Forces behind the Sources: Bob’s Watches’ Paul Altieri
Editor’s note: We all love to find out about watches, and from a variety of sources. The reason so many watch review and selling websites co-exist is that different voices, different opinions, different platforms, help broaden our horizons and understanding about the watch industry. So while everyone is in some stage or format of a lockdown, we at WYGDAI figured this was a good time to interview some of our leading industry figures that are the faces behind the leading watch websites. We approached a number of experts in their own rights, people that matter, voices that make a difference in the watch world every day. We are calling this series of interview articles: Forces behind the Sources. We are essentially unmasking the forces behind your favourite watch review and selling sources, putting them under the spotlight. Our introductory ones were with Frank Geelen, Publisher & Executive Editor of Monochrome and Ian Skellern, Co-Founder Quill & Pad. For our previous interviews, please head to our dedicated interviews page here. Today we are offering the insights from another master of this field, Bob’s Watches’ Paul Altieri.
In this interview we find out a bit more about his first watch, his love for Rolex, what advice he has for watch collectors, the journey to establishing Bob’s Watches, dreams of owning his own Swiss brand, and also how Covid-19 is shaping the present watch industry. So without further adieu, we present our third Force behind the Source, Paul Altieri.
The Winning Formula
Peter Drucker, the famous American-Austrian business consultant once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.
Paul Altieri bought the Bob’s Watches business from original founder Bob Thompson for a mere 8’000 USD. In 2018, it’s revenue was 45 million USD. From the cost of an entry level Rolex to multi-millions in a short span of less than a decade is not only downright impressive but worth applauding. He created the World’s First and only Pre-Owned Rolex Exchange where consumers can buy, sell, and trade vintage and used Rolex watches.
The formula? “Trust, honesty and integrity are the foundation of our business,” says Paul Altieri, Founder and CEO, Bob’s Watches.
The Head That Wears The Crown
It’s safe to say that Rolex is one of the world’s most well known luxury watch brands.
Hans Wildorf, the father of Rolex, once said, “We want to be the first in the field and Rolex should be seen as the one and only-the best.” As if taking a page out of the same book, and reliving the quote all over again, is Paul Altieri. His online selling portal is not only a well respected watch website, a market leader that trades vintage and used Rolex watches at true fair market value, but also the largest watch reselling website in the United States.
He was the first in the field and is now seen as the one and only-the best.
“We are actually the only watch exchange platform that publishes both the buy and sell prices. Before we launched the business in 2009, there was no reliable, trusted way to determine the value of the Rolex watch you wanted to sell or the one you were looking to buy. There was no “Kelly blue book” for used Rolex prices so consumers had no way to determine real fair market value. So second hand prices, as you can imagine, were all over the board. Solution: pricing transparency. It’s the best way to establish trust with consumers.
“Corny maybe, but our goal for bobswatches.com was never about making a lot of money,” says Altieri.
The Personal Story
“My Rolex Datejust has brought me a great deal of satisfaction,” said the 34th US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Guess who else believed in the Rolex Datejust? Paul Altieri. His first wristwatch was “a Rolex (of course) Datejust Two Tone 16233”.
Buy why Rolex?
“First off, I love all watches from Omega, to Patek, to Panerai and Breitling. But of course my favourite luxury brand has always been Rolex. As a kid growing up in New England, Rolex was always the watch that the cool, successful guys at the gold club all wore. So it became an aspirational object for me beyond just a timepiece. And, while Rolex has about a 20% market share of the new watch market, it dominates the second hand watch marketplace. The brand also offers excellent value retention synonymous with luxury.”
For someone who has had an incredible journey such as this, he is bound to expect more from his watches. Talking about his ideal watch, says Altieri: “work like a “time machine” where you could hit a rewind button”.
Time is Money
“Time is money, so I went and bought a Rolex,” sings Wiz Khalifa.
Talking about personal watches leads us to the topic of collectors, and what pearls of wisdom Altieri has to offer to new and seasoned Rolex collectors.
“Rolex makes a lot of different models and styles so find one that really resonates with you. Find one you like, not the one I like. Or the one that will go up in value the most.”
He is right on the mark. For collectors, the love for the brand could not be better defined. Of-course the popularity of Rolex in the popular media with the likes of Paul Newman & Steve McQueen wearing them has aided this desirability too.
“That’s the power and mystique of Rolex. Those “brand ambassadors weren’t paid back then. They wore Rolex because they loved the watch and assuredly helped build the brand over the years,” says Altieri.
This makes the role of Daytona and Submariner even more indispensable than ever before. “Void and incomplete. They are both super iconic watch models to the brand and the watch world alike,” reveals Altieri when asked if Rolex would survive without its steel sports watches.
