Delray Watch has built a world-wide following of collectors looking to buy and sell their precious timepieces with fellow enthusiasts. Now it is adding an exclusive top-end service it calls Vault 303 that will deal only in the most desirable and rare models, and with a particular strength in independent brands. WatchPro spoke with John Pietrasz, co-founder and chairman of Delray Watch and Vault 303 to find out why.
WatchPro: Why did you feel the need to add a more niche site for luxury watches, and where did the name Vault 303 come from?
John Pietrasz: My team, my Co-Founder, Federico Iossa, and I (pictured together above) are extremely data-driven both with Vault 303 as well as Delray Watch. We catalog customer profiles that include interactions, interests, as well as behaviors on our websites and social media when and where applicable. After studying this data, It became very clear that the upper high-end and independent watch brand collectors behave, act, and shop significantly different than the mass-market. Vault 303 is our solution to better-accommodate the nuances of this collector base.
WatchPro: What are the key differences between Delray Watch and Vault 303?
John Pietrasz: Delray Watch stocks pre-owned luxury watches generally ranging from $1k to $50k. Vault 303 carries watches that are over $20k or $10k if vintage. Vault 303 also aims to only list roughly 30 offerings on the website at any given time, with many more stored in the “vault” that can be made available by request. Once a collector has reached out and developed a relationship with us, they can receive notifications when the pieces they are interested in adding to their collection come in.
WatchPro: You have new and pre-owned watches for sale on both sites. Do you buy, refurbish and authenticate all watches, or are some/all on consignment?
John Pietrasz: With both DelrayWatch.com and Vault303.com, all watches are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine what, if anything, is necessary to ensure long-term peace-of-mind functionality. We currently have two master watchmakers on staff. One of our watchmakers has over 40 years experience including technical director of Vacheron Constantin and our other has worked for some of the greats such as Parmigiani Fleurier making parts by hand.
While we do carry unworn watches, we do not use the term “new”, as that has certain implications in some jurisdictions. Only an AD, boutique, or distributor can use that term, in my opinion, though in exchange for using the term “unworn” we deliver prices that are much lower that the sources mentioned.
WatchPro: The current Coronavirus pandemic is shutting brick and mortar stores across the world. Are you seeing an upturn in activity as people switch to browsing for luxury watches online?
John Pietrasz: Yes, since the pandemic has started we have seen our web traffic peaking. We have begun seeing over 5,000 unique shoppers per day and the numbers are continuing to climb.
WatchPro: Are you converting browsing into sales at a faster or slower rate than before the crisis?
John Pietrasz: When quarantines began in The United States, our conversion rate grew considerably. Now the public, in some areas, has become concerned with going to the UPS or FEDEX stores to drop off packages to trade in or sell. I encourage any dealers with pre-owned watches that do not have an online presence to reach out as we are actively seeking to replenish inventory to keep up with the increased traffic.
WatchPro: Is there more product coming onto the market as individuals and businesses look to raise cash by selling luxury watches?
John Pietrasz: I am seeing more watches introduced into the market, especially from sources that stockpiled.
WatchPro: Are you seeing any significant trends when it comes to prices?
John Pietrasz: Pricing has become significantly more competitive in the last several weeks. Consider this: Just in online platforms and forums, not factoring in dealer websites, there are currently over 985 listings for Rolex Submariner Date Ceramic bezel 116610LN. If you were a shopper, which would you purchase? You’d either snap at the $8500 item on eBay, or use that listing to bargain with a dealer that you trust that is still trying to sell it for $11k.
Watches that attract casual buyers, instead of enthusiasts, have seen the biggest drop in price.
WatchPro: How much of an advantage does a business like yours, which was founded entirely as an ecommerce business with digital marketing, have over traditional retailers that generate 80% or 90% of sales from their physical stores?
John Pietrasz: With DelrayWatch.com and Vault303.com, we keep overhead low and a lean staff. We employ data and automation, only using people when necessary and in some cases, like customer service, it is necessary.
If a retailer that has little online presence is in an area with a mandated quarantine, they are not selling watches right now. Watch retailers that have not developed online sales strategies, either by choice or brand limitations, are now forced to develop one, though 2 weeks is hardly enough time.
WatchPro: What long term effects do you think the current situation will have on the primary and secondary markets for luxury watches?
John Pietrasz: Over the last two years, many brands and houses have developed digital sales strategies or have gone omnichannel. While they may have not focused on it, at least now they can begin to do so. Though, some of the old-world brands and dealers have not developed online sales strategies either by choice or by restrictions placed on authorized dealers and distribution.
The primary market should take this time to learn from the secondary market. Since the earliest days, the secondary market has been forced to constantly innovate and keep up with the times, in some capacity, as primary essentially builds the system we all work around.
Hublot announced today that customers can video call with boutique sales staff. That customer will have a drink on their couch behind an iPhone and then go to a secondary market website to make the purchase.
Considering I also have a CTO background, I would be glad to chat with any brands, dealers, or businesses in the industry that want to pick someone’s ear on the topic. John@delraywatch.com