAG Heuer.