Forget splurging; the wealthy in China are selling their coveted Rolexes and Birkin bags to raise cash


With a majority of the urban Chinese population facing the wrath of extremely strict Covid lockdowns, it’s not a great time for the Chinese watch world, particularly the second-hand market for high-end goods owing to Beijing’s strict adherence to zero-Covid. With strict regulations and a foreseeable economically difficult period in sight, the prices of second-hand luxury goods have fallen rapidly in China. Still, even the wealthy are exercising caution, cutting back on their discretionary spending, and selling their Rolex watches and Hermès bags to raise cash. Call it logical behavior or plain fear of the unknown.

Hermes has 26 flagship stores in China.

Small business owners spent their saved wealth on extensive collections of luxury goods in better times as rules eased out. However, those joys were short-lived, and lockdowns of China’s financial and commercial capital have damaged their cash flows forcing them to give away their niceties. Financial Times shared that Watcheco, an industry portal for used luxury watches, reported that the price of second-hand Rolex Submariners, a watch on every watch-lovers wishlist, had fallen 46 percent since March. Not just expensive watches, even luxury bag dealerships in Shanghai and Hangzhou have cut prices of classics such as Hermès Birkin bags by up to a fifth over the same period.

Chinese actor Chen Xiao is the ambassador for Girard Perregaux. With a revenue of $10.3 billion in 2022 alone, China is the biggest luxury watch market in the world. The US, at the no two position, has had half the sales of China at $5.2 billion.

“The boom time is over,” said James Wang, a seller of second-hand luxury watches in the eastern city of Nanjing. “We are entering a correction period that could last for a long time.” He continued, “Patek Philippe says you never actually own its watch but merely look after it for the next generation. That’s not the case in a business crisis. It’s probably the weakest I’ve seen in my 25 years in China.” Businesses are playing a to and fro game of increasing and slashing prices at the beck and call of Covid regulations. Who could’ve predicted this predicament when the cost of second-hand Rolex Submariners rose by 240 percent barely six months before Shanghai’s lockdown?

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