As news hit that LVMH invested in Hodinkee earlier this week, I began to reflect a bit more on the watch community’s maladies with the entire industry. While I could talk about the issues surrounding watch media (amongst other grievances in the community), I’m going to go a few steps to the side and discuss something we can do as individuals.
Today, I’m going to share my ethos on managing my own personal watch collection: I’m never selling any of my watches at a premium.
Secondary market premiums have boxed many collectors and enthusiasts out of acquiring many desirable timepieces. It’s easy to observe these market dynamics, sit back and say, “that’s supply and demand for you” or “it’s whatever the market can bear.” The infamous billionaire venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, said “if you’re a single-digit millionaire … you have no effective access to the US legal system.” This feels increasingly the way of the contemporary watch world. Single-digit millionaires are getting boxed out by double-, triple-digit millionaires, even bonafide billionaires. The truth in all of this is, the market dynamics driving the pricing of some timepieces have become grotesque.
So how do we deal with this unfortunate reality? What if this is our community’s “new norm”? Here’s my radical suggestion: don’t sell at a premium. If you, as a collector, need to unload a timepiece, find someone in the community that wants it and sell it for what you paid. Or at most, adjust for inflation.
I’m sure some of you will think I’m absolutely insane. Why wouldn’t I want to capitalize on “market demand”.
Here’s how it works for me. If I need or want to change my collection, I’ll only ever sell to a fellow collector/enthusiast. I want to know that my former timepiece will be appreciated, at least as much as I enjoyed it. This means, any and all timepieces I sell from my collection stay in the watch community. I’ve long held that selling at a huge premium to a fellow watch community member is simply a dick move. I really have no interest in profiting off the back of a fellow community member, especially when there’s zero value add from my ownership. I’m simply profiting off of lucky market conditions for me, and the buyer is overpaying for unlucky conditions for them.
Now I know that premiums might be needed in a time of financial despair. In that circumstance, there’s nothing for me to judge. My sense is though, a lot of collectors sell coveted timepieces at a premium when that profit doesn’t dramatically change their financial standing. This category of collector in our community sells at a premium because the market leads the seller to feel entitled to a profit. Regardless of what the market deems fit and fair, it’s not a good look.
This practice is my answer to the fatalism of the watch community – the belief that none of us have the ability to change the community for the better. Of course, this isn’t going to shatter the secondary market and end the reign of wild premiums on select timepieces. But it will for whoever buys a watch from me.
Another day with the beast,