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Bob’s Watches Backs Up Internet Business with Old School Communication

Secondary timepiece market holds untapped potential.

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Bob’s Watches founder and CEO, Paul Altieri, right, hosts vintage Rolex luminaries Eric Wind and Morgan King in Newport Beach, CA.
Bob’s Watches founder and CEO, Paul Altieri, right, hosts vintage Rolex luminaries Eric Wind and Morgan King in Newport Beach, CA.

BOB’S WATCHES, THE WORLD’S largest specialty retailer of preowned and vintage Rolex timepieces, is owned by a guy named Paul.

Paul Altieri, CEO, bought the company from Bob Thompson 12 years ago. To avoid confusion, “people just call me Bob,” he says. “It worked out better because everyone in the company answers to Bob. It’s corny, but it’s memorable. If it were Paul’s Watches, it would be all about me.”

Bob’s Watches is an online marketplace where watch enthusiasts can buy, sell and trade pre-owned and vintage timepieces, particularly Rolexes.

Paul Altieri

Paul Altieri

Expected 2022 revenues are $120 million.

Altieri is one of the nation’s largest private collectors of vintage and modern Rolex watches, a passion born at age 14 when he got a job as a caddy at a private golf club. “The cool guys who were successful and smart wore Rolex,” he says. “A lot of them were good golfers, too. I always said if I make it, someday I’m going to buy a Rolex watch.”

Altieri had worked in jewelry retail, real estate, financial services and the restaurant business. When he turned his entrepreneurial gaze to the Internet about 15 years ago, he explored possible options for ventures that ranged from candy and flowers to women’s shoes and diamonds.

“And we kept coming back to watches,” he says. “It was a very expensive item that could fit in a box and we could ship it anywhere. It was a gigantic industry, it was important and it wasn’t being done right.”

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The pre-owned watch market, he says, lacked a solid formula for ensuring consumers received a fair price for their used watch. By disclosing the true market value, including both the “buy” and the “sell” price for each watch, Altieri brought a new level of transparency to the transaction.

Doing it right involves not only pricing it right but authenticating every watch and offering exceptional customer service. “People come to us because they know they can trust us,” he says.

And they’re reliably available. They show up.

“A lot of companies will put up a website and hide contact information,” he says. “They don’t want to be bothered. We don’t feel that way. We get 6,000 phone calls a month and 300 inquires by email every day. Old school meets new school. They still call us or chat with us. It’s not a nuisance.”

Altieri employs 48 people, including 10 sales reps who take those calls and respond promptly to chat, text and email. “We like to get back to people quickly,” he says. “That’s our DNA. Speed. Sometimes they will order a watch today and have it by 10:30 the next morning. It can be that quick.”

Another old-school touch is hosting in-person events at the company’s headquarters in Newport Beach, CA, including an intimate collectors dinner catered by gourmet chef GTG.

watch

Although the business is conducted online, live help is readily available via chat, phone, text or email.

The advent of smartwatches has made a Rolex no less powerful a symbol among a growing demographic of guys ages 28 to 60 ready to spend an average of $11,000 on a timepiece. Narrowing down that demographic further, 34 to 40 is the sweet spot.

“They’ve graduated college, got an MBA, got married, hit a homerun. They’ve done something successful, and they want to memorialize the event. It’s been historically a terrific investment. We call it the disease. Once you get the watch disease, it gets under your skin, and you want more of them,” says Altieri.

Bob’s Watches deals in eight to 10 brands. But Rolex represents 75 percent of the secondary watch market and 29 percent of the primary market.

Altieri ships anywhere FedEx delivers.

“I was kind of late to the Internet game, but I couldn’t believe how powerful a medium it could be,” he says, “And we’re just getting started. The market is enormous, domestically and internationally, and we’re not in the second or third inning yet. We’re excited that we got an early start.”

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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