B.OB’S WATCHES, the world’s largest specialty retailer of used and vintage Rolex watches, is owned by a guy named Paul.
Paul Altieri, CEO, bought the company from Bob Thompson 12 years ago. To avoid confusion, “people just call me Bob,” he says. “It worked better because everyone in the company reports to Bob. It’s cheesy, but it’s memorable. If it was Paul’s Watches, it would be all about me.”
Bob’s Watches is an online marketplace where watch enthusiasts can buy, sell, and trade vintage and pre-owned watches, especially Rolexes.
The expected revenue for 2022 is $120 million.
Altieri is one of the nation’s largest private collectors of vintage and modern Rolex watches, a passion born at age 14 when he landed a job caddying at a private golf club. “Cool kids who were successful and smart wore Rolexes,” he says. “Many of them were also good golfers. I’ve always said that if I make it, one day I’ll buy a Rolex watch.”
Altieri had worked in the jewelry retail, real estate, financial services and restaurant business. When he turned his entrepreneurial eye to the Internet some 15 years ago, he explored possible business options ranging from candy and flowers to women’s shoes and diamonds.
“And we keep going back to the watches,” he says. “It was a very expensive item that would fit in a box and we could ship it anywhere. It was a gigantic industry, it was important and it was not being done well.”
The used watch market, he says, lacked a solid formula to ensure that consumers received a fair price for their used watch. By revealing the true market value, including the “buy” and “sell” prices of each watch, Altieri brought a new level of transparency to the transaction.
Getting it right means not only pricing it right, but also authenticating each watch and providing exceptional customer service. “People come to us because they know they can trust us,” he says.
And they are reliably available. They appear.
“A lot of companies will put up a website and hide contact information,” he says. “They don’t want to be bothered. We don’t feel that way. We receive 6,000 phone calls per month and 300 email inquiries every day. Old school meets new school. They still call or chat with us. It’s not a nuisance.
Altieri employs 48 people, including 10 sales representatives who take those calls and respond quickly to chats, texts, and emails. “We like to get back to people quickly,” she says. “That is our DNA. Speed. Sometimes they will order a watch today and have it by 10:30 the next morning. It can be that fast.”
Another touch of the old school is hosting in-person events at the company’s headquarters in Newport Beach, CA, including an intimate collectors’ dinner hosted by gourmet chef GTG.
The advent of smartwatches has made Rolex a no less powerful symbol among a growing demographic of men ages 28-60 willing to spend an average of $11,000 on a watch. Narrowing down that demographic even further, 34 to 40 is the sweet spot.
“They graduated from college, they got an MBA, they got married, they hit a home run. They have done something successful and want to commemorate the event. It has historically been an excellent investment. We call it the disease. Once you get the clock disease, it gets under your skin and you want more of them,” Altieri says.
Bob’s Watches deals with eight to 10 brands. But Rolex accounts for 75 percent of the secondary watch market and 29 percent of the primary market.
Altieri ships anywhere FedEx delivers.
“I was a bit late to the internet game, but I couldn’t believe how powerful a medium it could be,” he says, “and we’re just getting started. The market is huge, nationally and internationally, and we are not yet in the second or third entry. We are excited to have an early start.”