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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Leveraged buyout experts Apollo Global Management made the latest move into the red-hot global watch market, taking its Watches of Switzerland brand — an official Rolex retailer that also sells luxury imprints Patek Philippe, Cartier and Longines — public.

Why it matters: Watches of Switzerland's successful IPO shows the skyrocketing popularity of luxury watches is not lost on financial markets. The stock debuted Thursday on the London Stock Exchange at an IPO price of 270 pence (about $3.41) and rose as much as 17%.

  • Its enterprise value is already 5 times what Apollo paid for it in 2012.

What's happening: Demand for luxury watches is soaring and supply is not keeping up, causing a gold rush in the industry. Once shunned, second-hand luxury watches are now the watch industry's secret sauce.

The market has taken off to such a degree that used watches sold online in 2018 regularly fetched higher prices than new ones.

  • "Based on worldwide sales over the past 15 years, we estimate the value of non-worn watches at $500 billion," online watch retailer Watchbox's vice president Patrick Hoffmann said in an August interview.
  • "Potentially then, the pre-owned market could be bigger than the market for new watches."

The block is hot: Luxury goods giant Richemont, owner of Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre, is going for broke, investing nearly $3.4 billion in used watch seller Watchfinder and other online vendors last year. They're not alone.

  • Online retail giants like Alibaba, eBay and Amazon are building top-dollar in-house authentication teams as watches sell for more than $100,000.
  • Audemars Piguet said it would launch a second-hand business this year.
  • Breitling's CEO says the company is planning to buy and sell used watches.
  • LVMH, owner of watch brands TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith, is reportedly considering entering the market as well.

But, but, but: It's not all good for everyone. Watch sales are slowing in places like Hong Kong and turning negative in the U.K.

  • Richemont's expansion has increased sales but profitability fell to the lowest level this decade. Farfetch's stock sank 11% Thursday after the e-commerce platform reported a wider-than-expected loss.
  • The online luxury business is currently going through an unprofitable investment phase, with some experts saying it's poised to slow.

Still, there are clearly high hopes for what's to come. "It's no longer a hidden secret anymore," Danny Govberg, owner of luxury watch emporium Govberg Jewelers, told Bloomberg last year. "It has a life."

Go deeper: The sign that Apple has ripened

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show the IPO price of Watches of Switzerland was 270 pence.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
4 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.