The Swiss watch trade has been slow to embrace the pre-owned market. Citing logistical challenges around issues like markups, sales platforms and residual value, most luxury watchmakers have resisted the siren call of the circular economy, even though all signs suggest that consumers are increasingly looking to re-commerce sites to buy and sell luxury goods.
The tide, however, is quickly turning. Take the news that Breitling, an established Swiss brand, has teamed with the preowned watch site Crown & Caliber on an online program that allows customers to trade in any luxury watch for a credit towards a new Breitling watch on breitling.com.
“Trade-in is such a powerful tool for acquiring and satisfying customers,” says Hamilton Powell, CEO and founder of Crown & Caliber. “We take a watch they have fallen out of love with or aren’t using and allow them to buy a watch they are in love with.”
The process begins at breitling.com/trade-in, where customers can request a quote for their timepiece.
“We send you a shipping label, we authenticate and verify the watch, and you receive the credit,” Powell says, noting that “the offer will be in the form of a Breitling store credit redeemable at Breitling.com.”
Powell adds that the offer will be “at least 20 percent higher” than what customers would get in “a normal setting.” If the watch being traded in is a Breitling, “a significant premium will be added to the offer,” according to a press release.
“The ultimate goal is to convert a customer,” says Breitling USA president Thierry Prissert.
While some Swiss brands, like Omega, which recently announced a certification program for its vintage timepieces, have opted to go it alone in the pre-owned market, Breitling chose to partner with Crown & Caliber because of the company’s expertise in handling trade-ins, according to Prissert. But he did not discount the possibility that one day, Breitling may offer a trade-in service at its own boutiques.
For now, both companies are focused on delivering the best experience to their customers. “One of the jobs of Crown & Caliber is to ensure that the brand maintains its reputation in the secondary market,” Powell says. “And we do that by obsessing over the details.”