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April 19, 2024

After London, Switzerland: Ninety, the pre-owned by Richard Mille opens in Geneva

Call it ‘second-hand‘, call it ‘pre-owned‘, the substance changes little. Second-hand in watchmaking is a phenomenon that is rapidly and progressively stepping out of the territories in which it had been confined for years by many brands – and it is an increasingly decisive variable in the timepiece market. A brand like Richard Mille haslong understood this and manages it impeccably through Ninety, the brand’s only officially authorised retailer of second-hand watches in Europe, present in London with its own boutique. We visited its new, second boutique, which recently opened in Geneva, and will tell you more about how interesting it was.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

SECOND-HAND: TRENDS AND ADVANTAGES

In the meantime, however, just to understand the picture, let us remember that the most recent estimates, drawn up by Deloitte last year and referring to 2022, speak of a value of around 20 billion Swiss francs, which by 2030 could reach almost 35 billion. A figure that is more than half that of the new watches market. A forecast in line with this was also made by the Boston Consulting Group, which predicts a market worth 35 billion dollars for the second-hand wristwatches market by 2026, compared to 66 billion for the new.

These figures speak for themselves and, above all, give an idea of the size and importance of pre-owned, beyond the business volume. Importance that we have already written about in the past, as you can read here. Figures that highlight how the brands that have decided to manage their pre-owned directly have made an intelligent and far-sighted strategic choice. Primarily in business terms, but also for a number of reasons that have to do with the brands’ strengths.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

In fact, it is clear that in-house management of pre-owned has several positive aspects, starting with the fact that it builds loyalty with historic customers and allows new customers to be approached, who otherwise would not be able to access the new even if they wanted to. Access is difficult, if not impossible, because of the scarcity of references.

Managing the sale of second-hand wristwatches also means great promotion for a brand. It denotes its strength, both towards the market and the customer. A brand that not only sells its watches new but also buys used ones back to offer them in mint condition to its customers denotes its true value. Precisely because it is able to offer parts in certified, like-new condition, having all the necessary expertise in house to do a perfect job in terms of overhaul and refurbishment.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

Not to mention the great importance for a customer to have the opportunity to contact the brand directly in order to avoid problems should they need assistance and, above all, to avoid possible scams. If you read further below what Dean Harding told us, you will understand what safety means mainly from this point of view.

In any case, according to LuxeConsult, the outlook for the current year is in flux. In 2024, the second-wrist market could be affected by the weakening demand for new watches caused by still negative macroeconomic conditions. However, the feelings of many players are positive in the long term.

NINETY AND RICHARD MILLE: PRE-OWNED EXPERTISE AND GUARANTEE

This is the background to the change of strategy of some high-end brands that have decided to manage their watches’ pre-owned market themselves. A choice that responds to different needs and involves a non-trivial effort, but which comes with unquestionable advantages. Starting with keeping prices within a rational framework – the most obvious advantage which brings many other ones along. As demonstrated by the case of Ninety, whichopened its first boutique in London almost four years ago and has now doubled that with a new opening in Geneva. We at Watch Insanity were there, guests of the Richard Mille PR team, and the visit was very useful and interesting. It helped us to understand many things, that we are hereby reporting to you.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva
Richard Mille Ninety Geneva
Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

The Ninety boutique inGeneva was opened next to the Richard Mille boutique, a stone’s throw from Place de Longemalle. In the almost three hours we spent on the sofas, Ninety’s general manager Dean Harding literally opened the treasure chest in front ofus, from which he extracted pieces of absolute beauty and rarity, all in like-new condition. From the RM 50-01 Tourbillon Romain Grosjean to the poetic RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur to some of the first references created for Rafael Nadal. Right up to the RM 018 Tourbillon Boucheron, created in 2008 to celebrate the famous Parisian jeweller of Place Vendôme.

Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Purple Fleur
Richard Mille RM 018 Tourbillon Boucheron

Naturally, a visit to the adjacent Richard Mille boutique could not be missed. An environment with modern and dynamic furnishings and finishes that reflects the brand’s philosophy and immediately puts the customer who enters at ease. Inside, we were shown another array of treasures, this time in the current collection, such as the RM 40-01 McLaren Speedtail Automatic Tourbillon. An experience that culminated with the most incredible piece currently signed by Richard Mille: the RM UP-01 Ferrari.

INTERVIEW WITH DEAN HARDING, GENERAL MANAGER OF NINETY

The Ninety-Richard Mille boutique pairing has allowed us to personally experience the quality of the second-hand wristwatches being offered. Ninety‘s unique location gives it access to a range of Richard Mille services and state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring that the watches handled by the boutique consistently meet the brand’s exacting standards.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

Not only is each piece carefully serviced, but it also comes with a two-year international Richard Mille pre-owned warranty, an additional security for the buyer. The flagship boutique at 90 Mount Street in London is also equipped with a full workshop, with a Richard Mille tourbillon expert watchmaker, Thomas Mason, who has decades of experience. Ninety Geneva‘s team of technicians is no less.

Richard Mille Ninety Geneva

During our visit we made the acquaintance of Dean Harding. As well as showing us a selection of the pieces available, Ninety’s general manager also answered to some of our curiosities. A chat, more than an interview, that we gladly share with you.

Dean Hardin

Among the brands that have approached the pre-owned market, Richard Mille – besides being among the first – is the only one to have also thought of a dedicated space. How was Ninety born and what are your future plans? After London and Geneva, are you already planning other openings?

