How eBay Pulled Off Becoming One of the Largest Luxury Watch Marketplaces in the World


Meaghan Corzine | February 24, 2020

Sam Bright, Vice President and General Manager of Verticals at eBay discusses how the mega e-commerce platform has successfully infiltrated the secondary luxury watch market in an increasingly competitive field.

The pre-owned luxury market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10.8 percent and is touted to be worth a whopping $45 billion by 2023, according to a report by KDMarketinsights.

While second-hand luxury items offer a solution for shoppers looking for lower prices, one-of-a-kind pieces and more eco-friendly practices, not everyone has been lucky enough to crack the market. With watches selling for up to half a million dollars in the second-hand market, many of those pining to own luxury pieces have concerns over authenticity and quality.

eBay Makes A Mark in Luxury

E-commerce platform eBay recently released its Luxury Watch Report for 2020, highlighting the latest trends, best-selling models, and most expensive sales. 

Luxury Society spoke with eBay Verticals Vice President and Manager Sam Bright to find out just how eBay has successfully infiltrated the market in a sea of competitors trying to make a name for themselves.

“eBay has one of the world’s largest selections of luxury goods, from rare and designer handbags to fine wristwatches, and the value and selection available to buyers can’t be found anywhere else,” Bright says.

Sam Bright, Vice President and General Manager of Verticals at eBay 

The most impressive eBay luxury watch sales of the past year include a Patek Philippe Grand Complications watch for $535,499.99 and a Richard Mille RM11 Flyback Chronograph Rose Gold Titanium Watch for $148,000.

So how does an online platform like eBay, where you can find virtually anything from an autographed poster from your favorite celebrity to kitchen supplies, pull off selling a watch for half a million dollars (and many more)?

“We know that our community wants an added layer of confidence when buying in these categories, and to further establish eBay as a trusted shopping destination, we introduced eBay Authenticate,” Bright explains. “The program ensures that the luxury items shoppers browse on eBay are verified by third party authentication experts and sourced through select, top-rated eBay sellers. The authentication program currently includes watches, jewelry and handbags.”

On top of that, eBay also boasts a Money Back Guarantee, adding yet another layer of protection for buyers.

“Both offerings have bolstered consumer confidence in the marketplace and have been instrumental in setting the standard of excellence industry-wide,” Bright notes.

Playing the Field 

With the secondary watch market booming at an estimated $15 billion, other mega-corporations are eager to jump on the bandwagon. Among them, Amazon, who has experienced a bit more criticism when it comes to its luxury portal.

While Amazon may tote mid-level designers such as Michael Kors and Kate Spade, top luxury groups like LVMH don’t have plans to collaborate any time soon, citing concerns of counterfeit and even terrorism.

“We’ve been asked several times to participate in these businesses, and I’ve always said no,” Bernard Arnault said during the luxury conglomerate’s annual results conference. “They use their database to connect customers to sellers and they take a percentage, which leads them to sell counterfeit products and therefore in a certain way to be linked to organized crime, because the sites that sell counterfeit products are financed by organized crime or even by terrorism,” he said.

So how does eBay stand out? With more than two million watches sold on eBay in 2019, and as one of the largest online luxury watch marketplaces in the world, eBay has made a name for itself by protecting sellers and buyers at all costs.

“We invest millions of dollars annually to help ensure a safer buying and selling experience for our customers. We have a long history of partnering with rights owners, industry groups and law enforcement to collaborate in the fight against counterfeit goods,” Bright says. “Launched in 1998, VeRO allows brand owners to quickly and easily report possible counterfeits or other infringing goods. We promptly investigate each VeRO notification and take appropriate action on reported listings. More than 40,000 rights owners, ranging from Global 500 companies to industry trade associations to small businesses, participate in the VeRO program.”

With a watch sold every five seconds, where does all this inventory come from? eBay revealed that occasional and casual consumer sellers account for 39 percent of transactions on the platform, while small-to-medium business (defined as between $30K and $1M) and large merchants (above $1M annually) make up 34 percent and 27 percent respectively.

“We offer a wide selection of inventory in partnership with our sellers. The marketplace is comprised of a variety of sellers, from large retailers including Watchbox, Govberg Jewelers, BeckerTime, ShopWorn, Hess Fine Auctions and Chronostore, to smaller sellers like Luxury Bazaar and Pure Watches,” Bright explains.

It seems eBay’s success boils down to three main factors in today’s complex preowned e-commerce landscape: value, selection, and buyer trust. While eBay is unable to share specific numbers on just how much watches account for on their luxury portal, they say the watch category represents a “robust and growing” part of their luxury industry.

“Conversion on authenticated inventory is twice that of similar non-authenticated inventory, which highlights the importance buyers place on trust for high value purchases,” Bright notes. “Looking at Rolex as an example, the brand accounts for 25 percent of eBay’s marketplace sales, which indicates that enthusiasts and collectors know they can find exactly what they want at the price they want to pay on eBay."

As for what the future holds? In recent years, the female watch buyer segment has seen an uptick in buyers of nearly 30 percent and that number is growing. Women’s watches are on the rise and eBay has seen stronger interest among female shoppers in luxury brands, with Cartier up 22 percent, Rolex up 11 percent and Tag Heuer up 6 percent year over year, according to the company.

By the Numbers

  • A watch is sold every 5 seconds on eBay 
  • There are over 150,000 on average daily live listings for luxury watches
  • eBay sold over 2 million watches in 2019 with nearly 8 million watches sold over the past three years 

Check out the full report here.

Cover image credit: eBay.

E-commerce | Pre-owned | Second-hand | Sustainability | Watches