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A Conversation with Carol Altieri, the Chief Operating Officer of Bob’s Watches

by Dana Li

One of the driving forces behind Bob’s Watches, Carol Altieri has helped build the company into the largest online platform for buying and selling Rolex watches. As someone who has been in the industry for many years, she has played an important role in the growth of the secondary market for Rolex, bringing her expertise on industry trends and creating a seamless experience for collectors. I had an opportunity to connect with her over a call last month and her passion for her customers and warm personality shined throughout our conversation.

Carol Alteri of Bob's Watches
Carol Altieri (Image courtesy of Bob's Watches)

Responses below have been edited and condensed.

How did you get into the watch industry?

My husband, Paul, and I had sold our previous company, and he wanted to build an e-commerce platform. He had a passion for watches and wanted to address the information gap within the secondary watch market at the time. He originally had the idea for Bob's Watches and started it about 12 years ago, at a time where there wasn’t as transparent of a marketplace or a large presence on social media. We went to a watch show and bought a few hundred thousand dollars of watches and started the business with those first few pieces.

Prior to working with my husband on Bob’s Watches, I actually had no experience in the watch industry. I was an associate producer in the film industry and didn’t immediately have a ton of passion for watches. I was wearing a lot of my husband’s watches and went to help him out with the business one day during our first 2 months building the company, and I haven't gone home since. I found myself really enjoying everything and loved understanding the ins and outs of the watch market.

I’m still very hands-on with the business as I was when we first started Bob’s Watches and continue to learn as this industry pivots and experiences shifts. I lead our buying team of 12 buyers, review emails and feedback from our customers, and price our watches for sale. I also reach out to our customers regularly to understand what they’re looking for and where the market is moving.

What do you think have been the key factors in the success and growth of Bob’s Watches?

We want the customer to feel comfortable making a purchase from a trusted source, whether they’re buying online or in store. We make a big effort to educate our customers, particularly first-time buyers, which is why we dedicate our resources to producing content and telling a story with our business. Giving the customer a great experience is incredibly important to us because we want to make sure they feel confident making their purchase.

Speed has been and continues to be key for us in creating a seamless experience. For buyers, we ship the watches to them within 24 hours and similarly, for sellers, we evaluate and pay them for their watches within 24 hours of receiving them. Because we buy from and sell to the public directly, we’re able to connect with our customers individually and operate with the speed that we do.

Bob's Watches Newport Beach, California showroom
The Bob's Watches showroom in Newport Beach, California (Image courtesy of Bob's Watches)

You’ve been in this industry for a while. What have been some of the biggest shifts that you’ve noticed in the market?

We saw one of the bigger shifts in the market during and after COVID. During the early days of COVID, we thought there was going to be a huge sell-off since there was so much uncertainty and fear. As a business we were also learning how to operate in a completely new environment with remote working and safe shipping conditions.

To our surprise, the anticipated sell-off didn’t happen and instead we started getting more buyers. People started seeing watches as an opportunity for investment and a safe place to put their money after all the buzz about high-value pieces like the $17 million Paul Newman Daytona and the many media outlets highlighting the value of watches, which propelled the market.

We also saw more people educating themselves and getting more excited about watches overall. They were looking to become more knowledgeable about certain brands and references so we were helping to educate them as they were looking for their watch. This renewed interest has also brought a lot of new and younger buyers from all different backgrounds into the market, which has been great to see.

What are some emerging trends that you see among female buyers and collectors?

The market for women is huge. As a woman in a fairly male-dominated industry, I–and likely many other women as well–see the same watches very differently. There are women who may prefer to wear larger watches like Daytonas and Day Dates (myself being one of them) and other women who prefer to wear smaller cocktail watches so you’ll see a wide variety of styles. I see a lot of women also regularly stacking their watches with their other jewelry, wearing them in their own way.

There is also a rise in women buying watches for themselves rather than having their partner or someone else gifting them one. Women are looking to buy investment pieces for themselves and our collaboration with Goop was a reflection of that. Our 26mm Datejusts are also one of our best sellers right now on the site. I would love to continue seeing more women entering the market and shopping for their own pieces.

Where would you like to see the market moving in the next 2 years?

I do like how transparent and informative the secondary market has become over the years. Previously, there was a more negative connotation with buying pre-owned but thanks to content and educational resources, there’s more safety and confidence among people who are buying from reputable dealers. I hope this trust and knowledge being shared among enthusiasts helps welcome more people into watches.

I’d also love to grow our female clientele at Bob’s Watches and see the market embrace de-gendering watches. Currently, 15-20% of our customers are women but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be 50-50. I’d love to see us engage with more female buyers and collectors.


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