The used watch market has grown considerably over the past 5 years. Taking a simple look at the number of new traders and retailers or the evolution of selling prices on the secondary market it is possible to notice, at least qualitatively, that there is a growing interest from consumers in buying watches that are not new. McKinsey & Company, one of the most authoritative consulting firms in the world, in June 2021 published a detailed analysis on the worlds of watchmaking and jewelry with a focus on this theme.

McKinsey expects a strong and steady expansion of the second-hand market that oscillates between 8 and 10% annually between 2019 and 2025, reaching annual sales of 29 to 32 billion dollars, considering the 18 billion recorded in 2019 as a point. of departure. To understand the importance of these numbers, it should be considered that in the same period the market for new watches is expected to grow by 1-3% per year for all segments, from premium to ultra-luxury. The results shown are clear enough to conclude, therefore, that the second-hand market is an important resource for watch brands, which should be properly exploited by themselves rather than being left in the hands of other entities or platforms.

Some groups and fashion houses have already started projects to manage second-hand goods using different business solutions and Richard Mille, a brand that has always stood out for its reactivity to the needs of the market, is one of these. Thanks to the support of the Richard Mille EMEA team, Perpetual Passion had the opportunity to speak with Tilly Harrison e Ben Cleary, the directors in charge of the “pre-owned” program, to show you what lies behind this project.

Ninety Watches & Jewelery

Richard Mille's answer to the market's wishes in terms of a second wrist is called Ninety Watches & Jewelery. It is a boutique located in London at 90 Mount Street inside the old Richard Mille store (the new one has been moved to Old Bond Street) and is the only one in the EMEA (Europe-Midle East-Africa) area officially authorized to sell used Richard Mille watches. This reality is able to offer unique services that are almost impossible to replicate by any competitor, in particular:

  • Provision of a "Authenticity certificate": every Richard Mille watch sold comes with a certificate that guarantees its origin from an official sales channel and certifies its origin.
  • Official guarantee 2 years: each watch sold has a 2 year warranty to put the buyer in peace.
  • Complete revision: Before being sold, all watches are completely overhauled and refurbished by a specialized Richard Mille watchmaker, guaranteeing the highest quality of the product to the new customer. The watch is sold exactly as new.
  • Richard Mille watchmaker: inside the boutique there is a complete laboratory and a specialized watchmaker with more than 11 years of experience capable of also intervening on tourbillons to satisfy any technical need and to quickly inspect the watches in question.
  • Straps: different straps are available to customize the watches for sale according to the customer's wishes.
  • Repurchase: Ninety can buy back Richard Mille watches and include them in the negotiation in case the customer wants to exchange them for a technically more complex reference or for another product.

If you think that the aforementioned services can be provided by any retailer, as happens for much larger brands such as Omega or Rolex, we must keep in mind that Richard Mille is a maison that produces about 5.000 watches a year with mechanical details, finishes. and specific tools for assembly / disassembly. Therefore, considering the mechanical complexity (both technical and aesthetic), the need to have dedicated and unique equipment to overhaul and appraise the watches, the reduced know-how available on the production processes and the high list prices (even higher if we consider those of resale), it is evident that there are not many resellers capable of providing the same services.

Furthermore, RM watches are hardly overhauled by various dealers since overhauling is very expensive and erodes their profit margin. What Ninety manages to provide is, therefore, truly unique and oriented towards safeguarding the customer. Finally, despite Ninety being an entity that does not belong to the brand itself, there is a strong connection with Richard Mille and his after-sales team.

How Ninety Mount Street was born

Behind the birth of Ninety Mount Street are Tilly Harrison, daughter of Peter Harrison the CEO of Richard Mille EMEA, and Ben Cleary. Both have strong experience in the exclusive luxury market, since Tilly worked at David Morris and Richard Mille himself while Ben gained experience selling jewelry and precious stones in London and New York, and now they run this new boutique. Among the various opportunities offered by Ninety, there is also that of buying high-end luxury jewelry by exploiting the knowledge and experience of these professionals with regard to stones and the production of the jewels themselves.

