For the third edition of Dealer Talks, I talked to Ivo from Dutch Dials. Ivo started at the beginning of 2020 and focuses on quality over quantity. He stocks a vast array of Universal Geneve, Omega, IWC, and more on his website. We talked about how he started, how he views success as an entrepreneur, and what value he brings to the vintage watch market. Enjoy!
Stan: How did you start your business?
Ivo: I always had a preference for luxury goods, just admiring it: suits, cars, anything that requires a little attention and time. So, after a while, I bought a nice watch for myself, a Longines. And then, pretty quickly, I had bought an Omega next to it. Then it all started. Collecting watches costs a lot of money. So, I was doubting whether I would stick to one watch and stop my curiosity, or just put up the watches for sale for a higher amount than I bought it. And then I sold one. I thought, I actually want to buy more anyway, let’s try to sell the others as well to be able to expand my collection. I think that suddenly transformed the search for something beautiful for myself, into a strength for my company.
I still buy what I really like. I also notice that it sells sooner. Sometimes you score a nice deal based on the collector’s value instead of self-preference, but those watches appear to take a while to sell. And then I think to myself, if I had just stayed true to what I personally would wear, I would probably have sold it sooner.
S: Yes, I do recognize that.
I: If you are going to buy something for yourself, you do a lot of research so that you can be sure that you are making the right purchase. Perhaps if you see it as a commodity, you may become a little less selective about it. And that might be a less good buy than you would otherwise have done for yourself.
S: Have you always been selling things?
I: Well, I used to resell things as a kid, like fireworks…, things like that. I still remember I had to talk to the school director about that. Maybe it started early? I have often played with the idea that I wanted to start a business, but a lot of things are quite capital intensive. For example, I also like fashion, so I have thought about starting a clothing line. But production is complicated and usually far abroad. I feel like you can’t control it.
S: What does success as an entrepreneur mean to you?
I: To me it actually means freedom. I don’t necessarily have to become rich with it. Look, it does cost energy, so it is an investment that you make, and some return has to be visible so you can grow. But what I especially like, is that it is a choice that you have made completely. by yourself. It is not based on my study choice, not based on my work experience or the like, but something that comes intrinsically from myself. And of course, it is also characteristical of this trade, the goods are quite small. If you ever have the ambition to live abroad: all you have to do is pack your watches and go.
S: Yes exactly.
I: Once you get there, the only thing you have to change is the address of the invoice. I think that’s a good prospect. I don’t know where I want to go in the future. It is true: entrepreneurship is uncertainty on the one hand. On the other hand, it is something you can practice all over the world. I think that’s part of that freedom, which is very comfortable.
S: And if you look at what success means to you, do you consider yourself successful at the moment?
I: Well. I’m not free yet. I still work for a boss, and I am still paying rent first, and then see where I spend my money on. I am still building up and it is all going quite slowly. That is not bad. I’d rather grow organically than too fast. But it is my ambition to eventually quit my job for it. And then I would say that I am successful.
S: So, if you have to give it a percentage, from 0 to 100?
I: Well, it differs a bit from month to month. I think 50%. Suppose it went twice as fast, I would dare to quit my job for it. However, for speaking to the customers and sharing the passion with others, around one hundred. And the great thing is of course: there are no limits to success for an entrepreneur. My boss is not going to pay me more if I work harder. If you can control that yourself, you will simply be rewarded for it. Spending time in my interest of watches, but whenever I want, that is a reward too. I think that’s fair too.
S: You were just talking about freedom and independence. How do you think you could achieve that? What are your ideas about that?
I: I think the biggest medium right now, where you can reach people, is Instagram. Sure, there are websites like Chrono24 and stuff, but you don’t really build a name there. People spend less time there on who you actually are. I have a great example of how your amount of followers influence your speed of selling: I once sold a watch to someone, it was for sale for two months, and then it popped up at Amsterdam Vintage Watches, sold in 3 seconds. It’s about your follower base. Sometimes I feel it’s a pity that people buy something I sold recently for twice the price. I try to offer good quality watches, but also for a fair price. It makes them come back and that is the most rewarding feeling.
