Introducing 'Loupe This': An Online Watch Auction Platform Designed By Collectors, For CollectorsBy Ross Povey
Looking for a new place to hang out and discuss watches? With the seeming death of most watch forums and with ennui around Instagram, the watch community is ready for a new place to talk about tickers and waffle about watches. Step forward Loupe This. In the last 12-month period, a number of online auction sites have appeared that are dedicated to wristwatches. When Loupe This was launched this summer, there was never any discussion about the quality and authenticity of upcoming lots, as this show is run by two of the world’s leading authorities on the subject, Eric Ku and Justin Gruenberg.
Eric Ku is arguably one of the most well-known and respected watch dealers and experts in the world. The serial entrepreneur has been a fixture on the international watch scene for many years and his business interests encompass private client sales, retail businesses and watch repair operations. Justin Gruenberg grew up in the watch business, his father is one of the USA’s preeminent dealers. Eric and Justin saw a gap in the online auction market and decided to do something about it in a way that would engage the watch community in a new and interesting way.
So where did the idea come from? Says Ku: “Justin and I have been frequent buyers and sellers at auctions for quite some time. The genesis of Loupe This was a discussion we had over dinner a few years ago about what we liked and didn’t like with regards to our experiences working with the various auction houses. The main point is that we always felt that auction houses work for the consignor exclusively. But why can’t they represent both the buyers and sellers? There had to be a way.” The collector community is all-year round too. As Justin explains: “Auctions generally follow a Fall/Spring cycle. What about during the summer and winter months? People are hungry to buy watches all year! Over a great meal and way too much sake at a restaurant off the beaten path in Las Vegas, we formed the framework from which Loupe This would be born.”
It seems a great partnership and the pair go way back. “Justin and I have been working together in various capacities for many years. We first met on the International Watch and Jewelry Guild (IWJG) watch show circuit over 10 years ago and became great friends. We bonded over similar shared interests in watches and other things. One thing that struck me from when we first met was the enthusiasm and passion that he has for watches. There are plenty of people who are just great salespeople, but could be selling anything – carpets, cars or whatever. There are few people who are authentic in their enthusiasm for what they sell, and in that I felt I had found a kindred spirit,” explains Ku.
Gruenberg continues, “I am the second generation in our family business. We’ve had a presence in Beverly Hills since the 1980s and have great stories about important watches that passed through our hands in the old days.”
There have been other online watch auction platforms launched recently. So what makes Loupe This unique? Justin picks this up. “There have been several launched before us, and I’m sure there will be even more to come. However, we believe there are four key points that make us different. The first is Eric and I; we’re an auction house run by experts and between us we have decades worth of experience of handling the full range of watches. Be it hyper-rare vintage Rolex, modern independents or classic Patek or Cartier watches. We have it covered. Secondly, we run Loupe This like a traditional auction house. We hold the items, authenticate them, we take all the photography and create the listings. In our model, the consignor is taken out of the picture which is unique in the online sector. We are the seller and as such, there is an added layer of security for buyers.” Eric picks up the third and fourth points.
“The third element is the quality of the product. We promise we only sell things that we would be happy to own ourselves; you won’t see filler on our site. Finally, we are all about community.
Loupe This includes a community platform where collectors, enthusiasts and experts alike can enjoy discourse about each lot. We truly want the community to congregate and discuss the lots. We aren’t perfect and mistakes will be made, but you can be sure that somebody out there will notice, and we want them to chime in and have a voice. This openness makes us unique and
increases buyer confidence too.”
So, like a traditional auction house, Loupe This holds the watches that are consigned. “This allows us to standardize photography,” explains Eric. “We will get the watches in our hands so that we can accurately authenticate and describe them. Also, just like traditional auction houses, we act as an agent selling the watches and handle the fulfilment so there is no issue with “trust” and the word escrow never has to be used!”
The last 18 months has witnessed a growth in online auctions, but many traditional houses aren’t geared for such online sales. What is the advantage of Loupe This over these more traditional routes? “We move quickly and more efficiently,” explains Justin. “In the normal auction model, up to a third of the total price derived from an auction goes to the house, around 26 percent buyer’s premium and up to five or six percent seller’s premium. We do our job with a 10 percent buyers fee and a flat $500 consignment fee for sellers. In addition, the standard auction process can take six months or more from negotiating a consignment to finally getting paid. We are trying to make this process much quicker and seek to turn consignments, schedule allowing, into payments in a significantly shorter timeframe.”
Eric is confident that Loupe This will be a disruptor in the sector.
“Auctions are a traditional way of doing business in our industry and I don’t see that as changing any time soon, but what we seek is to bring auctions into the new age. We seek to make the entire process more efficient both for buyers and sellers, and we hope that by laying bare all the watches we sell, that we give buyers as much information they need to make an informed decision before they bid.” And this will be helped significantly by the community discussions that can take place beneath each lot? “Yes, definitely,” agrees Justin. “People like to feel part of something and share their knowledge. Loupe This gives them the opportunity to share this and allow quality conversations to take place like they did in the hay-days of the watch forums.”
Revolution is delighted that Loupe This offered to partner with us for the Pink Dial Project later this year. “It’s an absolute pleasure for us to be a part of this with you guys. The success you guys had last year with the Covid Solidarity auction was amazing. As it’s a watch sale of unique pieces, and we have a purpose-built platform to auction exactly such a thing, we are delighted to offer Loupe This with no fees or charges. In doing this you guys can donate literally every dollar, dime and cent raised to charity.” That’s community spirit in action alright!
For more information: www.loupethis.com