The ideas behind the "second wrist" project

As Tilly and Ben told us during our chat, the idea of ​​opening a boutique like Ninety didn't come for nothing. Tilly in particular, has followed and analyzed the retail and "pre-owned" market for many years, practically from the beginning of the RM adventure, and has collected several watches from all over the world, starting from old customers up to various auction houses. Putting together a sufficient number of watches, including rare and historical pieces, to create the "second wrist" program and opening a boutique took a significant amount of time, but the reason this project officially only started in 2020 is not limited to this. It was in fact necessary to wait for a certain maturity of the second-hand market and for Richard Mille to realize the need to increase his responsibility towards the brand itself.

Let me explain what I mean. First, the current secondary market is constantly demanding RM watches and is mature enough to recognize their characteristics and merits. It is now a fact that collectors, customers and retailers are looking for almost 90% of the references produced. On the other hand, however, it is easy to find cases in which the place and conditions of sale of used RM are completely misaligned with respect to the value involved in the sale (remember that the average price for an automatic RM in the list is over € 150.000. and over € 450.000 for a tourbillon). Such expensive watches cannot be traded in gas stations or inside strangers' cars (true stories!), Without adequate service and with the risk of fitting non-original components.

Furthermore, the brand could no longer ignore the fact that important customers and collectors were looking for particular references, such as some historical and discontinued pieces. Richard Mille has therefore made the right move to give, at least, a valid alternative to the purchase of a used RM where customers are fully protected through a safe sale and providing a location where it is possible to listen and try to satisfy particular requests. With this approach it is also possible to establish long-term and trusting relationships with buyers, who are treated as VIPs through dedicated services and programs based on their interests, also providing the opportunity to sell the RMs they own. Indeed, Richard Mille fully understands that customers can sell their watches for a variety of reasons. Keeping these RMs within your own distribution is a perfect move to try to satisfy other people's requests and thus increase your loyal community.

The role of an official second-hand boutique in the current market

I know what you are wondering: does Ninety represent an attempt to control the secondary market? What will be the prices of the watches on sale?

Well, let me give you the answers to these questions. Ninety has no illusions that it can control and regulate the second-hand market. Its purpose is to provide a flexible, reliable and professional service in the sale of very high-end watches characterized by a very limited annual production and even more so with regard to some references (50 pieces or less, as happens for the "RM 038 "or" RM 027 "). Possibilities such as offering an adequate and safe environment in which to host customers and receive a service consistent with the value of the watch in question are in fact missing in the current scenario and are a real necessity.

To be fair, complicated MRIs and tourbillons should always be sold through an authorized dealer with appropriate service and attached documents, considering the amount of money required to purchase them, in order to mitigate any risk (defects, incorrect components or inconsistent material inside of the equipment) that may affect the value of the watch after the sale. However, keep in mind that thrift boutiques don't have to compete with retail boutiques by selling the same watches at different prices. That is why you will never find an RM 90-65 at 01 Mount Street, as selling it is a duty of the main boutique on Old Bond street, and they will never accept a customer who wants to sell an RM 67-02 a few months after its purchase (NB : both models are sold on the secondary market at 3 times the list price).

Second-hand boutiques want, therefore, to be honest with the market, which means that the price of the watches available will be somehow aligned with the current values ​​but not above them (remember that the watches on sale can come from purchases at the current price). There is no idea of ​​making money from the crazy market we live in today. Their main objective is to provide a serious and unique service in the purchase and sale of rare, complex and exclusive watches, with particular attention to historical pieces and discontinued references where it is really possible to make a difference.

Finally, I would like to clarify a possible source of misunderstanding. Ninety does not represent a first level entry for the purchase of Richard Mille watches by customers who want to be introduced in the main boutiques. The two businesses, retail and second hand, are completely separate and have different objectives.

Future plans

The “second wrist” project that Richard Mille has decided to carry out is clearly based on a business model that can be replicated in cities that have sufficient traffic of people interested in buying or selling a RM. To be clear, there is no interest in opening a second-hand boutique in every city where there is an official one, since there would not be enough second-hand watches to cover the demand, but Richard Mille EMEA intends to open other points in Europe and we can announce that the next selected city will be Geneva, an undoubtedly important and fundamental location for watchmaking.

In 2022 we will therefore see a new store in the city on Lake Geneva that will help London expand its business and overcome the problems that the regulations introduced by Brexit have created for everything related to import and export.

Once again, we would like to thank the Richard Mille EMEA team for the great opportunity they gave us in bringing such unique and detailed content about Richard Mille's corporate strategy for second-hand watches to Perpetual Passion.