But this doesn’t mean that collectors or enthusiasts necessarily have to buy one of these watches only to include in their collection.
And for those starting out in this complicated horological world or testing the waters, should be careful as to not fall into a pit of replicas and fakes.
“Before we launched http://www.bobswatches.com, there really was no trusted place to buy or sell a ( Rolex ) watch other than eBay or Craigslist. And neither of those options were a viable choice. People want a safe, reliable, and trusted place to transact and a retailer that will stand behind what they are selling. Consumers also want to know that what they are buying is 100% authentic – guaranteed. It’s the most important thing even over price. But to that end, we offer open pricing assuring customers that they are getting fair market value whether they are buying or selling.
“Some folks refer to us as the “Kelly Blue Book” of used Rolex watches. eBay, Chrono24, Craigslist, or the Forums are not direct sellers,” tells Altieri.
The Rolex Collector
Rolex is not only popular but also commands an unprecedented control over the luxury watch market. It then comes as little surprise that collectors, both new and seasoned, flock to it. But what does he reckon that the collectors in general are looking for?
“A good ‘honest’ watch at a good price. And by honest, I mean a watch that is all original with a good provenance,” is what Altieri feels collectors in general are looking for.
“First and foremost, the astute collector today is looking for a watch that is all original ( meaning its all original factory parts ) and comes from a trusted legitimate seller. There are still too many unethical players out there so its always best to buy from an established well respected retailer. The real savvy collectors today also prefer to buy a watch that is unpolished or one that has been lightly polished in the past. As far as price points, a nice GMT 1675 or Submariner 5513 or 1680 can still be bought today at an affordable price.
“And quality luxury watches have been proven to be very solid investments the past 20 years.”
Covid-19 and the World
Covid-19 is on everyone’s minds these days. It was imperative in our interview with Paul Altieri that we found out what his take on the entire situation was.
The pandemic has been changing the way industries work. Hong Kong first gave the luxury industry a big blow due to the riots, and now the COVID-19 virus that has taken out the support from the big Asian markets such as China and Singapore. Watch fairs like Baselworld have been cancelled. In a way, Covid-19 even caused the exit of Rolex from Baselworld.
“Well it (Covid-19) certainly didn’t help. That seems obvious. But it sure seems things were heading that direction anyway,” say Altieri.
According to Bangkok Post “Swiss watch exports fell the most in eight months in February, with shipments to China and Hong Kong slumping 52% and 42% respectively”.
To counter this slump and negative trend, Altieri feels that watch brands and companies will have to evolve.
“Well, the entire world has been moving to online ecommerce for decades now. COVID-19 has hyper accelerated that movement and I suspect much of it will continue post-COVID. My guess is it will force the brands to spend more time and allocate more resources for ecommerce.”
He is right. To adapt, lots of brands have begun to evolve with the changing times in the last few months. Patek is now selling online, Breitling’s Georges Kern has a highly engaging Instagram strategy to launch new releases, and H. Moser has a new e-platform where you can buy new or certified used Moser watches.
And it’s not just the big brands but the small ones will have to adapt as well. He reckons smaller or let’s say independent watch brands could find it harder to survive in and post the current global economic state.
“Sadly, yes. Many were very dependent on Baselworld, much more so than the big brands. The ones that can innovate and utilise technology will survive and prosper.”
Amidst all of this, Bob’s Watches will continue to prosper. Turns out when your business is established on the foundations of honesty and integrity, it ends up being virus proof.
“We are very happy to keep growing organically on the same path and trajectory of being the premier destination of luxury watches. Despite the current pandemic, we are very bullish and confident on our future and have never been more excited. I do see us some day owing our own Swiss brand if that right opportunity presents itself.”
We have managed to cover a lot of ground in our interview with Altieri. And most of it was on global issues and collectors. So before we wrapped this up, we figured it would be nice to get his viewpoint on something closer to home for us, the state of the watch industry in Australia.
“From my understanding Australia is one of the top 5 fastest growing markets in the world for Swiss luxury watches growing almost 20% the past year,” wraps up Altieri.
“Nothing is as far away as one minute ago,” said Jim Bishop. Time is precious. Bob’s Watches has given the world a safe online marketplace for the resale and trade of watches that helps bring forgotten time in the form of a vintage watch into the present. Bob’s Watches is essentially a bridge that crosses over the pitfalls of buying used watches and connects lovers of horology worldwide.
We wish to thank Bob’s Watches’ Paul Altieri for his time with this interview. To read more of our interviews, head here. To explore the various features and watch listings on Bob’s Watches, head here.