Silas Walton, Founder and CEO of A Collected Man, wasn’t driven by a burning passion for watches when he launched his e-commerce site featuring a curated selection of exceptional pre-owned watches with a particular focus on producers. independent.
“What I saw was a really interesting and attractive early stage opportunity in digitizing rare and used space,” Walton, 34, said in a phone conversation from London, the port of attachment to his company.
Since the site launched in 2014, that has changed – it has since fallen down the watch-collecting rabbit hole. “I only became a collector who really appreciates watches, more than just at a relatively basic level, in the last few years because I understood the craft and the context better,” he says. “Before that, I was looking to make the most of the opportunity.”
A Collected Man develops in-depth content about the watches and producers it features, attracting an audience of seasoned collectors as well as a new generation eager to learn about the craft. The site’s average sale is £64,600 (about $84,710), and from 2020 to 2021 the business has seen $21.5 million in revenue and an 85% increase in revenue. Gross margin.
Last summer, A Collected Man made headlines by selling a
Philippe Dufour Grande et Petite Sonnerie for 7.63 million dollars in less than two hours. The watch, made for the Sultan of Brunei, is the third of just eight such pieces. The staggering sum broke the record for the most expensive wristwatch by an independent watchmaker and placed it among the most expensive wristwatches ever sold.
“Five years ago that would have been unthinkable,” says Walton. “It would have been ridiculous to think that such an important watch would be featured online.”
The site is currently holding its second online auction with five pieces from Cartier, FP Journe, Roger Dubuis, Urban Jürgensen and Bulgari. Bidding is open until May 18.
Walton spoke with penta on where A Collected Man has been and where he is going as the company evolves.
SLOPE: How did you develop your concept for A Collected Man?
Silas Walton: We started at a time when there weren’t as many businesses positioning themselves properly on Instagram and taking care to select engaging photography and products and tell a story. Auction houses quickly sold a lot by volume without necessarily painting any nuance in the details. You would have a brand new watch next to a 1960s watch; you would have a Patek next to an Accutron. Everything was a bit messy.
The approach we took was not rocket science. We’ve just identified the few things we thought were important: high-quality, engaging photographs and long, detailed, transparent descriptions. We’ve taken a very digital and social media-driven approach, and we have a real curation process: 80% to 90% of the watches we come across never make it to the site. It is also a very global model. Perhaps 50% to 60% of transactions are in North America, the second largest market is Southeast Asia.
How did the concept evolve?
My belief, which I truly believed in and stood for, was inevitably…this market would go the way all other markets would eventually follow, which were increasingly digital, as we live in an age of increased trading [and] globalization. Trading is easier remotely, shipping things is even easier, sharing information, high definition photography – all those things that were once difficult depending on bandwidth and the internet, are so fast and easy now.
More than 50% of our traffic comes from mobile. That’s because everyone has 5G connections or they’re connected to Wi-Fi, and they’re very comfortable browsing on the go. Apps like Instagram have basically blurred the lines between desktop and mobile because they’re kind of like that halfway house where you engage with other content and then slip into commercial stuff and then slip into an account who follows your family.
How do you source watches for your site?
We source from many different places, directly from customers, primarily. People contact us with interesting pieces, and we buy them or consign them. Then we also buy at auctions around the world on an almost daily basis. We have a lot of data and tools we’ve built to track ads on other platforms, other sites, even social media. We follow particular hashtags, so we get notifications when something pops up.
What are your criteria for selecting a watch for the site?
We are very particular, it is really organized. We could list several times more watches per week than we currently do, which is one per day, but that will increase soon.
We look at the fundamentals. We try to benchmark and compare coins with other markets to see if things are undervalued relative to other things they share fundamentals with. To some degree, we also rely on our instincts based on what we personally like and what we think has some sort of quality that maybe isn’t appreciated.
We are very interested in history and quality. And it’s very exciting when you come across something that you don’t know or aren’t really aware of that seems to tick absolutely the same boxes as other things. Like recently with Parmigiani, what they did at the start is just mind blowing.
How did you come to sell the Philippe Dufour piece?
We were the first and only platform in the world to be officially endorsed by Philippe Dufour as a pre-owned partner, same for Roger Smith and Kari Voutilainen. I spent a lot of time convincing them that the world was changing, and if they weren’t happy or comfortable with the way their products were presented, especially at auction, then the only way to taking control is working with a platform to shape that story. Thus, watchmakers write articles and interviews; they provide us with additional information about a specific watch with provenance; they give us guarantees and guarantees. By doing this, you start shaping the markets very quickly.
How do you set your prices?
Based on extensive research, private data and internal conversations between us to determine if this sounds like the right number. It’s always been something we’ve taken tremendous pride in, being as priced into everything we sell as possible. We want to reach this optimal price without necessarily letting the market decide.
How do you see the current state of the market?
In the space we find ourselves in – rare watch marketing in general and the independent space in particular – there has been a very noticeable acceleration over the past couple of years. When we started, pre-owned watches in the independent market were selling for less than retail, sometimes 30% to 40% off. Today, independent watchmaking has never done better. People find it more interesting because they might not be as excited about the mainstream opportunities, even if they exist, because so many things have sold out.
The market is very active, very healthy. Overall, the market seems very qualitatively driven, and it’s so much easier now to explain history and provenance in a meaningful way, and people seem a lot more educated and sophisticated. Now we’re seeing across the board that there’s a very clear bias towards quality and provenance, and it’s only accelerating. People have less time for the average.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.