IN FOCUS: The demand for luxury watches in Singapore and why collectors turn to the grey market

3 days ago 38

SINGAPORE: It took Mr Jay Tun almost two years of deliberation before he bought his first luxury watch in 2018.

The S$16,480 Rolex Sea-Dweller, which is still in his possession, started him on a journey that has been “hard to stop”.

The 35-year-old has since spent more than S$300,000 on these timepieces. He now sees his watches, now valued at about S$400,000, as not just a passion, but also an investment.

“I don't just like watches for the value. I like the watches for the different movements, different intricacies of the movements itself. It’s very intriguing … It’s like art to me," he explained.

“Whichever purchase I want to buy, especially for watches, the numbers must make sense first. But of course the piece must be something that I like.”

For luxury watches like some of the ones Mr Tun collects, demand far outstrips the supply. Watches from brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet are among the most popular.

Buyers cannot just walk into shops and purchase these watches. There are usually long waiting or interest lists, especially for popular models, watch dealers and collectors said.

Mr Jarod Ng, co-founder of retailer Watch Capital which sells new and pre-owned luxury watches, said a lot of people find the waiting time too long.

“Let's just say that you want to buy this as a wedding anniversary gift or you want to buy it for your son as a graduation present. You can’t be waiting for two years when he graduates in the next six months,” said Mr Ng.

Getting your name on the list also by no means guarantees you a watch.

“With the authorised dealer, I think a lot of people feel the same frustration as I did. You go there and they will give you the standard SOP (standard operating procedure) - that this is a highly sought-after piece, there’s this interest list,” said Mr Tun.

“If you don't follow up, if you don't buy anything more from them, likely you will never hear from them ever after.”

Even VIP customers have to wait a few months for a watch of their choice, said Mr Tan Khai Hsiang, who runs an online shop on Carousell called KHF Watch.

Mr Tan started out as a watch collector himself, and started buying and trading luxury timepieces on the e-commerce marketplace in 2019. He also purchases watches overseas on behalf of other dea...

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