By Chris Daniels – Guest Contributor
Did you know that luxury watches have outperformed gold, real estate, and even the stock market over the past 10 years? Speculative trading of luxury watches has exploded over the last decade, leading local entrepreneur and Miami native Jake Plonskier to launch Watches.io, a Miami-based web3 startup that aims to make tracking, trading, and investing into luxury watches easy.
Watches.io recently launched their beta platform and raised a multi-million dollar pre-seed round in July, The amount was not disclosed.
Luxury Watch Appreciation 2017-2022 via Luxe Watches
Plonskier has a long history in the luxury watch market, both as a collector and startup operator. He was an early hire and spearheaded sales at Miami-based Horus Straps, a luxury watch strap brand whose customers include international stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While growing Horus Straps, Plonskier observed the inefficiencies in the watch market and became obsessed with solving industry-wide problems.
In 2021, Plonskier immersed himself in the world of NFTs and became captivated by the future financial opportunity of bringing real-world assets on chain. He observed the sales of digital luxury goods from top brands as ‘phygital’ NFTs, yet his curiosity extended to exploring how this technology could intersect with investing in tangible assets. He envisioned a future where a luxury item could serve as collateral for an NFT, streamlining trading and enhancing liquidity accessibility.
‘If people are looking at watches as stores of values and investments, we need to create infrastructure to support that’
– Watches.io CEO Jake Plonskier
This is where his two worlds collided, and the proverbial lightbulb went off in his head to start Watches.io—the first financial platform to track, trade and invest in luxury watches.
The launch of Watches.io wasn’t an overnight success. Plonskier initially tried an original version of the concept, Floatgame, by bootstrapping $75,000 of his own capital to only fail, dissolve, and never launch. Then, he went back to the drawing board to introduce what he called “Horodex” focusing his aim on becoming Horology’s decentralized exchange. Although the early concept of Floatgame lacked some key elements, Plonskier was determined to keep iterating and pursue his vision with Horodex. With some early support from his first backer, Nafez Husseini, that’s when the story started to get interesting.
Husseini brought crucial resources to the table that significantly helped Plonskier – @watches on social media, the watches.io domain, and a network of angel investors and engineers. Subsequently, he introduced Plonskier to two software engineers—Vinny Frigatti and Chris Magesty—who possessed extensive experience in developing enterprise-grade financial platforms. The newly formed trio clicked instantly, assembled a small Brickell-based team, and launched the Watches.io beta in April 2023 with the support of just a few angel investors. Watches.io is currently headquartered in Brickell, soon relocating to downtown, and boasts six team members working onsite with an additional four working remotely.
Watches.io’s recently completed funding round will help to expand the team to 10 full-time designers and engineers, in anticipation of their Exchange launching this fall, Plonskier said. Key investors in Watches.io include prominent web3 funds like Lemniscap and Big Brain Holdings, as well as individual partners from various other web3 funds and protocols such as Dragonfly Capital, Lattice Fund, No Limit Holdings, Amber Group, Arcade, Astaria and NFTFi.
Watches.io uncovered a unique insight: watch collectors and investors often don’t view watches as mere accessories; instead, watches are considered assets similar to stocks, real estate, or gold bars. Just as Bloomberg or Robinhood serve for stocks, collectors on Watches.io can effortlessly monitor their watch portfolios using real-time market data, analyze price fluctuations, explore new investment opportunities, and soon execute seamless buy/sell transactions through the platform’s Watch-backed NFT offering.
Plonskier explained that Watches.io plans to soon offer buyers secure escrow and authentication for watches purchased on their platform, as well as the option for the physical watch delivery or Watch-backed NFT, A Watch-backed NFT ensures authentication and vaulted storage of the physical watch, which can then be bought and sold without the owners needing to physically possess the watch. This approach provides users with real-time price data, faster trading strategies, and the ability to sell their watches to anyone worldwide without the hassle of shipping a $50,000+ asset internationally, Plonskier said.
Most significantly, collectors can now transform into investors as they can now leverage their watch portfolios through partnered decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, he added. One cool feature of DeFi includes using a Watch-backed NFT as collateral for a loan; you can now own a $50,000 luxury watch while also instantly securing a loan against it.
Plonskier invites any watch enthusiasts, collectors, or investors to join the Watches.io BETA. Watches.io is always looking for talent that is passionate about this industry to join the team. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to Plonskier at email@example.com.
Chris Daniels is a serial entrepreneur and community builder focused on Miami’s startup scene. He leads a local founder community, incubator, and accelerator called the Shrimp Society. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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