David Duggan is one of Europe’s most respected watch dealers. It started in 1975 when he and his brother, a numismatic expert, were traveling to towns in the UK, renting hotel rooms and hoping that a few pocket watch and coin owners would fall while looking for to sell.
Duggan would then resell his watch finds at fairs, auctions, markets and on Portobello Road in London. In 1989 he took up a permanent space in the Bond Street Antiques Center, where he continued to trade until 2002, when he moved to an elegant double-fronted boutique in Mayfair’s prestigious Burlington Arcade.
His boutique is known among Patek Philippe, Rolex and Tudor aficionados around the world as a traditional store where business is done the old fashioned way – by Duggan and a small team of experts who make sure customers get the right one. shows at a fair price. so that everyone is happy.
There is an option to exchange for something else at a later date, and the company has invested in workshop equipment to maintain its status as one of the few independent and Rolex-approved service centers in the country. And, if a customer is looking for a particular watch, âI have a ‘wish list’,â says Duggan. “It’s a big pile of notes that sits on my desk, held together by a rubber band.”
But a few doors down from the arcade, things are done a little differently. Danny Shahid, a trader who has worked in the watch industry for less than a decade, is one of the latest tenants of Burlington Arcade. Bundles of bills and rubber bands are not included in its methods of finding watches for its customers looking for the thrill of an instant purchase. If he receives a direct message from one of his 90,000 Instagram followers looking for a particular, hard-to-find model, Shahid simply makes the call through his 15 WhatsApp broadcast messaging groups, each reaching 256 people.
Within seconds, nearly 4,000 watch enthusiasts, dealers and finders around the world are alerted, and often the watch in question is quickly stocked.
Shahid is certainly not the only young watch dealer to work this way. But he is one of the lucky few to make their role known and also one of the few to evolve into a physical retail space during the lockdown, as buying watches through the internet is seen to be on the rise. more normal.
Born and raised in Middlesbrough, in the north-east of England, Shahid began traveling to London on weekends at the age of 15 to work with his uncle on the production of crimped and gold-plated iPhones. The business unexpectedly took off when Harrods, the department store, signed an agreement to be its exclusive retailer. âShortly after, a member of the Qatari royal family [Qatar Holdings bought Harrods in 2010] asked my uncle if he could find someone to buy his 2008 Rolex Day-Date II for Â£ 10,000, âsays Shahid. âHe gave it to us on consignment, we sold it for Â£ 14,500 and were allowed to keep the rest. It was then that I decided to become a watch dealer.
By the age of 17, Shahid had moved to London and, with the help of his uncle, had rented a small retail unit in Hatton Garden on a monthly contract. âI would buy more or less one watch at a time, turn it over and use the profit to buy another,â Shahid explains. âA lot of times I would negotiate with other dealers which was easier back then as there were relatively few of us and only about 20% of business was done online – although eBay was a great place to buy watches. at the time. “
But sales really took off when he opened an Instagram account in 2012. âI’ve always been interested in fashion and posted a photo of a Rolex watch next to a Christian Louboutin shoe – it’s was a type of watch image that hadn’t been seen before. on Instagram, and it went viral.
Shahid says he now sells up to 15 watches a day, often acting as a âfinderâ for customers looking for elusive models.
On one occasion, a longtime customer asked him to find a rare edition of Richard Mille RM055 Bubba Watson Asia, one of 35 copies available worldwide. After three days of browsing social media, he tracked down one in Singapore, traveled there to buy the watch for Â£ 145,000 and brought it straight back to his client in the UK.
Another time, Shahid says he made Â£ 10,000 in just over 24 hours by traveling to Morocco and buying two hard-to-obtain Rolex chronographs.
Although his style is in stark contrast to the old-fashioned watch and jewelry merchants of the Burlington Arcade, Shahid still believes that having a physical store in such a traditional and highly regarded location makes it easier to deliver a personalized service and inspires confidence in customers.
But its quick social media-based watch search method isn’t universally admired.
Silas Walton, founder of second-hand online sales site A Collected Man, says there is undoubtedly a place for traveling researchers who can quickly find current and hard-to-obtain watches such as the latest models. Rolex steel sportswear, but those with whom he deals prefer to keep a low profile. âAll the truly successful watchmakers that I know operate very quietly, quietly traveling the world to find and buy on behalf of a few clients with whom they have built strong relationships.
âHowever, we mostly work on the other end of the spectrum – the people we find watches for usually want something much rarer than a modern Rolex. They tend to be high-end enthusiasts with deep pockets who have experienced the ups and downs of collecting in several different areas, such as cars, art, and wine.
âThese guys tend to be the least aggressive, the least aggressive, and the most patient. It tends to be a long game played by longtime thinkers that we have gained a lot of confidence in, âWalton adds.
Contrary to the immediacy of one of Shahid’s WhatsApp shows, Walton’s pursuit can be very long indeed – he recently spent two years hunting down a Philippe Dufour Duality on behalf of an American customer who purchased the watch with pleasure, despite its value exceeding $ 1m in the meantime.
âWhile there are only nine examples and most of them will probably never stand out from the collections they’re in, I was sure I could find one eventually,â Walton says.
“The client agreed to support me, waited patiently and it paid off for everyone.”