WatchBox describes itself these days as “the global leader in collectible luxury timepieces”, a deliberate repositioning above the clutter of watch traders that add up to a global pre-owned and grey market sector recently valued at $18 billion by McKinsey & Co.
That elevation has been bolstered today with the news that WatchBox has acquired a significant stake in Swiss independent watchmaker De Bethune.
Details of the deal have not been disclosed but Swiss newspaper Le Temps, says WatchBox has secured a controlling interest in the watchmaker.
CEO Pierre Jacques and Denis Flageollet, COO and master watchmaker, will remain on De Bethune’s board of directors to ensure continuity and will continue to lead the teams in Geneva and L’Auberson.
De Bethune, like other independent watchmakers, has enjoyed a surge in demand in recent years, and the pandemic has pushed this even higher.
In a meeting with De Bethune at Geneva Watch Days yesterday, WATCHPRO was told that every watch in production for 2021 has already been sold.
Mr Jacques says the company usually produces around 150 watches per year with an average price of around CHF 120,000 and, despite increasing the size of the team from 13 to 40 in the past four years, its order book is full.
The investment from WatchBox is expected to be put to work increasing production, but not at the price of exclusivity.
Mr Jacques hopes to make up to 250 watches within two years.
WatchBox, which has a world-wide network of trading offices and stores in Philadelphia, Neuchatel in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai in joint venture with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, has established itself as a leader in sourcing and selling rare watches, particularly from independent watchmakers like F. P. Journe, H. Moser & Cie and De Bethune.
It also has a reputation for spotting the next big thing, and has been talking up De Bethune for a number of years.
WatchBox’s scale also gives it the ability to control markets for small independent watchmakers by acquiring and holding watches so that supply tightens and prices rise.
“WatchBox has been a trusted partner of ours and a dynamic supporter of De Bethune for years,” a statement from De Bethune’s Mr Flageollet and Mr Jacques says.
“We have long admired their desire and commitment to educate the global watch community on the art of watchmaking and are delighted to now join together. WatchBox’s investment will enable De Bethune to fulfill our long-term vision of advancing and reinterpreting watchmaking.”