Every watch fan knows the feeling. You’ve just found a great watch for sale online, and right before pulling the trigger a little voice pops into your head saying, Is this legit? Is this too good to be true? Will I end up broke and in tears? It’s the ultimate buzzkill to buying a pre-owned watch online, and why I was so excited when aBlogtoWatch (because we’ve worked together in the past) asked me to take a trip to Atlanta-based Crown & Caliber, a company that promises to silence all those little voices.
Crown & Caliber is a company that provides an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of luxury pre-owned watches. Their goal is to represent the buyer and the seller and to add value for both. And just as importantly, they’re located just a few miles down the street from me in Atlanta, GA.
When I showed up at their offices, I was surprised the building was not only unremarkable, but completely unmarked. I wandered around the nondescript office park aimlessly for a few minutes looking for any kind of sign or listing, but found nothing. When I finally found the exact address (a plain door with just a number on it) that door was promptly slammed in my face by the person in front of me. A great start! I would later realize the obvious reason for all the secrecy and security. When you’re a company housing millions of dollars worth of luxury watches, it’s best to keep an extremely low profile… and identify all guests before buzzing them in.
After getting past the front door, I was introduced to Crown & Caliber’s CEO Hamilton Powell. Hamilton is a native Atlantan who happened upon the idea for Crown & Caliber after a friend’s bad experience selling a pre-owned Patek Phillipe. Hamilton quickly impressed me with his friendliness, knowledge of watches, and thick head of hair.
Before we sat down for an interview, Hamilton gave me a tour of the headquarters and laid out the basic Crown & Caliber philosophy. They want to be “passionate stewards” for every watch they list and strive to get “the very best value for both buyers and sellers alike.” Or in layman’s terms: if they’re completely transparent with the seller and the buyer (and do their homework), no one gets screwed. For this service they take 19.5%, which Hamilton says is recouped by the added value of their certification process and the marketing of the watch. It’s a little like they’re a watch expert with a law degree, making sure everyone is playing by the rules and everyone knows exactly what they’re paying for.
As I walked around their immense space, it certainly looked like they had the tools to deliver on the above promise. Among the many cubicles there were researchers on computers researching, marketers online marketing, and honest-to-god watch technicians in lab coats pouring over every watch. Hamilton remarked that one of their biggest challenges is actually finding experienced watch techs and then getting them to move to Atlanta. Obviously, Hamilton is equally transparent about Atlanta’s heat and humidity.
Another aspect of their company Crown & Caliber keeps on the down-low is their charitable giving. As I was rooting around their website in preparation for my visit, I found a section (buried deep in the site) about giving back. Crown & Caliber donates $25 for every watch they sell (over $3 million dollars so far) to their charitable partners. These partners provide essential medical treatment to kids in Latin America and Africa. Even though they don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, I certainly will. Well done.
After the tour, Hamilton and I sat down to talk a little bit more about what they do and why. It was also a great opportunity to see some of the inventory up close. You can see that interview in the video which is part of this article.
As a watch fan, I love the idea of complete online transparency. The more I know about a specific watch (never enough pictures!) and the people involved, the more confident I can be purchasing a watch. To me, Crown & Caliber’s value lies in its level of transparency and the in-depth information they provide on the watches they sell. If they can continue to provide professional valuation and certification as they grow their inventory (something I look forward to), they might just succeed in silencing the little voices in my head forever. crownandcaliber.com