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The Luxury Watch Secondary Market is on the rise and is projected to surpass the primary market by 2033. This is a fast-growing industry that is driven by a number of factors, including the growing popularity of unused preowned watches and the overall outlook for the future of luxury watches.
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The luxury watch secondary market is growing at an astonishing rate and has even surpassed the growth rate of the primary market, despite being half the size. According to most recent reports in 2022, the Swiss watch industry and other luxury watchmakers had a record year, with a retail value of CHF52 billion, a 12% increase from the previous year.
However, the secondary market saw even more significant growth, with a 20% year-on-year increase to reach CHF25 billion. Our forecast predicts that the value of the secondary market will surpass the primary market by 2033, with a projected value of CHF79 billion, thanks to a compound annual growth rate of 12% over the next decade. In comparison, the secondary market saw a 40% growth in the first half of 2022 and 20% for the entire year, while the primary market is expected to have a growth rate of 4%, consistent with its historical CAGR from 2000 to 2019.
The secondary market for watches, previously overlooked by watch brands, experienced significant growth in 2018 as customers sought pre-owned alternatives to long waiting lists for new watches. This trend was particularly driven by the high demand for "champion" brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, leading to soaring prices in the secondary market. The pandemic further fueled this trend, with cryptocurrency wealth driving demand for luxury watches. However, the crypto bubble burst in 2022, causing a decline in secondary market values for some iconic watch models. Despite this, watches have remained more resilient than other asset classes (especially if produced in extremely low quantities) including equities and crypto, and continue to attract interest from Gen Z consumers.
One of the primary drivers of this growth is the increasing popularity of unused preowned watches. Many consumers are now looking to purchase luxury watches that have never been worn, as they offer the same level of quality and prestige as a new watch that would be normally very hard to get, as many manufacturers have long waiting lists and only sell to well-established clientele.
In 2021, a report by Morgan Stanley predicted that if a small percentage of cryptocurrency gains were invested in luxury watches, it would result in a significant increase in demand for watches and disrupt the entire market. However, the crypto market crash in 2022 negatively impacted the value of certain iconic watch models on the secondary market. Despite this, watches have remained a relatively stable asset compared to others like equities and crypto, and continue to attract interest from Gen Z consumers who view them as an asset class.
The grey market is a section of the secondary market where new watches are sold by non-authorized dealers. Even though watch companies typically do not acknowledge the grey market publicly, it is a reality they cannot deny. In the past, it was a way for brands to clear unsold inventory, but today it has evolved into a market where high prices are paid for popular models as an alternative to long waiting lists. The grey market is believed to make up 25% of the secondary watch market, equivalent to CHF 6.3 billion in annual sales, with 80% of that value coming from new and unworn recent models sold through unofficial channels by dealers and investors.
Luxury watch brands often market their products as heirlooms meant to be passed down from one generation to the next, emphasizing their longevity and potential for value retention or appreciation. However, brands are increasingly recognizing that their relationship with customers does not end with the initial sale of a watch, and that the secondary market is an important indicator of a brand's desirability. Watch brands are being urged to take care of the subsequent owners of watches just as they take care of the first ones, by putting much effort to the secondary market, which is a reliable signal of the actual value a consumer assigns to a watch, even if the value is sometimes irrational.
In conclusion, the luxury watch secondary market is on the rise and is projected to surpass the primary market by 2033. This is a fast-growing industry that is driven by a number of factors, including the growing popularity of un-used preowned watches and the overall outlook for the future of luxury watches. Consumers are increasingly looking to purchase luxury watches that have never been worn, as they offer the same level of quality and prestige as a new watch, but at a fraction of the cost. The future outlook for the luxury watch secondary market is very positive, and it is expected to continue to grow at a steady pace in the coming years.