January is about the only month when I feel as if I have everything under control, but I know that could change at any moment. That’s why I don’t believe in horoscopes, because change is the only constant.

Last year was a busy year in the world of watches: firstly, the sky-high prices that some models from Patek Philippe, Rolex and Audemars Piguet were used to achieving started to fall, although not as much as some watch enthusiasts would have liked. Due to long waiting lists, some watches were still able to achieve higher prices at resale than retail.

An extreme example of last year’s frenzy was the spring release of the MoonSwatch, which caused the queues to the Swatch stores to go on for miles. And they were all buying for the same reason – to sell on for a large profit.

There was also some good news, in that watches made by independent watchmakers achieved fantastic results on the secondary market.

The situation is constantly changing, which is nothing new. Panta rhei.

What should we look out for this year? Perhaps the fact that the lines between the primary and secondary markets are inching closer together, which is in line with consumers’ growing awareness of sustainability and carbon footprints. These lines were much more clearly defined only a few years ago. Today, they are starting to blur.

Of course we have to deal with the problem of nomenclature, which we have “inherited” from times gone by. The words “second-hand” and “worn” have slightly negative connotations – we associate them with imperfections or things that people have lost interest in. And that is not at all the case. If a collector, or even someone looking to buy their first watch is interested in a model available on the secondary market, it doesn’t matter if it has had one or several previous owners. It’s the same in the automotive industry: some car models, like the Porsche 911 Sport, are worth more once they have been driven out of the showroom (that’s if the owner even decides to sell). No one calls them “second-hand”. The watch industry has clearly got some catching up to do and the language we use to talk about it is already behind. In today’s reality, we are already seeing the first joint ventures between watch brands and businesses typically associated with the secondary market. An example of this is the limited edition of ten platinum watches released last year by Zenith in collaboration with the well-known watchmaker Kari Voutilainen and Phillips auction house. It is an interesting mix of old and new, containing original examples of Zenith’s calibre 135-O that have been restored and decorated by Kari Voutilainen. This is not just any calibre – the 135-O won the Neuchâtel Observatory trials five years in a row between 1950 and 1954.

How was this joint venture between Zenith and Phillips received? It sold within a few minutes. 

Announcing the launch of their Certified Pre-Owned Programme in 2023, industry giant Rolex further confirms the merging of the primary and secondary markets by offering a two-year guarantee on watches serviced and restored by them.

Rolex were not the first to do this, but their announcement caught the attention of the industry media outlets. I don’t remember an event that caused more speculation and heated discussion than when Richard Mille announced in 2015 that some stores would start selling old models that had been restored to their original state with a two-year guarantee. There was also some talk around F.P. Journe, who in 2016 introduced the “Patrimoine” service offering customers models from previous collections. Every watch came serviced with a three-year guarantee and confirmed authenticity. There was also MB&F, who in 2018 started selling restored watches from the secondary market with a two-year guarantee.

What does the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned guarantee offer? It gives the watch a second, third, or even tenth life, and it gives the owner peace of mind. Now it’s time for other brands to follow suit.

In 2023 I hope that watch enthusiasts will once again be able to buy watches that they like, and the phrase “Certified Pre-Owned” (CPO) sounds like a promise of positive change.

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