BOB’S Watches, the world’s largest specialty retailer of vintage and vintage Rolex watches, is owned by a man named Paul.
CEO Paul Altieri bought the company from Bob Thompson 12 years ago. To avoid confusion, “people call me Bob,” he says. “It works out better because everyone in the company answers to Bob. It’s corny, but it’s memorable. If it were Paul’s hours, it would be all about me.”
Bob’s Watches is an online marketplace where watch lovers can buy, sell and trade vintage and vintage watches, especially Rolex watches.
Projected revenue for 2022 is $120 million.
Altieri is one of the largest collectors of vintage and modern Rolex watches in the country, a passion born at the age of 14 when he got a job as a caddy at a private golf club. “Wonderful, successful, intelligent men wore a Rolex,” he says. “Many of them were also good golfers. I always said if I made it through, one day I would buy a Rolex.”
Altieri has worked in jewelry retail, real estate, financial services, and restaurants. When he turned his entrepreneurial eye to the Internet some 15 years ago, he explored possible options for projects ranging from candy and flowers to women’s shoes and diamonds.
“And we kept going back to the clocks,” he says. “It was an expensive item and it could go into a box and we could ship it anywhere. It was gigantic industry, and it was a job and it wasn’t done right.”
He says the pre-owned watch market lacks a solid formula to ensure consumers get a fair price for their used watch. By revealing the true market value, including the hourly “buy” and “sell” price, Altieri brought a new level of transparency to the transaction.
Doing it right involves not only pricing them right but also authenticating each hour and providing exceptional customer service. “People come to us because they know they can trust us,” he says.
They are reliably available. They appear.
“A lot of companies will set up a website and hide contact information,” he says. “They don’t want to be bothered. We don’t feel that way. We get 6,000 phone calls a month and 300 email inquiries a day. Old school meets new school. They still call or talk to us. It’s not a nuisance.”
Altieri employs 48 people, including 10 salespeople who receive these calls and respond promptly to conversations, text messages, and email. “We’d like to get back to people quickly,” he says. “That’s our DNA. Speed. Sometimes they’ll order a watch today and get it by 10:30 the next morning. It can be that fast.”
Another old-school touch is hosting in-person events at the company’s headquarters in Newport Beach, California, including an intimate college dinner hosted by gourmet chef JTG.
The advent of smartwatches has made Rolex an equally powerful icon among a growing demographic of men ages 28 to 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 college, got an MBA, got married, hit a home run. They did something that worked, and they want to commemorate that event. Historically it was a great investment. We call it disease. Once you have the disease of the hour, it gets under your skin, and you want more of it.” says Altieri.
Bob’s Watches deals in 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 kind of late to the internet game, but I couldn’t believe how powerful this medium was,” he says, “And we’re just getting started. The market is huge, both domestically and internationally, and we’re not into the second or third halves yet. We’re excited that we got in early.”