S: So, mainly expanding your socials as a good sales-growth strategy?
I: Yes. But I am also interested in the offline part. A store is of course very costly in terms of fixed costs and the like, but I think that there is certainly still space in the Netherlands to offer something else in addition to the current players. They are often in an extremely high segment. I really think there is a market for a store where you, as a father, can just choose a watch for your son without breaking the bank. It is a dream of mine.
S: I think so too. If you look at how many people are interested in vintage watches at the moment, especially in our age group, it would be a great move if you can start a store at a central point in the city. If you differentiate yourself a bit, I think it should work quite well.
I: Of course, you have to deal with rent, security, and all that. But I notice that I would also value a fixed workplace. I keep all the watches in a bank locker now. At home is just too much of a risk. I also notice, the more I drag it around, the more it harms my structure because it already takes up such a large part of your brain capacity. It would be nice if you just have it all in one place. Then you can relax more.
S: That you just shut the door when you are done
S: What are the most important skills for entrepreneurs according to you?
I: Actually, the most important thing is that you just get started. And after that, I think it’s persistence. Because having 1 follower, that just sucks. Building something is a slow process. And you can see that, I’ve been at it for almost a year now and I have 1,000 followers. Which is still little. So, I think persistence, patience, and taking a little risk too. But it depends on what kind of products you sell. If you are very successful with a T-shirt that you import from China, then you are not taking any significant risks, but you can still be a successful entrepreneur. But I do think that you should not be afraid, especially with watches. But above all, I think that building something slowly is the most important thing and that you keep your trust in it.
S: And can you tell me something about the risks you have taken to get to where you are now?
I: I think buying watches always puts you at risk because they are just expensive. I have heard stories from friends that were robbed at home because they knew that expensive watches were there. I think that’s always a risk. I remember selling my first Rolex, an Explorer 2. It was … what is the value? Almost 8,000 euros. And then you meet somewhere halfway not knowing what to expect. That is also the part of cowboying, I think, that goes with it. If you’re too lazy to get in your car to drive anywhere, then you’re not going to grab those deals, but you can also end up with nothing when it is not what you expected. Furthermore, purchasing over the internet is a risk in itself. You can’t really see everything well. And pictures are never really good enough. You really need to do your homework, and sometimes take a gamble.
S: Agreed. And do you act on the basis of impulses or do you first do really thorough research?
I: There is an impulse first (I must like it) and then I do research. There are of course so many types of watches. If you have never seen it and it’s being offered, then that may be an impulse to want it, but you cannot buy it without through research. So it depends on the kind of watch. If someone offers me something, and they can’t send a photo of the movement, then I’m not taking that gamble.
S: And which of the two would determine or explain most of your success?
I: I think doing research. I think that if you allow yourself to be surrendered to impulses in the world of watches, you will be offered so much that you will really make a lot of bad buys. It’s really about zooming in, checking details, knowing which crown goes with it, what does the case back look like, do the fonts match? Is the balance bridge correct? Are there parts interchangeable with other calibers? You really have to look very carefully at that. And if you’re not thorough about that, then what do you add for someone who does not know what to buy? That person hopes that you can help him with that.
S: Then it will add no value indeed. And what makes your approach unique?
I: Well, I don’t think it’s unique. The mix that makes me think I have a right to exist in this market, is that I try to be as transparent as possible and sell what I would want as a collector. I have all the information on my website. I have all watches serviced or communicated explicitly when it’s not. When it’s serviced I am also willing to give a guarantee on that. With me, you can buy a watch as is, but then I will add that it has not been serviced. If someone asks me: has it been serviced? I’m not going to lie about that. If someone asks: is there a dot on the dial? I’ll take a photo under the macro lens for them. I would want to see that as well! There are plenty of people who just don’t communicate everything. I think transparency in this market, especially because there are really so many pitfalls, is very important.
Thanks for the nice talk Ivo! Check out Ivo’s collection here: