03 February 2021

Cresus, the pre-owned watch pioneer

Cresus emerged as a trailblazer on the pre-owned watch market almost 30 years ago. Today it sells 5,000 such items a year. We meet the company’s CEO, Maximilien Urso.

By Sandrine Merle.



Who buys recent pre-owned watches from Cresus?

Maximilien Urso. There are three types of buyer: collectors, who search something very specific; first-time buyers (to use a real estate term) with a lower budget; and collector-investors, who emerged in the early 2010s and are very fond of Rolex, Patek Philippe and Cartier. And they only have one question in mind: will I be able to sell my watch and make a profit in five years’ time? I am careful not to offer these buyers any kind of guarantee. My advice is simply to enjoy their purchase!


The pre-owned watches that Cresus sells are generally 30–50% less expensive than new models. Which are the most speculative items? 

M.U. Those for which new supply doesn’t cover demand. For example, the Rolex Daytona purchased new for €12,000 and which, just a few hours later, can be resold for €23,000–€25,000. Or the Nautilus 57-11 which costs €28,000 in-store and sells for €60,000–€70,000 on the pre-owned market. Since Patek Philippe announced the end of its production, it has risen to €100,000-€130,000! Richard Mille and F.P. Journe prices also continue to climb.


You also sell pre-owned jewelry, for which the market is less well developed.

M.U. This accounts for 15% of our business today. Jewelry is very different from watchmaking. For a start, the weight of the metal and the stones all have a residual value, so the owners are more inclined to smelt the gold and sell the stones. Apart from that, 70–80% of the pieces are no-name i.e. they’re not branded. This is changing but it will take time for this segment to catch up with the watchmaking market.


What is the main risk for buyers of a recent pre-owned watch? Frankenstein watches? 

M.U. No, Frankenstein watches –  watches recreated from spare parts – can be found on the vintage market. On the pre-owned market, the main risk is Chinese counterfeits, which can be very well manufactured. We have experienced watchmakers who have been taking apart, repairing and reassembling hundreds of watches for years. Depending on the weight or hardness of the mechanism, they can spot a flaw straight away… They’re like top-notch mechanics with the engine sound!


Cresus offers a two-year guarantee, which is unique on this market.

M.U. It’s our way of showing that we give our pre-owned watches a very thorough check-up!


You have Oméga approval – what does that mean? 

M.U. With Oméga approval, we are in direct contact with the factory that supplies the parts (which you can’t find anywhere else) for repair of their proprietary movement. To obtain approval, you need to pass certain tests and own special machines, which are often very expensive. We have invested hundreds of thousands of euros in this kind of machine in our brand new workshop and will soon be able to announce more manufacturer approvals.


The pre-owned market is booming – what relationship is there with the watch brands? 

M.U. For a long time, they weren’t interested in the pre-owned market. It wasn’t attractive enough for them! In the current climate, it has become a growth driver but it’s not that easy because they don’t know how to buy. Partnerships could be forged with a company like ours but they remain reluctant for now and have many questions. Watch this space!


Banner image: Maximilien Urso, CEO of Cresus


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