Starting an internet-based company just after the dotcom crash may seem a ludicrous idea to some, but that is exactly where the origins of Watchfinder can be found. Entering the tenth year as a thirty-plus strong company with an annual turnover of over £13 million seems a good time to stop for a moment and look back at the journey and the challenges faced to develop Watchfinder into the class-leading institution it is today.
A decade ago, four friends discovered that the facility to buy and sell luxury timepieces online did not exist, and so they pooled their respective talents and passion together to create what is now the UK's number one pre-owned retailer of luxury watches, Watchfinder. The company started life at a desktop PC in the home of one of the founders, but it wasn't long until the idea blossomed and grew into something far, far bigger.
Following the sale of a Paul Newman Daytona for £13,000 and an overwhelming level of customer interest, it was time for Watchfinder to sink or swim. All the founders came on board full time, additional staff were hired, and the whole enterprise moved to a small office in Maidstone. From there, the website was updated and a new logo made to match, and interest in the company extended as far as 'The Times' newspaper, which featured Watchfinder in an article that continued to drive enquiries ever higher.
In order to keep up with demand, more staff was required, and a move to a bigger office followed. Despite the shaky recovery of global web-based companies following the dotcom crash, the convenience of the Watchfinder website continued to draw traffic at an alarmingly fast rate. This demand prompted the introduction of an online payment system and email newsletter campaigns, which continue to prove successful.
Another website revamp was prompted following the exceeding demands placed on it by customers. With an average of fifty five watches sold every week, the in-house IT development team needed to begin building an online system that would allow customers to view their orders (and employees to manage them), all seamlessly. This development would push Watchfinder yet another step ahead of its competition going forward.
More growth and another office move to the current location on Pudding Lane keeps everyone busy. The stock management software goes live and work begins on turning the ground floor of the office into a showroom to cater for customers who prefer meeting face to face. Despite rising oil prices and a disconcerted marketplace about to fall into recession, customers continue to enjoy Watchfinder's service on an ever-increasing scale.
The brand’s defining moment of 2007 was the opening of its own on-site servicing and refurbishment centre, boasting a team of expert watchmakers and technicians. Beginning life with a small but dedicated staff, the servicing premises now stand at 350m2, housing manufacturer-approved machinery and state of the art equipment. Offering the highest standard of care to customers, the servicing facilities ensure that every process during the journey of your watch is overseen.
The number of staff at Watchfinder grows to fifteen and the office expands within Invicta House. The Watchfinder logo undergoes an overhaul, keeping pace with the growing and changing dynamics of the company, and there is another website upgrade too, incorporating the latest software and technology. These upgrades to the site boost email subscriptions to over two hundred new entries every single day.
The introduction of the photography department, managed by professional photographers, establishes the use of high quality imagery at Watchfinder. The website is then populated with high-resolution photos of all the stock, which in turn pushes the total page views for the year to over twenty-five million. Research begins on introducing rotating images to the site shortly afterwards.
Despite the chaos caused by the ash pouring from Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, 2010 saw a company best of 15 watches sold every single day, a staggering record that continued to grow over the following years. One of those many watches sold included a jaw-dropping Patek Philippe grand complication worth £350,000, yet another impressive first in the company's history. Work begins on the largest update for Watchfinder yet.
A big year for Watchfinder, highlighted by the launch of the WF&Co. Group and its subsidiaries, including The Watch magazine and WF&Co. Mayfair. The website is treated to a complete rebranding, integrating clean design with slick user interaction, and presented at a launch party in the heart of London to two hundred-plus guests. As the year drew to a close, The Watch magazine had managed to garner a monthly readership of over 30,000 people.
Watchfinder has entered 2012 still riding the same wave of success that began propelling it ten years ago. Annual turnover is at £13 million, staff has increased to over thirty people, the servicing department has grown into its own building and provides certified servicing for many brands, and The Watch magazine has launched its first issue as a full iPad magazine too. The enthusiasm that drives the company forward remains as strong as ever, because there's no time to stand still - much of last year's gross profit of £2.8 million has been reinvested into new ideas and developments to make sure the future remains as fruitful as the past.
Over the past ten years we have managed to accumulate some interesting, impressive and in some cases unbelievable figures in the course of business. Rollover the numbers to find out more.
The continuing success of Watchfinder has been achieved by staying ahead of the curve, and this kind of market-leading originality is sure to attract the attention of the press. Our expertise has been sought from all corners of the journalistic arena, from financial advice to market trends, and even editorial opinion. It is a joy and a privilege to have been involved with class-leading publications such as 'The Financial Times,' 'Professional Jeweller,' and many others.Press