Ninety is part of the pre-owned world and the idea behind it is to offer customers a high level of service, which is something already inherent at Richard Mille’s. We know that many of our customers sell their own watches, it’s inevitable, it’s the world of watchmaking; that’s why, by creating Ninety, we wanted them to be able to deal directly with the brand. To be safe in the process of selling, buying or exchanging a watch and not to have to deal with companies that are not trained in dealing with Richard Mille watches. Because it is normal: there is no one who can tell you everything about a reference except the original brand itself. Only we can give all the information to reassure our customers. For this reason, we are planning a new opening in the Middle East.

Speaking of numbers, can you tell us what volume of watches Ninety deals with, and how the research is done?

The number of existing Richard Mille watches is not huge: as a last figure, we estimated around 60,000, produced in the brand’s 23 years of existence. That’s why globally there is not such an abundance of second-hand Richard Mille wristwatches. I can say that on our first year we bought about 50 of them. As for the criterion by which we decide which watch to buy, we have customers who ask for particular pieces, so we move on that basis: we are on the watch for the references we are asked for. For example, the RM 027 is very sought after, we have a big list of customers who would like to own it. So if we have the opportunity to buy it, we do everything we can to do so, to then have the opportunity to offer it to those who ask for it. 

Richard Mille RM 027

Not only Richard Mille. Watches from other brands are also available at Ninety: where did this choice come from and why? It’s kind of strange to see a brand selling watches from other brands….

We know that Richard Mille customers also buy other brands. Clearly our focus is on Richard Mille watches, but if a customer wants to sell, say, an F.P. Journe in order to buy a Richard Mille, we are more than happy to do an evaluation of their watch. Frankly, though, we only buy watches from other brands if we like them and if we are pretty sure that our customers will like them. 

As we know, Richard Mille doesn’t only distinguish itself for its watches, but also for everything revolving around them. From events, to hospitality, to experiences. What is the customer experience like at Ninety, and what services do you offer besides sales?

We are lucky to be part of the Richard Mille group and to work closely with them, so we can be part of the events they organise throughout the year. In a slightly different situation, in previous years we have organised independent events such as lunches for restricted customers circles, but we are now closely linked to Richard Mille’s events.

Fakes and clones are a big problem today for many brands, including Richard Mille. To try to remedy this, you have launched a new programme to ‘educate’ your customers to recognise your watches: can you explain how it works and who it is aimed at?

We are concerned about the stories we hear from customers when we deal directly with them, when we find people buying one thing thinking it is another. The problem of fakes is also big for us, and I am glad that we can talk about this topic with you. We have developed an ‘educational programme’ on this issue, and for the first event we decided to target footballers from the English Premier League: people with great spending power. We invited them to an exclusive lunch, had them meet our London boutique watchmaker, Tom, and presented them with a fake 35-02 together with a real one we had in stock. We examined the outside in detail with them, did some focuses and close-ups on the movement and some of the parts, and asked our guests what they thought of it: it was quite worrying that hardly anyone could tell the difference between the real and the fake. We developed this programme not to sell watches to potential customers, but to educate them, to make them understand that there is a genuine importance in knowing what you are buying. This applies to Richard Mille but also to Rolex, Patek Philippe or other brands. We are in a strong position because we are part of the brand and we are official retailers for pre-owned, but there are others who deal our watches. We plan to organise another appointment this year, aimed at finance professionals working in the City, but we don’t have a strict timetable. I can say that after the first event we had a very positive response, those who attended thanked us for providing a high level of information and for opening their eyes. 

Richard Mille RM 35-02 TPT Carbon

Staying on the subject, have you been able to estimate how much the fake market is worth and how many of your brand’s imitations are on the market? What is the quality level of the fakes?

Tough question. There are millions of fakes flooding the market, I have no idea how many are mimicking Richard Mille. But we have unfortunately had the cases of a couple of people who have spent five figures to buy a watch that turned out to be a fake. You can go to Turkey, buy a fake Rolex for 10 euros but you know it’s a fake and you accept it. But if someone offers you a 35-02 for 150,000 euros when it’s priced at around 300,000 and maybe you don’t know much about watches, you think it’s a good deal and you buy it. Then you go into a Richard Mille boutique to have it serviced and you get a nasty surprise. Because the quality level of the fakes is very high: the fake 35-02 we used during our appointment was excellent. Our watchmaker Tom is one of the best, he obviously knew immediately that it was a fake, but a wealthy customer, who knows little about Richard Mille or watches in general, just sees that it’s a nice piece and thinks it’s really original. Unfortunately, the quality of fakes is constantly improving. The so-called ‘superclones’ of Rolexes that arrive from Asia are practically perfect even at the calibre level.

Where do your fakes come from?

Mainly from China. 

If we wanted to give our readers advice on how to recognise a fake, what suggestions would we give?

This is a question we are often asked. The most honest answer is that the most important thing is to know who you are dealing with. The worrying thing about fakes is that they are really good, as I said earlier. Many years ago there were a lot of aesthetic details one could pay attention to in order to distinguish a genuine from a fake, not anymore. It is essential to know who the person or company you are dealing with is. Not many people sell used Richard Mille, you have to talk to several people or companies. If, when you want to buy a watch, the main issue is money, there is not much you can do; you can find what you want at a high or low price, but the important thing is to buy from a reliable source who knows everything about that watch: they know the history, the service, they can confirm that it is not stolen and that all its parts are original. It is common sense, but it is the only safe way to avoid scams.

By Davide Passoni