In the world of premium best replica watches, pre-owned is the new black. While Bain & Co estimated that the global pre-owned watch market is worth $17 billion, Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox told Reuters in May 2021 that its value runs closer to $20 billion. According to Eugene Tutunikov, CEO of Atlanta-based SwissWatchExpo.com, however, “Because there are no exact figures for all global sales of pre-owned 1:1 Swiss fake watches, it’s hard to determine which figure is closer to the truth.” Here’s what the 38-year-old CEO can say with complete confidence. “The market opportunity in pre-owned Swiss made replica watches is massive,” he begins, “although extremely fragmented. When you have a market this size in which the top five players combined comprise well under 10% of the total market, that leaves a lot of opportunity for growth, and we are doing our best to grow.”
Although 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic threw the business for a momentary loop in April of that year, Tutunikov reports that sales bounced back with a bang that summer. “While everyone was in lockdown, and those with disposable income were unable to spend on restaurants or travel, our sales grew really quickly. We finished 2020 up 40% from 2019. Although we couldn’t accept local customers,” he recalls, “our business never closed, as the state of Georgia classified E-Commerce businesses as essential.” During lockdown, many customers enjoyed FaceTime virtual appointments. “Seeing live video of AAA US fake watches helps customers compare and make more highly informed decisions,” Tutunikov relates. “They also get to meet people on our team and take a brief tour of our facilities.”
Although Tutunikov was targeting 25% growth for 2021 sales, the company has already exceeded that goal. “Between January 1 and August 1 of this year, our sales grew by about 54 percent,” he says. “There have been a few months this year when we’ve sold more high quality replica watches than we can replace,” he reports, with the dazed and disbelieving tones of someone who’s just won the lottery. “With that said,” he continues, “I expect to go north of $100 million per year in the next couple of years. With the execution of some strategic plans, I believe we will be north of $150 million per year in 2026. What I am most proud of,” he says, “is that we are making thousands of customers around the world very happy, and many of them are repeat customers.”
Since its 2009 founding by Tutunikov’s mother Victoria and stepfather Jake Rokhlin, SwissWatchExpo.com’s growth has been nothing short of epic. In fact, it’s the only global player in the luxury pre-owned watch market that runs without capital injections from private equity firms, or venture capitalists. (To place their family-owned business in perspective, SwissWatchExpo’s inventory numbered 2,500 pre-owned cheap fake watches on the day that this writer checked. In comparison, Watchfinder.com, which is owned by the global luxury holding company Richemont, offered 1,953 pre-owned replica watches with Swiss movements on its website.) Like Watchfinder, SwissWatchExpo offers financing for those who may be unable to purchase a luxury watch upfront. “There are significantly more customers financing $3,000 AAA fake watches than $20,000 watches,” Tutunikov reports. “Whether someone is buying a watch to celebrate a promotion, to commemorate a retirement, wedding, graduation, or a first bonus, if we can ensure they end up with a watch that they love, we play a role in that event’s memory staying alive and celebrated through the years. This is certainly meaningful and something to be proud of.”
When Victoria and Jake Rokhlin started out, their SwissWatchExpo storefront and website offered 60 replica watches for sale, plus jewelry. Today, Tutunikov reports, “Our inventory typically numbers from 2400 to 3000 fake watches for men and women at any given time, and we stopped selling jewelry after I came on board as CEO in 2016. Of course,” he adds, “our turnover of inventory has also increased substantially since the early days.” (SwissWatchExpo typically sells 20 to 30 replica watches wholesale online per day. In advance of the winter holiday season, it’s not uncommon for the team to sell 50 imitation watches store a day.) While Victoria Rokhlin oversees the operations and sales teams day to day, her husband Jake Rokhlin is a master watchmaker with an entrepreneurial streak. Having authenticated, serviced, and repaired luxury replica watches since the mid 1990s in Atlanta, Rokhlin was trained by Rolex and even ran a Rolex service center there. “In his spare time,” Tutunikov says, “Jake started selling best quality super clone watches that he sourced and repaired locally, and also on Ebay. We believe we offer the most 1:1 luxury replica watches in a showroom anywhere in the USA,” Tutunikov says. “98% of the Swiss online copy watches on our website are also on our premises, so the site is a mirror image of our inventory and what is in the show cases.” The SwissWatchExpo showroom functions as a distribution center for its E-Commerce business, so browsing the website is like stepping into the showroom and checking out the showcases.
