Yesterday we started with the first in a series of interviews with the CEOs of the world’s largest online watch marketplaces. Each and every place has its own specific ways of dealing with trade; one company owns the displayed inventory, the other doesn’t, and a third has a hybrid approach. One way or another, all these companies want to give you the best and most secure buying experience. But how do they do it? The respective CEOs explain this and today we’re talking with Philipp Budimann, CEO of Montredo.
Montredo is a newer marketplace, but already one of the largest players on the Internet. During our conversation, Philipp mentioned that his readers love videos like Montredo’s Meet the Manufacturer and Hodinkee’s Talking Watches. And then he told me that I could leave out mentioning Hodinkee’s videos. Of course not! At MONOCHROME we also love watching Talking Watches! Now on to the interview with Philipp Budimann, CEO of Montredo.
Can you give us a quick history of Montredo?
Montredo was founded in 2012 in Berlin by Alexander Beer, two Swiss business angels, and myself. Since then we have grown from a two-man show, basically operating out of my living room, to one of the leading players in the online luxury watch market. Currently, we have a team of 21 digital experts & watch enthusiasts in place.
What brought you to Montredo?
I was always into watches – with a particular passion for mechanical ones. However, I have never enjoyed the actual retail experience. Somehow I felt a bit misplaced and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. After having a bad experience on eBay, and finding a dearth of established alternatives back in 2012, I concluded that there had to be a better way to buy watches online. This brought Montredo to life.
Who is behind Montredo? (investors and management team)
The Montredo team consists of watch enthusiasts from the Berlin digital scene. “Haute Horlogerie meets Tech” – that’s how I love to describe our team. Many of us have been with companies like Rocket Internet, Zalando or Booking.com, and we enjoy combining digital expertise with our passion for watches in our different roles at Montredo. Our investors are experienced business angels from the DACH region; many are or have been successful entrepreneurs.
What is your business model?
We offer new and unworn watches from premium manufacturers on our website www.montredo.com and sell them to customers worldwide. Through our partner Les Ambassadeurs – a long-established Swiss retail chain – we also offer pre-owned watches, but our focus is on new and unworn watches. Our extremely efficient organisation and the fact that we don’t spend on retail spaces allow us to stay lean and pass our savings on to our customers.
We also partner with watch manufacturers to generate content for our online magazine. In our well-received Meet the Manufacturer video series, we provide insightful background into watch brands, their origins, and makers. So far we have been invited to portray more than 20 manufacturers, including houses such as Audemars Piguet, MB&F, Parmigiani Fleurier, H.Moser & Cie. and Frederique Constant.
Many of our viewers tell us that they are addicted to both Hodinkee’s Talking Watches and Montredo’s Meet the Manufacturer.
What differentiates Montredo? What do you bring to your clients?
This might sound a little corny, but it’s the love and the passion for watches we share among our entire team. With this passion for mechanical watches, we have basically built an experience that we ourselves would find engaging and user-friendly when buying a watch online.
Get in touch with our customer service and you can be reassured that the person you talk to is as enthusiastic about the product as you are. Our love of watches is also evident in our website, videos, and magazine. Montredo is basically the site that we built for ourselves – to enjoy watches on the Internet.
What are your key challenges?
We are a lean, efficient team of 21 and strongly believe in our working ethos of doing more with less. However, being compact on the one hand, and still thriving for rapid growth, comes with a price – which is the constant drive to improve our organisation in all aspects and working extremely hard every single day. This is a challenge, but all the more rewarding when – together as a team – we reach our goals.
What are you plans for the next 3 years?
We will continue our path of profitable growth, expand into new markets, launch new website features, and also a completely new line of business in 2019. We have extremely ambitious goals and are confident that we will reach them. The digitalisation of the luxury watch industry has just begun and we want to sustainably establish ourselves as one of the leading stakeholders and partners in the industry.
What are the key trends and perspectives for the watch market? How do you analyse the market?
The luxury watch industry has a bright future ahead. The market has always been volatile, however, the long-term trend is positive. There is a growing interest in mechanical watches, especially amongst millennials. Many of them are conscious about style, substance, mechanics, and heritage. They are getting into mechanical watches and they are looking for real value.
Digitalisation will become even more important due to the rapid change in purchasing behaviour: Customers are becoming more knowledgeable, and with the abundance of information available they are able to make informed and considered choices. A superficial sales statement and an appealing product photo do not suffice anymore.
More and more brands will begin selling directly to the customer. A rich digital presence will become a necessity. Strong brands will tell their stories in unique flagship stores as well as through compelling digital experiences.
The potential of the secondary market is huge. Up until now, brands had not been doing a great deal about the secondary market but are beginning to want a piece of the action. How do you envision working with them?
We are showing brands what can be done in the digital world and we are currently involved in many interesting conversations, the results of which you will see materialise from 2019 onwards.
What are your tips for collectors?
Buy watches for enjoyment rather than as an investment. Only buy watches that you personally like and not that are popular and hyped among other collectors.
Be careful once you’ve got bitten by the watch bug and don’t scale up your collection too quickly. If you really have to, buy one or two pieces to “scratch the itch”, but then set a goal for yourself. It’s better to save up to buy one fantastic piece rather than 5-10 pieces that you’re not in love with. For me, this was the most difficult part.
I personally always look for a watch that is somehow unique and has a story. Also, watches that are iconic for a specific brand (Patek Philippe Nautilus or Rolex sports models) usually retain their resale value far better.
Don’t start with vintage too quickly. Vintage requires experience and knowledge.
What will be your next personal watch acquisition?
I have my eyes on and am saving up for a Royal Oak in steel, but I am still undecided on the exact model.