John Cormier stared at his collection of Rolex, Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne watches one afternoon, fuming.
This story first appeared in the March 1, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Hoping to expand his collection, Cormier had just learned that he mistakenly purchased a replica Rolex over the Internet. Even though he knows his watches, this wasn’t the first time Cormier had been duped by an Internet seller.
“I’ve had virtually every horrible watch experience you can think of,” he said, explaining that he’s even had trouble selling or trading his watches on Web sites such as eBay.
So to provide “transparency” to the secondhand luxury watch market, Cormier, a former Wall Street executive, launched information technology company WatchFacts.
“We are trying to bring more legitimacy to retailers and Web sites,” he said. “We want to do for the watch industry what Carfax did for the car industry.”
What this amounts to is a way for sellers to not only authenticate their watches, but to have a history of prior owners, as well as a log of where and when the watch has been serviced.
Customers can access a watch’s historical information on WatchFacts.com, where they will also find a theft check service, a list of nationwide manufacturer authorized repair centers and proprietary software called Inveniam. The software provides retailers, service centers and dealers with a database that includes an inventory of secondhand watches and their points of sale.
According to Cormier, his site, which is in its soft-launch stage, will not only help brands monitor the gray market, but will also “legitimize” e-tailers, marketplaces and smaller retailers for buyers through its rating system.
Sellers send their wares to WatchFacts for appraisal and inspection, the detail of which is logged into a database. The Miami-based company will then give the watch a score based on its age, internal condition, external wear, functionality and authenticity. Rates can vary but it generally costs $150 for an inspection. For $300, WatchFacts performs a more extensive inspection and provides a one-year service warranty that covers certain repairs and shipping to its service center.
“The secondhand watch market is growing. Based on our analysis, there are 35 million to 40 million pre-owned watches in circulation in the U.S.,” Cormier said. “People are reluctant to buy pre-owned watches because they don’t know what they are going to get, but now they will [know what they will get.]”