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This 26-year-old from Hong Kong is remodeling a ‘dinosaur business’ — one luxurious watch at a time

As a younger, avid collector of luxurious watches, Austen Chu mentioned he was scammed “many occasions” when he purchased timepieces from the secondary watch market. 

“As soon as, I purchased a watch which had a dented dial and the vendor advised me that the dial received dented throughout transport,” Chu recalled. And he believed it. 

However now, the 26-year-old says he is aware of higher. 

“I do know that is positively bullsh*t … it was dented beforehand,” he advised CNBC Make It.

“If I wasn’t so loopy about watches, I most likely would have left the area after getting scammed the primary time.” 

Not solely did his obsession with watches assist him overcome these dangerous purchases, the experiences additionally propelled him to start out his personal consignment-based platform for luxurious watches, Wristcheck. 

The web site boasts a listing of timepieces value $80 million, all of which have been authenticated by in-house watchmakers, mentioned Chu.

Began in 2020, the startup not too long ago bagged $Eight million in a funding spherical led by Gobi Companions, a Chinese language enterprise capital agency that manages Alibaba’s Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and the AEF Better Bay Space fund.

Chu shared with CNBC Make It about how he turned a pastime right into a money-making enterprise. 

Rejecting ‘purchase low, promote excessive’

On the subject of beginning a profitable enterprise, Chu’s philosophy is straightforward: Begin a enterprise to resolve an issue, he mentioned. 

The hole that Wristcheck fills has at all times been “very clear,” Chu mentioned.

“The enterprise mannequin of the standard secondhand watch market could be very … usually it is ‘purchase low, promote excessive,'” Chu defined, including that sellers had been often getting the brief finish of the stick. 

“How is that proper? You are hoping to get good recommendation from somebody who’s knowledgeable, but when nothing, they find yourself low balling you much more.”

The luxurious watch market is what calls a “dinosaur business” that may be “intimidating” for the youthful era to get into, Chu mentioned.

In 2021, Wristcheck opened its first flagship retailer in Hong Kong — the place customers can have entry to a curated vary of pre-owned watches.


By beginning Wristcheck, Chu hoped to offer extra transparency and accessibility to his friends. 

“It is one thing that I want I had. We try to give you a tech answer … that permits the subsequent era to change into extra within the [watch] area in a protected method,” he added. 

For one, transaction charges are decrease. Public sale homes sometimes cost 26% from a purchaser as much as 12% from the vendor, he mentioned. 

In distinction, Wristcheck makes a set price of 8% from the vendor and 4% from the client — however nonetheless permits customers to bid for watches they need to personal.

A brand new era of watch-lovers 

“You recognize whenever you love one thing a lot, you are additionally eager about it subconsciously whenever you’re asleep?” 

That is how Chu describes his infatuation for watches, which began when he was a toddler — and solely received deeper in his teenagers. 

“I used to be 15, I fell into the rabbit gap of researching, spending each waking second principally studying on-line and studying about watches,” he shared. 

“Clearly there is not any programs in college or in highschool that teaches you something about these items, so it needed to be self-taught.” 

Chu disagrees with the favored perception that gathering high quality watches is a pastime for older people. In actual fact, he insists the youthful era has extra “wrist consciousness” now — because of the introduction of Apple Watch. 

In our day and age, the whole lot is sort of non permanent. However with a watch it is one thing that may sort of final ceaselessly, it is one thing you possibly can truly cross on to your children.

Austin Chu

Co-founder and CEO, Wristcheck

“That was a giant turning level … It all of a sudden went from the lecture corridor having possibly 10% of the category carrying one thing on their wrist to love over 50% rapidly,” he mentioned. 

“That was a second that advised me: ‘OK, watches are going to be cool for my era.'” 

Chu’s hunch was proper. In spite of everything, Gen Z is projected to make up a 3rd of the posh market by 2030, as a result of a surge in wealth creation and the affect of social media.

Wristcheck is attracting a tech-savvy, youthful crowd, mentioned Chu, and 43% of its paying clients are underneath the age of 30.

“In our day and age, the whole lot is sort of non permanent. However with a watch it is one thing that may sort of final ceaselessly. It is one thing you possibly can truly cross on to your children,” Chu added. 

“I believe that is one thing that additionally resonates with our era.” 

Let ardour drive you

Chu co-founded Wristcheck through the Covid-19 pandemic, which was a leap of religion that seems to have paid off to date. 

The startup mentioned it is skilled “75% year-on-year development” in its whole worth of consigned watches, and claims to have been worthwhile in its first yr. Chu didn’t share the figures when pressed.

Austen Chu (left) along with his co-founder Sean Wong.


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