Felix Wu is an established luxury watch dealer based in Hong Kong. He has been in the wristwatch dealing business for 7 years and is highly regarded by many in the online wristwatch community. Originally an Engineer who had graduated from Columbia, Felix discovered a passion for wristwatch dealing after selling a vintage wristwatch he bought years earlier for a substantial profit. This led Felix to learn more about the wristwatch market and specifically the fundamentals of watch dealing.
Felix is joining us today to talk about the intricacies of watch dealing and his experiences as a self-made entrepreneur.
Felix what do you do?
I am a watch dealer. So what I do is I buy and sell watches. Mainly second-hand watches as opposed to those that you can get in store brand new.
Why did you decide to become a watch dealer?
I’ve always had a love for watches. When I was 10, I was given my very first automatic watch by my grandfather. It was a vintage one too. He explained to me that the watch did not need batteries to operate and that has always intrigued me so much. I was very amazed and curious by how that really worked. That led to me actually taking it apart and having a look inside at the mechanical movement itself which was an amazing experience. I think ever since then I’ve had a love for watches. Watches are very beautiful as a piece of art and as a piece of machinery. Whats even more amazing is that they all possess very distinct personalities and functions that move beyond telling the time. I began collecting watches and as I started working that really allowed me to collect more of them. When I started out collecting, I would usually buy second-hand ones because they are more affordable. I really considered it as a career when I sold a Rolex watch that I had purchased for a very generous profit after 3 years of purchasing it. That was when I realized not only was there a passion for me to collect watches but also a real opportunity for me to make a living out of it.
How are watches different from other commercial products?
That is a very interesting question to ask. There are differences and similarities. I think I will start with the similarities. Commercially, I think watches are similar to jewellery, accessories and clothes. People buy them because they want to have a personal expression or statement through them in the same way they would through jewellery, accessories or clothes. Then again it could even be more than that. I think watches are in many ways similar to cars too. To say a watch only tells the time is like saying a car is only used for traveling. Whilst that is true, it is not the only reason why we buy watches or cars. We also buy it because there is an artistic value that is there. So we buy it not just for functionality. I think the major difference from other products is how long it takes to push our watches from inventory. I am sure it would be really easy to push out clothes if one had a clothes store, but watches take a long time to sell in general that is because of their price point usually. So one has to have quite a bit of holding power and patience to deal in watches.
How did you break into the watch dealing industry?
It took me a while to get to where I am now. I started off by dealing online. There are many forums out there that focus on watch trading. So I was really active there. I conducted and witnessed a lot of transactions there so I was able to learn a lot. So I did my research, the next thing was securing a proper loan to allow me to start my business. Once I had enough that was when I took the plunge. I would buy a lot of watches that people were selling online. I would also frequent pawn shops. These were often at an substantial undervalue. I would then sell these watches myself.
Did you face many challenges starting out?
Yes of course. Many people who were close to me, thought I was crazy because I wanted to transition from engineering to being a watch dealer. However, to me it was about doing something that I was passionate about and doing something that I thought I was very very good at. I had already built a lot of experience and understanding as a collector of many years. So I knew the trade. There was also a challenge when I started out in building trust with purchasers. I deal a lot online, so a lot of people when they buy such expensive things online they would be quite cautious not to be scammed. We are talking about a lot of money anyway. However, it took a lot of time and with services like Paypal their worries were calmed. I think I have now built a good reputation online.
How do you know which watches to buy?
There isn’t any magic formula. You know by experience. You can only gain this by experience. I have been a collector for many years before I got into this business. From purchasing and selling many watches, you will begin to know when it is a good time and price to buy them. Of course, the general point is that I am looking to buy them at an undervalue and sell them at a fair value to other purchasers, so the major consideration is the price because they are second-hand goods you need to take into account whether they are functioning properly. Outer condition is not that important because all watches can be retouched to a near original finish. In my opinion, big brands are always the ones to aim for. So brands like Rolex have so much market power that they often tend to hold value and appreciate.
Tell us about how the watch industry is like.
I think that would depend on where you are referring to. I am based in Hong Kong so this industry here is really booming. In Asia, there is a very strong demand for luxury products like watches. I believe it is a culture, Hong Kong especially. People here enjoy shopping and they are willing to spend big money on it because of this there is also a lot of competitors out here. The watch business is a big business here and there are many dealers and shops all throughout.
You said there are many competitors, how do you stay competitive?
I am able to stay competitive by the service I offer. I think you can see it this way. In life there are many ways to travel from point A to point B. Some ways are better than others. I think I offer better services for potential purchasers. I try my best to offer the best price but most importantly also how I approach my business. I am quite personal, I think there are a lot of businesses out there that are too professional and big that they are very alien to people. People want to feel like they matter and connect with you and that is what I do. I try to go out of my way to help my customers in making their decisions and address any concerns they have personally.
Could you share with us some business insights you have gained in your years as a watch dealer?
Your customer is always right. Always try to put yourself in the position of the customer and try to imagine what they would like and what they would be worried about. That way you can approach business in the correct way.
In your opinion, what makes a person successful?
Someone who is able to succeed in making something impossible come true is someone who is successful. Someone who did not give up and actually succeeded in building something difficult, that is successful.
What entrepreneurial advice could you give our readers out there?
I think most important is to be passionate about what you do. Remember that life is not just about doing what you need to do but also doing what you want to do. I think when I first started out in my professional career I was very unhappy with it, now I couldn’t be more happier so I say really rethink your priorities and what makes you happy. The other thing is to be hardworking, don’t laze around if you want something to happen go out and make it happen.
Connect with Felix today:
Email: [email protected]