The 1916 Company is here to transform the watch industry with market excellence

In the pre-owned luxury watch sector, a mega-merger has taken place. The 1916 Company leverages the strengths and legacies of WatchBox, the largest pre-owned platform, combined with the expertise of its three independent retailers — Govberg, Hyde Park, and Radcliffe Jewelers.

In the six years since they’ve founded WatchBox, now renamed and rebranded as The 1916 Company, Justin Reis and his partners Danny Govberg and Tay Liam Wee have absolutely revolutionized the watch industry. Yes, I know, in the words of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, “That’s a bold statement.” But as far as I’m concerned, it’s also an irrefutable one.


They did it first by transforming the pre-owned watch business from a purely transactional model, to one where they curated the very best in watchmaking. They used their massive war chest to amass an impressive collection of masterpieces, including the creations of brilliant individuals such as the skilled François-Paul Journe to present to their customers.


I remember visiting Danny Govberg seven years ago where he walked me into a vault that was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of horological finery, and him saying, “I’m going to make every guy who loves watchmaking fall in love with Journe.”

WatchBox founders Tay Liam Wee (left), Justin Reis (middle), Danny Govberg (right)

And he did just that by bringing on board excellent journalists, first Tim Mosso and then Jack Forster. They, together with their equally passionate and watch-nerded-out sales force comprising Mike Manjos, George Mayer and Brian Govberg, began to evangelize about the merits of independent watch brands such as Journe (being among the first to raise the level of appreciation of French fine watchmaking) and others, spreading the gospel about watches that had real merit, unbeatable authenticity and incredible beauty.


Says Jack Forster, “You have to admit that WatchBox played a fundamental role in the explosion in popularity of the independent watch scene during the COVID pandemic. And once they explained to the world how amazing these watches were, there was no going back.”


Even today when the market is down, it’s the independents that have proven to be the most resilient and recession proof.

The 1916 Co.: Rise of the Colossus

Next, WatchBox made its first daring move into the primary market, bought the spectacular but still relatively unknown watch brand De Bethune, and proceeded to spread the word about its excellence. They funded a documentary film on it named Seeking Perfect, and got me to be in it.


They produced a stunning coffee-table book with Assouline. They took the brand’s founder, Denis Flageollet, on road shows.


Soon, De Bethune would be found on the wrists of the coolest pop culture figures like NBA’s Kyle Kuzma, who rocked his pièce unique DB28 with blue dial and baby blue Jean Rousseau alligator strap at Michael Rubin’s White Party. A De Bethune could be found strapped to the forearm of professional tennis player Tommy Paul as he did battle with the likes of world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz.


Music producer Swizz Beatz became a collaborator on not one but two limited editions and bought a watch for his wife Alicia Keys at a star-studded party celebrating WatchBox’s stunning new loft space in the same building at L.A.’s Soho House.

Alicia Keys (left) and Swiss Beatz (right). Source: @de_bethune

Incidentally, this was just one of 11 mind-blowing spaces WatchBox has built around the world as hangouts for their clientele, which soon included some of the savviest collectors around, including one of independent watchmaking’s biggest champions Michael “Shani” Shanlikian, and car and watch expert Drew Coblitz. The familial feeling at a WatchBox event is phenomenal.


As the tequila flows, laughter erupts in abundance and friendships are forged. Says Patrik Hoffmann, executive vice president of WatchBox Europe, “A WatchBox event is the best party in the watch community, because they are held in the most beautiful spaces, have the coolest collectors and the very best watches.”

Says the company’s CEO Justin Reis, “Everything we do is centered around the collector and giving them the best experience possible. This is the reason we created major retrospectives on Journe and De Bethune and took these watches around the world.


“It’s the reason we brought on board the best journalists and educators to create content. This is the reason we built our lounge spaces where you can try on some of the rarest watches in the world in privacy, comfort and safety.


“But our objective for these spaces was never sales. It was about creating community and providing a place for the best education and enjoyment.”

Danny Govberg

Says Danny Govberg, “It’s about fun. Watch collecting has to be fun.


“Sure, we have some of the most knowledgeable people in the world in our company like Tim Mosso, Jack Forster and George Mayer. And we even engage with the best journalists outside the company like you.