Located in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, the free-standing SwissWatchExpo building spans two floors and 7,000 square feet. While the showroom’s elegant and hip industrial design ticks with thousands of premium timepieces in pristine showcases, subtle lighting and sleek furniture impart a gracious, clubby, low-key vibe. “The showroom concept was created by a local designer with input from my mother, who has a creative eye for interiors,” Tutunikov explains. The sales and operations team sit at a monumental desk that bisects the showroom. As Tutunikov notes, “This encourages camaraderie and a faster flow of information. Having spent many years on a trading desk in New York, I wanted to create a similar atmosphere, one where everyone works together and can act fast to get things accomplished. In our building,” he adds, “We also have a watchmaking atelier, operations rooms, photography studios where four full-time photographers work shooting for the website, my office and other rooms.”
Intriguingly, SwissWatchExpo.com is one of the few companies in the pre-owned watch industry that neither pays its sales team commissions or negotiates prices with clients. (Members of the sales team do receive an annual bonus.) As Tutunikov tells it, “Because our sales team isn’t paid on commission, their incentive is to ensure you will come away with the watch that is right for you. We will never try to upsell you and we ship your watch on the same day you place your order.” As for the other key ingredients in SwissWatchExpo’s secret sauce, Tutunikov offers, “First, we sell top Swiss made replica watches at the lowest price we will accept. We want customers to have a pleasant experience, so we put our best foot forward with the way we price.”
In other words, clients who comparison shop soon realize that they will never get a better deal just by waiting, or by trying to negotiate. Second, “We sell the highest quality fake watches within the preowned market, and we do all the work in-house, which includes authenticating, refinishing, servicing, sales, marketing, and operations. We cherry pick our inventory,” he continues, “in order to offer our clients only the best. We are also completely omni-channel as a company, so no one in the company is dedicated to local sales vs online sales.”
Third, SwissWatchExpo embodies a workforce of 24 highly dedicated people. These include sales staff, operations people, master watchmakers, photographers, website and tech support, shipping, and so on. “It really is a group effort here and everyone at SwissWatchExpo wears many hats,” Tutunikov says. “We have a gifted and outstanding team.” Fourth, “By owning all our inventory, we can micromanage the quality and intrinsic value of the timepiece the customer receives,” he explains. “This element is key to succeeding in the preowned watch industry. At the end of the day, we want clients to know that their timepiece will be as close in form and function to a new watch as we can possibly get it.” Fifth, The company never puts profits or sales ahead of its clients. “Because we always deliver great product to clients, our business continues to grow,” Tutunikov says.
Having graduated magna cum laude from the NYU Stern School of Business in 2006, Tutunikov had a double major in Finance and Economics and a minor in Math. After working on Wall Street as a fixed income derivatives trader for several years, and then as a hedge fund executive, Tutunikov became the third partner in SwissWatch Expo.com. The company’s trajectory is all the more impressive when one considers how all three immigrated to the United States as refugees, from what is now known as Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union.
Tutunikov was five and a half years old when he and his family settled in Philadelphia with $2,000 and zero English. As both of his biological parents were math teachers in their home country, they became computer programmers in the USA. “My mom always had an entrepreneurial spirit and lots of energy,” Tutunikov relates. “Along with her full time programming job, she also successfully sold wallpaper and had a university prep tutoring business. I am sure my entrepreneurial spirit comes from her and believe that our immigrant background drives our work ethic. My stepfather was in the same immigration wave as us,” he says. “We left a communist regime to have more opportunities in the USA, so we continue to work hard to maximize those opportunities. Funnily enough,” he recalls, “I remember reading Forbes when I was in middle school and dreaming of being featured in it one day.”
Now that he has fulfilled that dream, along with many others for the family business, Tutunikov, who wears either a Rolex Sky Dweller with a black dial or a Patek Phillipe 18-karat rose gold annual calendar, is focused on hiring more watch-obsessed sales staff, watchmakers and others who can co-create the next phase of SwissWatchExpo’s growth. “Our bottlenecks to growth are operational and staffing-related,” he says. “The key right now is to continue to build on our brand, and also build on the foundation to be able to handle higher volumes. I never want to chase sales for the sake of chasing sales. Our mission is to make our customers happy with superb quality pre-owned top quality replica watches and to generate measured, profitable growth.” “In a way, our independence is a benefit, as it taught us how to do things very lean, and keep our expenses low,” Tutunikov reflects. “While some companies hope to one day grow enough to become profitable, we have never had a non-profitable quarter since we began.” While he admits that growing the company without outside help and funds is a challenge, “In the end,” he says, “this makes us much better operators.”