As TC’s resident watch lover, I often find myself browsing the horology forums while alone, scantily-clad, and drunk. However, in this era of connoisseur-nets and always-connected trade, there are few bargains to be found and even fewer ways to find exactly what you want. That’s where Chrono24.com comes in. Founded by serial entrepreneurs Tim Stracke and Dirk Schwartz, the site has been live since 2003 but has just recently streamlined its operations to offer a sort of watch search engine that allows users to find timepieces of note from almost anywhere in the world.
The pair began by buying the site, originally a classifieds forum, in 2010. “We had to pay a steep price for just a domain and dealer contracts. But it gave us a great starting point to change the watch industry,” said Stracke. “Chrono24 is not only an industry changer but also one of the few truly global marketplaces.”
The site brings disparate watch markets and forums together and allows sellers to submit items for sale. Dealers in new and used watches – the so called grey market – submit their timepieces and users can then search for pieces from around the world. Many forums, for example, have sales boards but they are usually limited to fans of a specific type of watch or brand. BobsWatches, for example, has made a business out of selling Rolex and has even created a widget for users to assess the value of their pieces. Chrono24, on the other hand, is more all-encompassing in their approach.
The company recently acquired to competitors and they see about 130,000 visits per day. Mobile visits have risen to 20,000 per day and they’re doing transactions of up to 300 million Euro per year.
The company is expanding, as well. They have created a personal “buying agent” that scours the listing and notifies you when a specific watch appears and you can even call in and speak to an advisor who will tell you what to buy and wear. More important, however, is the plan to build an escrow system for buyers and sellers. When you’re dropping $62,000 on a Rolex you want to ensure your payment isn’t going to end up in some oligarch’s back pocket.
“One of our most relevant projects for 2013 is establishing a ‘Chrono24 Trusted Payment’ system where Chrono24 will act as a trusted escrow agent. All this differentiates us from eBay and current and future competitors,” said Stracke.
Stracke is proud of his place in the horology niche and even prouder of the fact that the company is based in Germany. “We are one of the few German Internet start-ups that are global market leaders. And we are not a copy cat.”