“But most of all, it’s important that people have a great time at any WatchBox event. They are made to feel like part of our family.”

Justin Reis

Reis adds, “Watches have the power to bring people together. Over the years, we’ve observed our collectors’ desire not only for digital connectivity, but also the rich experiences of physical interaction — they value the bonds formed with our dedicated client advisors and the friendships they’ve made across our community.


“The evolution into The 1916 Company is a natural progression for us, shaped by our clients’ voices and needs. With The 1916 Company, we’re reinforcing the sense of community, rooted in our existing relationships, while eagerly embracing the opportunity to forge new ones. Our vision starts and ends with our customer.”

Champions of the Pre-Owned Program

Over the last three years, WatchBox has charted spectacular growth. The company was valued at over USD 1 billion and their celebrity investors soon included individuals like the one and only Michael Jordan.


The 1916 Company boasts a pre-owned collection valued at over $200 million, with a particular focus on ultra-rare and collectible timepieces, as well as artisanal independent watchmaking. For Reis and his partners, these are bone fide works of art, and they deeply believe in the value of these creations.


The allure of offering collectible watches was the lifeblood of WatchBox, and therefore, for The 1916 Co.

A community member viewing the De Bethune DB28 Kind of Blue 'Milky Way'

Ray Dalio, the genius creator of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, likes to call himself a student of history because it always repeats itself. You can see clear evidence that each time we hit a rocky patch, whether it’s the subprime mortgage crisis, the global banking crisis or the COVID pandemic, these brands gain market share.


Following the merger, Reis and Govberg sought to establish themselves as a leading Rolex Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) partner, which in addition to its extant pre-owned curation, would join the league of grail-worthy timepieces from the likes of F.P.Journe, Daniel Roth, H. Moser & Cie, and De Bethune.

The founders set about identifying and acquiring existing Rolex authorized dealers, Hyde Park and Radcliffe Jewelers, on top of their own Govberg Jewelers. Upon the introduction of The 1916 Company, they announced the launch of the Rolex CPO program in partnership with Rolex.


These are watches that come with two-year warranties and certification for authenticity from Rolex itself. The program, which started this year, represents a major historic moment where the world’s biggest and most important watch brand has offered its own secondhand watches for sale.


Says industry expert and co-author of the Morgan Stanley × LuxeConsult watch industry report, Oliver Muller, “The launch of this program had massive implications in that it was clear Rolex wanted to clean up the pre-owned market, combat against fakes, assure quality and performance, and elevate the level of service. It’s a game changer.”

The Govberg Jewelers store in Philadelphia

To celebrate this new beginning, the three founders who were now not just the kings of the secondary market, the owners of De Bethune, the champions of community and culture building, but also one of the top Rolex primary retailers in the United States, decided to rename their company. Says Govberg, “1916 is the date that my grandfather started Govberg Jewelers and so it has a lot of significance to me.”

Radcliffe Jewelers in Newark, New Jersey. Under The 1916 Company, all trades of pre-owned Rolex timepieces are strictly certified by Rolex

Says Reis, “It is also the year that the New York Times announced that the wristwatch had become the primary time-telling device for the modern world. So, we thought this is the perfect name.”


Now, The 1916 Company, which represents the merger of WatchBox, Govberg, Radcliffe and Hyde Park Jewelers, is poised to revolutionize the watch industry yet again. In its network of more than 20 stunning spaces around the world, it provides a unique offer uniting the best in primary, collectible secondary, and culture building.


When asked what else he wants to bring to The 1916 Company, Reis says, “Education. We are really serious about wanting to champion this culture in a real and long-term way. This is born out of the passion we have for this industry and we are willing to invest to offer the very best experience for our clients.”


Revolution’s Top 20 Retailers
Jan 17, 2024
The 1916 Company: The next big watch marketplace?
Nov 1, 2023
Building the WatchBox Brand
Jun 15, 2023
Touching the Past at WatchBox
Jan 17, 2023
WatchBox Stages F.P. Journe and De Bethune Retrospective Exhibition
WatchBox Stages F.P. Journe and De Bethune Retrospective Exhibition
Jan 9, 2023

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