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Beringea UK sells stake in Watchfinder as part of Richemont acquisition

July 17th 2018

Over the course of the investment, the luxury pre-owned specialist drove the development of the pre-owned market and grew to become the UK’s fourth largest watch retailer

(London, UK) Beringea, the international growth capital investor, has completed the sale of its stake in Watchfinder.co.uk Limited (“Watchfinder”), the leading global platform for pre-owned premium watches, to Richemont, the Swiss luxury goods group. Watchfinder has spearheaded the development of the market for pre-owned luxury watches, delivering over £275 million in sales since foundation.

Watchfinder, founded in 2002 by Stuart Hennell and Lloyd Amsdon, built one of the first platforms for watch enthusiasts to buy, sell and service pre-owned watches. Its leadership has built a substantial and loyal base of customers in the UK and it had scaled to become the country’s fourth largest watch retailer by 2018.

Traditionally, the secondary market for luxury watches has been informal and unreliable. Yet, global demand for pre-owned luxury watches has risen significantly in recent years and the market is now estimated to be worth $13 billion.

Beringea, an investor that has backed and built a number of retail success stories, invested in Watchfinder in 2014 to support its ambition to harness this market opportunity and create an international platform for pre-owned luxury watches. Beringea offered strategic expertise alongside insights from its portfolio of retail investments to advise Watchfinder as it sought to scale its online platform, expand its retail footprint, and lay the foundations for its international presence.

Over the course of the investment, Watchfinder grew substantially and rapidly – turnover trebled between 2015 to 2018. Supported by Beringea, Watchfinder launched five boutiques during this period – providing valuable exposure for the brand and an important revenue stream that generated significant topline growth.

The pre-owned watch specialist – which sells and distributes beyond the UK through its online platform – is now well positioned to expand its international presence. The acquisition by Richemont will provide Watchfinder with significant opportunities for growth.

The acquisition has received regulatory approval from the Financial Conduct Authority. Beringea held its stake in Watchfinder through its ProVen VCTs. Piton Capital, a specialist investor in online platforms with network effects, co-led this investment with Beringea in 2014 and has also sold its stake as part of the acquisition by Richemont.

“Beringea backed Watchfinder when the team had spotted an opportunity to transform the watch industry,” Malcolm Moss, Founding Partner of Beringea, commented. “A relentless focus on creating an informed, reliable, and accessible platform for pre-owned luxury watches enabled the founders and management to carve out a market in a largely unstructured segment of the industry, and build an exceptional brand in the process. This deal is recognition of Watchfinder’s pioneering approach and global potential.”

Online retail in the UK continues to expand at pace – sales through digital platforms represented 17.3 per cent of total retailing in April 2018, an 11.7 per cent growth year-on-year. Beringea has a track-record of supporting scaling and innovative online retailers, including Monica Vinader, the international jewellery brand, My 1st Years, a pioneer of personalised baby gifts, and Thread, which is transforming personal shopping through its use of artificial intelligence.