Silas Walton is bringing a fresh edge to the world of online vintage watch sales
Given the critical role the internet has played in driving growth in the vintage and pre-owned watch market, it’s remarkable how dowdy and difficult some key websites can be.
In particular, eBay might be the daddy of secondary market e-commerce, but its interface is clunking and watch deals can be fraught with risks. Chrono24, the specialist market leader, is tremendously powerful as a tool, but drab and surprisingly old-fashioned for a website founded in 2010. In the most part, buying or selling watches online is still a rather trickier, more time-consuming and hazardous process than it ought to be.
For Silas Walton that presents an opportunity. Like so many entrepreneurs, the 27-year-old Londoner arrived at his Big Idea as a result of personal experience.
“I was trying to sell a vintage Cartier Tank online, and it was a frustrating thing to say the least. Trying to sell on eBay, for instance, you have to jump through so many hoops, while doing the photography, responding to questions, getting it packaged, organizing ad hoc insurance. It’s baffling.”
Walton started researching and talking to fellow watch lovers. “There seemed to be this space that was growing but wasn’t being exploited to its full potential,” he says.
“It’s a very traditional, largely undisrupted market, and seemed to be screaming for something a bit different that was cleaner and easier to use.”
The result is Watch Xchange, Walton’s brand new website that blends a bespoke sale-on-commission service aimed at UK-based watch sellers with a fresh, sophisticated sense of style and design. While other websites, notably Watchfinder in the UK, have been gradually raising the bar for watch-based e-commerce, Walton’s focus is specifically on the personalised service.
The process starts with a valuation from details and images submitted by the seller, with a figure arrived at based on recent trading history. Next, Walton’s team arrange the prepaid, insured delivery of the watch to Watch Xchange, whereupon it is inspected and authenticated and a final listing price is given. The watch is then cleaned and serviced, professionally photographed in 360° and listed online, the aim being to sell it within three months. WatchXchange takes 10 per cent of the final value, plus a £100 fee.
“It’s for people who want to sell their watch and are prepared to wait a little bit longer to achieve maximum level with minimum hassle,” Walton says. “We take care of the entire process, from servicing and preparing the watch to marketing it through our website and other platforms, and to our network of clients and selected dealers.”
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary, perhaps, about this sale model. The key, Walton believes, is in doing it well, and that means two things: a clean, smart website that’s an enjoyable place for watch enthusiasts to linger and easy for them to use, and an operational system that is reliable and trustworthy.
“In London you have some of the finest pedigree of watch dealerships and servicing,” Walton acknowledges, “and we want to maintain those standards that you’d expect – the sense of trust and transparency that comes from doing things the right way, and combining that with the latest e-commerce best practice.”
To that end Walton makes a point of offering a one-year warranty and a guarantee of authenticity for all watches on the site. His advisory board includes two of the country’s biggest private collectors and Malcolm Gillan, a renowned international consultant in fine watches, while servicing is done by one of the UK’s most respected watch restoration workshops. “These are people capable of taking apart and servicing a Patek, and they handle every watch that comes through,” Walton says.
Aged 27, with a background in private equity and a masters in digital innovation for business, Walton is well-versed in the requirements of a modern luxury lifestyle website, and has loaded Watch Xchange with beautiful photographs and editorial content to avoid the “classifieds” feel that applies to so many watch retail sites. Watch collecting, he says, is now much more than a hobby – it’s part of a particular modern lifestyle.
“You’ve got this coming together of vintage and luxury generally, and there’s a degree of legitimacy that exists today in owning and selling pre-owned watches that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” he says. “There’s a need for a refreshed digital approach.”