By Steve Huyton Distant galaxies and the thought of potential planets with life forms have fascinated astronomers for centuries. It has also inspired writers and filmmakers to re-imagine certain possibilities.…

In just two years, The Solist has become a go-to online source for many watch collectors and enthusiasts.

To learn more about the watch-purchasing opportunities offered at The Solist, iW spoke with founder Larry Birnbaum, who with Lucas Zunz, a fashion-savvy digital expert, created The Solist.

What made you decide to launch The Solist?

Larry Birnbaum addressed the challenge of unsold luxury inventory in 2015, founding ShopWorn- a term denoting products displayed in stores. Joined by Lucas Zunz in 2022, a fashion-savvy digital expert, he revamped the business for a luxury audience, birthing The Solist.

One thing to note is that we are in the brand protection business: our mission is to be a controlled environment for luxury brands that need a safe and elevated platform to transition their unsold and display items.

We have the ambition to be the most elevated luxury off price store, treating our products and customers as if we were a full price luxury brand. Luxury goods should be timeless and there is no reason why they should lose their integrity and beauty with time – we extend their lifetime in a way that respects the brand image and continuously elevate these past season goods. –

Both founders have been in the industry for more than twenty years supporting luxury brands and the secondary market and they’ve witnessed everything that can go wrong when a brand doesn’t work with a trusted partner to handle their unsold inventory: merchandise destruction, brand image damage, poor customer experience. They wanted to change that.

In addition to supporting brands, the concept of The Solist provides a much more exciting experience than off price platforms and solves most of the issues customers may face buying pre-owned while still ensuring tremendous value: authenticity and origins are guaranteed and the condition is pristine. It is a very strong alternative for customers looking for unique luxury pieces, shopping smart and sustainable but don’t want to deal with the unsure experience of pre-owned.

What are some of the advantages to using The Solist rather than other watch sales sites?

All watches are authentic, with papers. They are in pristine condition and are never pre-owned. Our customers are the first time owners of these timepieces at exceptional value – they don’t have to settle for pre-owned.

We constantly monitor the market and guarantee best value on the internet for most of our brands. We build our selection around value and uniqueness: discontinued collections / styles, brands that no longer exist, products that were not distributed in the United States or for which we don’t have current competition in the off-price space… guaranteeing an appealing, original selection of quality pieces at great value.

We ensure a variety of price points – meeting our customers where they are, whether they are advanced collectors or just starting out.

In terms of service, our President and in-house watch expert Larry Birnbaum has been in the industry for thirty years. He runs our Concierge service for watches and a private watch club for our customers interested in exceptional pieces we don’t necessarily feature on the site. We’ve built a tremendous community of watch lovers that enjoy interacting with us on a weekly basis.

What kind of watches does The Solist offer?

All our watches are new or ShopWorn (store display) and have never been worn beyond the store – we don’t carry any pre-owned watches on the site so they all have papers and are in pristine condition.

We have three ranges across men’s and women’s styles:

a)  Collector: A curated selection of unique watches that can go in the tens of thousands.

b)  Approachable Luxury: A portion of our watch customers are buying their very first luxury timepiece – they’re ready to invest in a timeless piece from a well known brand without breaking the bank, which is how they end up on our site.

c)  Fashion: High-quality fashion watches from brands like Shinola or Raymond Weil have been doing really well for us.

How does The Solist source its watch inventory?

We source directly from brands or from brand-authorized suppliers and guarantee 100% authenticity. We nurture great relationships with brands like Dewitt and HYT, with which we have a direct relationship for instance.

For the watch industry, it is always imperative that you choose your partners carefully. You want a partner that not only understands the importance of your reputation but also is committed to honoring all aspects of your agreement without deviation. When we were introduced to The Solist –with its growing endorsements from other well-respected brands –we realized we had found such a partner, especially now in an age where destroying excess inventory to safeguard the brand can no longer be an option. As HYT continues to pursue invention and excellence in horology, The Solist has introduced us to a new, enthusiastic clientele who appreciates innovation, no matter its origin. We are pleased to be working with a revolutionary platform such as The Solist that understands true haute horlogerie is timeless.

– CEO of HYT, Davide Cerrato

We make sure to always carry a strong selection of classic watches for mens and women in the $1,000 / $3,000 price range for first-time collectors.

The Solist offers a range of watches from Carl F. Bucherer.

How do you determine the watch prices?

We do our best to stay true to our promise on the internet, as we constantly monitor the market to offer the best value to our customers.

What sort of warranty does The Solist offer?

We offer a two-year warranty.

Does The Solist service or repair its watches after they are sold?  

Yes we do, we work only with brand authorized repair centers and facilitate repairs for our customers if needed.

What is the Collectors Corner?

Hublot watches can be found in the Collector’s Corner at The Solist.

Our main luxury watch customer comes to us because they want great value and something a little different. We really want to make this a ‘personal shopper’ experience. New exciting timepieces are being added on a weekly basis.

 

However we build our Collectors Corner around uniqueness and originality with pieces you won’t find anywhere else online: Limited-editions or exclusive items that were never sold online… guaranteeing a very special selection of pieces you have little chances to see someone else in the room wearing. These styles can go in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

Does The Solist offer any sort of certificate of authenticity?

We source directly from brands and their authorized global retail network and because of that we know we have 100% authentic products. We’re very strict with our source of supply – they have to meet specific requirements before we take them on. Because of this structure we don’t need an authenticator on staff – we take pride that we don’t have to do that.

10: Can you tell us about any special watches that The Solist has available to collectors? Maybe a rare or unusual piece?

I recommend you check out our Collector’s Corner for a full range of special watches.

Buying From the Collector’s Corner

I took the advice of The Solist and checked out the watches on the Collector’s Corner.

Eying a beautiful IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Mystere Limited Edition, I clicked on the image of the watch and was quickly brought to a full description of the watch with multiple images. I was able to view it from several angles.

Even better, I could see the IWC watch on my wrist. The Solist has created a user-friendly option to ‘try-it on’, which virtually places the watch on your wrist. I chose this option as indicated next to the image of the watch, which opened a QR code. The code allowed me to use my phone’s camera to virtually place the watch on my wrist. It looked terrific.

If I opted to compare the IWC with, for instance, one of the sharp-looking Bulgari, Graff or Corum offerings in the Collector’s Corner, The Solist offered me that option too.

Customers are invited to peruse many unusual luxury offerings within the Collector’s Corner. These include watches from DeWitt, Corum, Carl F. Bucherer, Boucheron and even Harry Winston.

“We enjoy opening the eyes of our customers to luxury brands beyond the mainstream,” explains Colllector’s Corner specialist and The Solist co-founder Larry Birnbaum. “Many of our customers might have no idea where to find such pieces and may not have seen them if it were not for our Collector’s Corner.”