The watch program is different than some others out there, in that eBay isn’t authenticating each individual timepiece, but is vouching for certain sellers that fulfill the program’s requirements.
It works like this: To join the program, high-volume watch sellers with strong ratings must send timepieces to the company to have their provenance verified by its independent experts. If those items are judged authentic, the seller will be enrolled in the eBay Authenticate program and their items billed as authentic. Once enrolled in the program, the site will do periodic random spot checks of the sellers’ inventory, says James Hendy, senior director of eBay Authenticate. It also guarantees each purchase.
So far, four sellers have qualified, and another five are expected to be added soon. Participation in the program is free.
Eventually, the company hopes for a mechanism that will authenticate each individual watch sold on the platform, but that is down the road, Hendy says.
The program seems a response to luxury consignment sites such as The RealReal, which guarantees the authenticity of items sold on their sites. TrueFacet just rolled out a program where items are certified by the brands themselves.
“With eBay there is always a question of authentication,” says Hendy. “Even though we have some fantastic policies in place, like our VeRO [Verified Rights Owner] program, you only look at all the competitors that have sprung up that are all led by authentication. We realized that we need to do more about creating an environment where the buyer will feel more confident.”
Right now, about 9,000 watches can bear the “authenticated” seal, but Hendy thinks it will eventually expand to around 40,000.
The Authenticate program was launched last year with handbags and wallets, and Hendy says the experience there has been “fantastic,” leading to an increase in consumer satisfaction as well as the average selling price.
He expects the program will likely be expanded to jewelry.
The program will include timepieces from noted brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Omega.
Hendy, the former chief operating officer of auction house Bonhams, joined eBay about a year ago and says he is still amazed at how many high-value watches are sold on the site.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” he says. “It’s just mind-blowing to see how many transactions and the price points. We are regularly selling watches from $20,000 to $200,000.”
In fact, according to the company, a watch is sold on eBay every 5 seconds.
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