The pre-owned watch market is nothing new for Antoine de Macedo. It’s the way he started his company 33 years ago, and it’s the core of his business today, accounting for 70% of his sales. For de Macedo, “pre-owned watches are the natural continuity of commerce. For some customers, buying a watch is an investment. Automobile constructors have long understood a buyer’s concern, providing the possibility to sell your car at a later stage and recuperate some of its value to buy a new one.” He divides his product offer into three categories: vintage, collection – pre-owned or new watches that are “no longer in the catalogue” – and new, as he is also the official dealer for such prestigious brands as Breguet, Girard-Perregaux, Laurent Ferrier, Omega, and more.
De Macedo entered the watch world when he was… nine years old. “My father sent me first to apprentice with a watchmaker friend then, at the age of 14, to watchmaking school in Morteau, France, on the Swiss border. Learning theory there brought everything together and gave a meaning to my years of practice.” So much meaning that he opened his first store when he was 19, in Paris, moving to the Saint-Germain-des Prés district in 1990, where he now has two stores – on Boulevard Saint Germain, and on nearby Rue Madame where his team of nine in-house watchmakers carry out services and repairs. Regular testing against water, dust and magnetism, plus oil changes “every six to seven years”, are the most common services required. “A watch mechanism runs an average of 250,000 km in nine months. Like a car, it needs regular check-ups to prevent serious problems.”
Speculation enters the market
Inside the Rue Madame boutique, dozens and dozens of models from all decades line the shelves. While de Macedo says he is not attached to one particular brand, but rather to “the plurality of watch offers,” he does cite the “sublime Universal, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Movado or Longines models from the 1920s to the 50s” or, for ladies, “the exceptional Cartier or Boucheron pieces from the 50s, 60s and 70s.” While pre-owned watches have always been part of his life, this has not been the case for all. How does he explain the surge of interest today? “First,” he replies, “there is the renewed interest in traditional mechanical watches that has not stopped growing since the 1990s. Second, in the 1980s Mr. Hayek had the genius to divert interest from Asian quartz watches with a product, Swatch, that was fun and accessible, but there was more. For me, Swatch was the first speculative watch in the industry. He called on many artists to design the dials. Some of the Picasso watches, for example, were re-sold for the equivalent at the time of €15,000. In some instances, the price of a watch doubled the minute you walked out of the store.”
I find it unhealthy that Daytonas, Submariners, GMTs and the Nautilus can be sold at twice the catalogue price once they leave the dealer’s shop, because the waiting list is so long.
De Macedo continues: “Today we find the same phenomenon with certain Rolex and Patek Philippe models, with certain limited editions. I find it unhealthy that Daytonas, Submariners, GMTs and the Nautilus can be sold at twice the catalogue price once they leave the dealer’s shop, because the waiting list is so long. But it happens. So, in some cases, the pre-owned market is due to speculation.” Third, according to de Macedo, under more normal circumstances, the appeal of pre-owned watches is a lower price, with a new watch losing “at least the value of taxes as soon as you buy it, just like cars. To resell, in order to avoid losing money, you should wait between five and ten years. Before that, the watch you sell generally allows a buyer to have a more interesting price.”
Rolex and Patek top the list
A fourth explanation is “the current era. We are moving from throwaway consumption to an era of ‘repairable’, with more value placed upon the conservation of objects. For a watch, an object with which we have a very intimate relationship, an object which literally touches us, and often marks a special event in our lives, this value is incomparable.” And finally, “Internet plays a role. People are better informed, can enter into contact with each other, and easily sell a watch on-line”. Antoine de Macedo has a website for viewing purposes but does not sell on-line. “We prefer our customers to come and try on the watches or, for a good customer abroad, we can agree and settle the matter by phone, then ship to anywhere in the world.”
Antoine de Macedo recommends buying from a professional for a guarantee of quality – “our guarantee is two years” – and of authenticity as “there are many fakes out there, and even fake papers that are easy to produce.” What is the most frequent request? “Brands, especially brands, and whether pre-owned or new, Rolex and Patek top the list. Rolex for water-resistance, Patek for calendars and travel watches. But each brand has its ‘savoir-faire’ and Breguet, Jaeger, Vacheron, Omega, Heuer, Breitling and others also have magnificent watches. As with real estate, when the house you want is too expensive, you look next door. We have a large range of prices, from €2,000 to anywhere above.”
Antoine de Macedo wears a Tudor 1976 Submariner Snowflake in the summer, and Laurent Ferrier in the winter.