The beauty of the moment: Chronext founder Philipp Man in conversation

Today is World Carfree Day. The perfect time to talk about watches. With a real connoisseur: Philipp Man. In February 2013, he and a friend came up with the idea of founding an online marketplace for luxury watches. The name: Chronext. His plan was to trade expensive watches as easily and safely. He succeeded. Now he is working on living more in the now. But that is much more difficult, as he told us, among other things.
Text Michael Köckritz
Photo Chronext

Mr. Man, how did the whole Chronext thing get started?
I’ve always loved watches. I also used to listen to a lot of hip-hop music, and the lyrics were constantly mentioning different watch brands, which really got me interested. When I was at university, my co-founder and I were brainstorming through some business models. We realized that there was no reliable way to trade luxury watches safely, easily and profitably. A lot of people see buying a watch as a form of investment. We said to ourselves: You can’t make an investment if there is no exchange. That’s how the idea for Chronext was born.

But was that what you really wanted to do in life?
I actually wanted to become a commodities trader. In fact, I had already signed an employment contract. But I quit on my first day to launch Chronext with Ludwig Wurlitzer. That was on February 23, 2013.

In case someone out there hasn’t heard of Chronext: Can you describe what it is you do exactly?
We are a transactional marketplace for luxury watches. Chronext uses what we call a hybrid business model where we not only have our own inventory but also sell third-party inventory from various brands, retailers and manufacturers. We offer new and used luxury watches both online and offline.

"I actually wanted to become a commodities trader. In fact, I had already signed an employment contract. But I quit on my first day to launch Chronext with Ludwig Wurlitzer. That was on February 23, 2013."

Philipp Man

Did you know right away that the business would take off?
Let’s put it like this: We weren’t skeptical. Though we were a bit wet behind the ears and made every mistake you can think of. Things didn’t go well for the first year and a half either; we didn’t sell a single watch for months. Then business finally took off, and in 2014 we got our first external investor. Today, we have well over a hundred million euros in sales, and the company is the largest transactional online marketplace for luxury watches in Europe.

You were a pioneer at the time . . .
Absolutely. The funny thing is: Although 2013 doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, it was a completely different world back then, and the idea of buying something expensive online seemed completely outlandish. There also weren’t any similar marketplaces in other areas, like Collecting Cars in the automotive sector, for example. These things only started to emerge in the last four or five years or so. Maybe that’s why the first year and a half was a bit more difficult – because we were just a bit too early.

"Although 2013 doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, it was a completely different world back then, and the idea of buying something expensive online seemed completely outlandish."

Philipp Man

What was the biggest mistake you made?
There were so many, you could fill an eighteen-hour podcast with them. But one mistake we kept making, and which I’m sure still happens to us every now and then, has to do with the question of who you bring into your team. The difference between someone who is great and someone who is just good can be measured by a factor of ten million. I exaggerate, but you get my drift. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the people you surround yourself with. Ideally, these people are significantly more talented and more intelligent than you are.

That means you conduct all the interviews yourself?
To this day, every new employee is interviewed personally by one of the managing directors or members of the board. Not necessarily because we can make a professional assessment whether someone is good or not, but primarily to get a feel for how this person ticks and whether they would fit in well with our culture. And those kinds of things should definitely be a matter for the management.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing is the people you surround yourself with. Ideally, these people are significantly more talented and more intelligent than you are."

Philipp Man

Can you remember your first watch?
There are two: One of them was a Corum Admiral’s Cup that I got when I was thirteen. Okay, so you might think I made a mistake back then, because I could have bought a Rolex Pepsi for the same amount of money and I actually know nothing about sailing. But that one really captivated me. The second watch I bought for myself was a GMT-Master II, which I think is still one of the most beautiful watches today because it’s so timelessly modern. Though it does have a vintage feel now compared to the current models – it looks so delicate despite its forty millimeters. I still own both watches, by the way.

How many times a day do you look at your watch?
I once tried to count and found that I look at my watch up to fifty times a day – though for forty-five of those times I probably don’t even read the time. That’s what my cellphone is for. But I do have a certain quirk, though perhaps not with all my watches: I look to see if there are any new scratches.

"I once tried to count and found that I look at my watch up to fifty times a day – though for forty-five of those times I probably don’t even read the time. That’s what my cellphone is for."

Philipp Man

That’s pretty special. But apart from that, what do people find so fascinating about watches?
I think it’s a combination of several factors. The first is the difference between men and women: women have many options when it comes to jewelry, while a watch is the only piece of jewelry that is available for men. Though I’ve noticed that watches are no longer exclusively a male domain. That’s changing, which I think is pretty cool.

Which brings us to the second factor, which is that people are generally fascinated by watches because they give us the illusion of having some form of control over time by measuring it. Which, of course, is nonsense. A third aspect is that a watch represents something permanent. We are all going to die at some point, and the idea of passing on a watch is very common in our society.

So a watch is a lasting piece of jewelry that also reminds us of our own mortality. Moreover, it is increasingly traded as an investment asset. This means that watches, even if you don’t need one, are probably more fashionable than ever. I predict that the topic of watches as an investment will become even more relevant in the next ten years.

How do you personally approach the subject of time?
I try to manage my time very consciously both in my daily routine and in my free time. Which is actually quite paradoxical, because the question should actually be how I perceive time. Like just last weekend, for example: For the first time in a long time, my girlfriend and I didn’t have a reservation at a restaurant for Saturday evening. This may sound silly, but I was worried that I wasn’t using my time as efficiently as I could and that it would be a shame to spend the evening in a bad restaurant. But we got lucky and it turned out to be a really nice evening. I think that I often miss out on being in the moment as a result of over-planning and over-structuring everything. My head is always in the future. Seeing that puts the beauty of the moment into perspective.

How important is the past for us?
I think history is important because it shows us why certain things are the way they are. Unfortunately, history keeps repeating itself. I had originally intended to study history, by the way, but I didn’t have the courage to do so because I thought it wouldn’t get me a job. So, unfortunately, I ended up studying business administration. But maybe someday, when I’m an old man, I’ll do a PhD in history.

History is also full of experiences. What kinds of things that you experienced in your childhood made you who you are today?
My father is the entrepreneurial type and was always (…)

→ What shaped Philipp Man, why time is the greatest luxury for him and which watch he himself likes to wear - you can find out all this in the exclusive interview in rampstyle #26, in which Michael Köckritz and he also take a closer look at the Rolex phenomenon.

mehr aus dieser ausgabe


ramp shop


Latest articles

A Rainy Day Out: Kurt Molzer meets the McLaren 765LT Spider

When the skies open their floodgates, the Formula 1 season is over again, the McLaren 765LT is wearing semislicks and the weather forecaster really has no idea about life, the only thing that helps is to take courage from the performances of the Formula 1 rain masters. A dry spare shirt and a raw potato don't hurt either.

AirCar: Above the Clouds

People have been dreaming of flying cars for what feels like an eternity, but nothing has ever really come of it. Countless companies are experimenting with all kinds of aerial vehicles these days, but none of them look very much like cars. With one exception: the AirCar by Štefan Klein.

You Are What You Drive

Repeated research has shown that merely thinking you’ve got athletic prowess can improve your health. So just imagine what could happen behind the wheel of a Range Rover Sport.

What’s popping, Stuttgart: ramp meets STARTCOLLECTIONS

On Saturday, December 3, 2022, STARTCOLLECTIONS' pop-up gallery will open for one day in Dorotheenquartier - ramp will be a guest and provide some photos. Read all information about the event here.