As a popular watch writer online (aBlogtoRead.com), I get to see the entire landscape of the watch Industry on the internet. Always popular is the ability for people to buy and sell watches online. Chrono24 is one of the largest, if not the largest peer-to-peer, and dealer-to-customer listing site around. For years the site remained almost exactly the same even though its popularity increased. Now under new ownership, I talk to Tim Stracke who is one of the enthusiastic hands-on owners of Chrono24.
Ariel Adams: Chrono24 has been popular for years, what was necessary to fix or enhance in the redesigned site?
Tim Stracke: Chrono24 has been popular because of its large number of luxury watches from all around the world offered on its site and its clean and simple usability. It was for sure less popular for its design and search functionality. Both have been improved significantly now.
AA: Watch brands are often hesitant about online watch sales, but sites for dealers and private individuals to sell watches to interested people are booming. Just how popular is the Internet when it comes to buying and selling watches?
TS: We assume that today the online sales volume is around 10% of the total new luxury watch market volume. It is probably twice as much (20%) for pre-owned watches. And it’s still growing fast. Watch brands approach the markets twice: first by building the brand, second by selling the products. They know that watch lovers spend a lot of time online – but they are hesitant about using the internet for brand building. They also know that many people want to buy their watch online and again they are hesitant to sell directly and rather give that market share to grey market dealers.
AA: Are watch brands who don’t currently sell online missing out by not offering an e-commerce component to their business?
TS: Watch brands are in a complex situation. On the one hand side they need and want to support the network of authorized dealers (which by the way helped them to become what they are) and on the other side they miss out a direct e-commerce opportunity. I would suggest as a first step they should support their dealers in their own e-commerce activities. Maybe we should all meet and discuss the issue of watch brands and e-commerce. I invite any watch brand executive for a dinner at BaselWorld to discuss that question.
AA: What new tools or features for Chrono24 are going to be most useful for people buying watches?
TS: The most powerful new feature is the completely revised search including several suggestion options and the possibility to refine the search result. We are also happy to offer our users the new Chrono24 blog including its guest contributors.
AA: What about for people selling watches?
TS: Selling watches is still a free feature for private people. Improving the consumer-to-consumer selling is one of our next projects. Soon we will offer a trust service on Chrono24 that makes buying and selling watches even safer.
AA: How can people know that dealers who offer watches can be trusted?
TS: We are very careful in our decisions which merchant will be allowed to offer watches on Chrono24. If they fail to show us all relevant papers about their business we won’t let them on our site. Also after one single unsolved complaint any merchant will immediately be excluded from Chrono24. We will also integrate ways to rate a merchant’s trustworthiness.
AA: Does Chrono24 plan to interact more with the people buying and selling watches on the site?
TS: Yes, we are definitely planning to increase the interaction on our site to make buying and selling on Chrono24 even safer. We are currently developing a tool to facilitate all email communication on Chrono24. Also, a trust and escrow service will be offered on our marketplace.
AA: What advice would you offer to someone who is hesitant about buying a large ticket item (very expensive) watch online. Any tips or things to watch out for?
TS: If the watch on Chrono24 is offered by a trusted dealer that has been listed on the marketplace for some time without complaints of our users then I would do a transaction. We always suggest a personal meeting at an authorized dealer when buying from a private seller if there is no opportunity for an escrow account.
AA: Out of all the new features on the redesigned Chrono24, what are you most excited about?
TS: The very powerful search and our international expansion: We are now having individual versions for 25 countries around the globe!
It sounds like Tim is making sure that Chrono24 will not only maintain its venerable position when it comes to online watch sales, but will stay on track to meet a demanding future of increased luxury watch buying and selling online. I feel confident about the site’s new ownership, and am sure that they will preserve what people have come to enjoy and except from the site.
Ariel Adams publishes the luxury watch review site aBlogtoRead.com and writes for a number of other sites and publications on watches and the watch industry.