As though I needed any reason to keep on using eBay, my experience with Portero.com does just that. eBay has a very good thing going on. Last I checked, it is the 9th most visited website in the United States, and on the watch front, enjoys an impressive volume of inventory daily. The auction method of buying watches will ensure you the best price for watches, hands down. Other quality sites feature flat prices, or direct to seller interaction, but there is no better online auction site than eBay. Here is one “competitor;” Portero.com.
Portero touts itself as a “Luxury Auctions” website. They offer more than just watches, also available is jewelry, art, housewares, and other items falling under a variety of luxury brands. My focus of course was on the watch side of things. Their big sell seems to be the fact that they independently verify the authenticity of each item, have a one year warranty, a 30 day return policy, and offer good customer services. Which basically means they are bound to charge high prices, and have live sales people. On eBay the sales people are the sellers themselves. The watch listings are meant to look like auctions, in the sense that they end, and you can technically bid on them. Perhaps this occurs occasionally. Here is the kicker though, these aren’t really auctions, they simply try to emulate the auction experience by placing seemingly random numbers as the price; say $18,761, rather than some rounded price. It is meant to look as though people are organically bidding on the items, but they are not. Exploration of “closed” auctions that ended with a buyer, reveal just one bidder. Meaning that there is no competition, just one person buying the items. You might think this a good thing, until you realize the prices, which are astronomical most of the time. Those “closed” auctions are mostly for items in the sub $1,000 range. Meaning the people buying items there are not going after the ridiculously priced inventory they have. All they need are a couple of buyers paying the very high prices they charge for some items each month, and they are fine.
They offer a condition status on the watches as well. They are so kind with their “vintage” label. Which basically is a nice way of saying that these watches are beat up badly, which some of them in fact are. I will hand it to Portero that they have a relatively well sized inventory, but I don’t know how often it moves, and what demographic site appears to focus on. Perhaps those few dedicated buyers who just must have a particular watch, at any price, in any condition. Also, per their “Tourneau” partnership, they seem to get a large flow of previously owned watches.
I have no particular problem with the watches they offer, many of them are highly desirable, but Portero attempts to veil the fact that it is simply a retailer of used watches at high prices with the auction angle. I am sure that in theory, their auction system works, but no one is using it. They simple place items up for high prices and hope for the best. A large part of their focus is on the “authenticated nature” of their watches, and how they are an authorized dealer. Watch companies like make a fuss about this, but there is no real benefit in using these types of dealers for the most part.
Portero has a blog as well. Well it is a marketing blog, written by a marketing person. It is not particularly interesting, nor particularly worthwhile. You’ll read Skymall-esque quality articles which encounter such intellectual dilemmas such as what types of extravagant watches to buy your father for father’s day, if your father was one of the pictured celebrities and fell into a couple of shallow categories. Not very creative, very obviously sales orientated, and certainly not written by watch lovers. Technically speaking, the blog is just a free Blogspot blog, so Portero obviously isn’t sure what to make of it, or what resources to put into it. Right now its not very useful in my opinion.
Overall, I have no doubt that purchasing a watch from Portero.com would result in a smooth transaction (though I have not done so yet), but is it worth the very high premium? No, I don’t think it is. These factors make eBay all the more attractive to me as a location to purchase watches (among other things) as it a true auction site (unlike Portero), I’ve engaged in hundreds of smooth transactions, and eBay’s available watch listings at any time is extensive. eBay here I come.