Tourneau Certifies Luxury Watches Auctioned Online by Portero

Tourneau, America’s largest watch retailer, has agreed to certify the authenticity of pre-owned luxury watches bought and sold on Portero.com, a company dealing in online auctions of luxury products. Portero, in turn, will be Tourneau’s official channel to the secondary market of online auctions.

The online market for pre-owned watches is “messed up, with a lot of fraud going on,” Howard Levitt, president of Tourneau, told JCK. “For years, we’ve seen phony and adulterated watches sold on the Internet for impossibly low prices, and people buy them because they don’t know any better. [What we’re doing] is a strong step in the right direction to clean up this market, and I think it will also make people pay more attention.”

Tourneau is providing, in effect, a seal of approval on the timepieces, ensuring that pre-owned watches “now sell for their true value,” said Levitt. “Our goal is to provide online buyers and sellers with absolute assurance they’re receiving maximum value for their watches, just as we give customers in our stores.”

This new program (an expansion of what Tourneau does on its own Web sites) is “legitimizing the secondary market of online auctions for luxury goods,” he said, and is also “a way for us to extend our brand” into that marketplace.

Dan Nissanoff, Portero’s vice chairman and president, agrees. In announcing the alliance Aug. 15, he said, “Together, we’ll bring much-needed confidence to online luxury auctions, which today can be rife with replicas, misrepresentations, and unscrupulous dealers.

“We’re confident the fundamental nature of our partnership with Tourneau will eliminate this dilemma and enhance the online-auction experience on popular sites like eBay [the platform Portero uses]. If a consumer wants to buy a luxury-branded watch online, and only one has a Tourneau Certificate of Authenticity, which one do you think he or she will choose?”

When a consumer contacts Portero with a watch to sell, it’s studied and authenticated by Tourneau’s experts, documented in a secure database, issued a Tourneau Certificate of Authenticity, and goes online on Portero.com for purchase. (Tourneau gets a percentage of each transaction.)

On the Portero Web site, each authenticated timepiece is identified with a “Tourneau certified” designation. Its specific Web page has a box with the same “Certified Tourneau Pre-Owned” seal used on Tourneau’s own Web sites (www.tourneau.com and www.watchgear.com); statements that Tourneau and Portero have “an exclusive partnership to create a safe and trusted venue to buy and sell authentic luxury watches”; and that Tourneau “certifies to the purchaser that this timepiece was originally manufactured by the company whose trademark(s) it bears and … is in working order.”

Tourneau-certified watches already offered on Portero include those of Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Breitling, Bulgari, Bulova, Ebel, Girard-Perregaux, Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Maurice Lacroix, Movado, Omega, and Rolex.

The idea evolved out of talks between Levitt and Nissanoff, after they happened to meet socially in the past year. This is the first time Tourneau has authenticated another company’s timepieces, and it has contracted to do so exclusively for Portero.

Portero has also approached some luxury-goods companies to create similar partnerships, with Portero as authorized resale channel for their products.

Tourneau, started in 1900, markets over 100 watch brands in more than 8,000 styles and is authorized to sell and service every major brand. It operates 19 Tourneau and nine Tourneau Watch Gear stores in the United States and the Caribbean. Four new stores open this fall, and several more in 2006.

Portero, founded in 2004 and based in New York City, provides an online-auction venue for consumers to buy and sell new and pre-owned luxury goods and for corporations, luxury brands, and retailers to channel products to the secondary market “in a manner that protects their brand,” says the company.