Forming Relationships with Watch Dealers

People often ask me how to build relationships with watch dealers who can get you access to very in-demand and/or hyper rare models. How do you ensure you’re buying pieces at a price that makes sense for them AND you so that you don’t lose your ass trying to form a relationship with no promise of deliverables in the future? How do you get Authorized Dealers (ADs) to CALL YOU (not the other way around) when they have amazing watches in?

There are some tips, tricks, and good rules of thumb for working these relationships.  

First and foremost, you have to understand how watch dealers operate. They need to make money! You’re never going to get a watch for free or slim to nothing. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that dealers don’t want to hook you up with good deals. Oftentimes dealers earn and retain the business of prominent manufacturers (e.g. Rolex, Cartier, Panerai, etc.) by moving large volumes of watches every year.  

Typically dealers are pre-ordering the models and quantities before they are produced. The manufacturer already knows where certain allocations of models are going. They allow their most powerful dealer relationships to have harder to get allocations. So for example, Bucherer (a global watch powerhouse) is much more likely to get the most in-demand Rolex model allocations over a one-off boutique that moves less volume.

Once you understand this, you can start to understand where you’re more likely to find the right models to still make money even when buying new.  

There are challenges, however, with qualifying to get on a list with these dealers. They tend to not give you the time of day if you haven’t spent money at their location before. And even if you have spent money with them before, there are dealers who will prioritize whom receives watches on their “lists” by who has spent the most money with them.  It would be ignorant to think these dealers didn’t have a CRM of their own where they know their customers, what their customers want, and who has spent what. If you’ve taken my advanced watch trading course, you already understand the value of the CRM system.  

So if you don’t have millions of dollars like some of these dealer’s top spenders, how can you get on their lists? How can you start to form relationships that last and will allow them to put you above these big spenders? Here are some strategies that have worked:

  • Buy models that you can still make money on in the secondary resale market. Chances are if you’re buying watches from dealers, you’re either buying new models (which we typically advise not to do), or you’re buying mint condition pre-owned watches. If you’re buying new watches, find models that trade higher in the secondary market. For example, there may be a limited edition model at the boutique that isn’t widely available anywhere else. If you can pick one of those models up, you can proactively market and resell it for even more money than retail price. This is especially true if it’s a desirable combo. A recent example of this was I picked up a Tudor Black Bay Bronze Diver. The Bronze Black Bay is a very desirable combo that almost no one had for sale in the pre-owned market. I bought it new from Bucherer (since this limited edition version is only made for them), and paid full retail for it. I also got a tax reduction on the watch, because I purchased it abroad in Switzerland. When you prove you’re not residing in certain locations and apply for a rebate at customs, you can get a decent tax reduction on the sale. All in, I bought it for $3,500 and ended up selling it for $4,000. I made a few hundred dollars and started a relationship with a well-renowned dealer who knows I’ll buy more in the future and will keep me on their list. 
  • Take advantage of Market Differences. Certain brands trade hands for different values in different markets. You can get very good discounts on watches at dealers in Greece; much more so than if you buy in the USA. Also, as I previously stated, you can get the tax reduction credit if you’re going to be buying in one country and leaving within 60 days of being there. The tax refund rate for each country varies. To give you an example, an 8% tax reduction on a $15K watch is huge. I bought a Rolex Sky-Dweller from an authorized dealer in Paris and got a $2,900 discount on the tax rebate. So all in I bought the watch for $14,600. They trade hands in the USA for closer to $15-$17K, so that was a good way to not only form a relationship with the dealer and get on a list, but also make some money while doing so. 
  • Buy watches from dealers that want to unload, and/or broker watches for them that would make their year. There are certain watches that dealers are sitting on that just tie up their capital, and some dealers don’t like holding certain pieces. For example, CRM Jewelers doesn’t like sitting on Hublots, so sometimes it’s worth asking what pieces they perhaps want to move more than others and offer to buy those models from them. Also, if they have any very expensive/rare models that would make their reps pay attention by having them sold, you can try to broker those watches to a buyer in your private network. If you can sell it for them, not only are you greatly increasing your chances of being the next person they call for models you want, you’re sure to be the rep at the dealer’s favorite new contact. 
  • Favor dealerships where you already have some sort of warm lead or relationship. Whether you’ve been introduced to a rep at the boutique, and/or you have a mutual connection already to the store, leverage those opportunities where you can. By already coming in as someone who has a good reputation (even if you haven’t bought from them previously) you’re much more likely to build a relationship with the dealer than if you just come in cold off the street asking if they have any hot new Rolex models in that everyone wants.  

There are plenty of creative ways to get your name on these dealer waitlists and build a relationship with reps so you can call them up and either have them order you certain models, and/or get them for you in the future. You just have to better understand what value you’re going to be providing them and the rules under which they play.

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