Why is watch sharing a flop in Switzerland too?

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Fraud, theft and robbery: Swiss luxury watches are prime targets.

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swissinfo.ch reported on it: hundreds of Swiss luxury watches entrusted to a watch sharing platform were stolen as part of a fraud case in Japan. In Switzerland too, a service of the same type has closed down.

This content was published on

May 16, 2024 – 09:13

Toke Match was a luxury watch sharing service active in Japan. At the end of last January, it ended its operations. Some of his customers found it impossible to recover the parts they had entrusted to him. Value of watches vanished into thin air – nine out of ten from Swiss luxury brands: 1.9 billion yen (11 million francs).

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Hundreds of Swiss luxury watches have disappeared in Japan

This content was published on

Mar 12, 2024

More than 800 Swiss luxury watches, deposited with a watch-sharing service provider, have disappeared in Japan. The boss of the company is wanted by Interpol.

read more Hundreds of Swiss luxury watches have disappeared in Japan

In Switzerland, home of watchmaking luxury, a sharing service similar to Toke Match has been operating since August 2019. DIALS allowed anyone to rent or rent out watches. The firm borrowed pieces from their owners with a market value equal to or greater than four thousand francs. And rented them again for three weeks, three or six months. Rental price: from 150 francs monthly. Of which 40% went to the owner.

“Why acquire something when you can share it? And this also applies to luxury products,” Robin Vogelsang, one of the founders of the firm, explained in the media.

“I have more expensive watches myself, but variety is important to me. I don’t want to wear the same watch for twenty or thirty years,” a DIALS user agreed at the same time on Tele Züri, a rented Breitling on his wrist.

DIALS was based on a business model similar to that of Toke Match. She did not hide any fraudulent intentions, but everything did not work to her satisfaction. And the platform went out of business. “The long-term viability of this offer was no longer assured,” Julian Vogelsang explains to swissinfo.ch. Indeed, if users submitted to a strict registration process, some never returned the rented watches and the firm was unable to identify them.

Having become necessary, criminal proceedings against fraudsters generated high legal costs and insurance premiums skyrocketed. Hence the rise in watch rental prices, which have become prohibitive for many customers. It would have been necessary to be able to count on economies of scale for the firm to remain profitable. But the reality is that there were too few potential tenants. In January 2023, its founders pulled the plug on the platform.

“The concept was exhilarating and it met with great success, but we would have to find a way to flush out the fraudsters in advance,” imagines Julian Vogelsang.

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DIALS on Instagram

Luxury watches, a unique product

In Switzerland, the largest goods sharing platform does not offer any luxury watches. Chief Operating Officer of Sharly, Ivo Kuhn explains to swissinfo.ch that it would be “too expensive for manufacturers to clean watches after their return”. Which would justify them giving up the rental.

Still in Switzerland, the sharing of objects is not as widespread as in real estate or in transport. According to the “Sharing Monitor SchweizExternal link» from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, awareness of object sharing does not exceed 30% when it reaches 87% in the field of housing and 93% for Car-Sharing. Only 3% of those surveyed report an experience of sharing goods.

Professor of economics and director of the monitoring tool, Dominik Georgi provides his details. “We observe that users of sharing services are often particularly careful with the objects they rent, but we also encounter the exact opposite.”

Not to mention that there is a very large secondary market in luxury watches. In-demand models like those from Rolex are so difficult to obtain that resale prices often exceed the new price. Which makes them tempting targets for crimes of fraud, theft and burglary.

Watch theft, a global problem

Dominik Georgi believes that a sharing platform for watches is entirely possible. “Many people would like to wear a luxury watch at least once, but they do not have the financial means or are prevented by shortages. On the other hand, many owners have several and do not need to have them constantly on hand.”

That being said, how can fraud be prevented? “On platforms, the evaluation function can be really useful. It is advisable to only rent to the highest rated users,” explains the economist. In addition, blockchain technology should help prevent theft in the future.

The establishment of a certification system by a third-party organization would also be likely to keep malicious actors away. The fact that Toke Match obtained validation from the Sharing Economy Association, an industry organization in Japan, provided a sense of security for owners. As a result of the Toke Match affair, the association has begun a review of its verification system, writes the daily Nikkei. Among other ideas on the table: requiring additional financial reports to allocate high-value assets and verify the credibility of the actors involved.

Regardless, the problem is global. According to Watch Register, a British firm that helps owners, auction houses and traders identify stolen watches, the number of pieces reported stolen or lost in 2023 has more than tripled in one year. This figure is close to one hundred thousand, for a value of around £1.5 billion.

Text reread and verified by Reto von Gysi von Wartburg/sj, translated from German by Pierre-François Besson

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Hundreds of Swiss luxury watches have disappeared in Japan

This content was published on

Mar 12, 2024

More than 800 Swiss luxury watches, deposited with a watch-sharing service provider, have disappeared in Japan. The boss of the company is wanted by Interpol.

read more Hundreds of Swiss luxury watches have disappeared in Japan

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