We all know how New York’s midtown has suffered during the pandemic. Times Square is coming back to life, office workers are still choosing to work from home and the Theater District is shuttered. However, if you walk a few blocks to the Diamond District on W47th Street between 5/6th Avenue, you’ll continue to find a busy marketplace at the center of the world’s jewelry trade. Over 90 percent of the diamonds that enter the United States go through New York City. The area has more than 2,600 independent businesses related to diamonds or fine jewelry.

George Fatakov, co-owner of Phigora in the service center.

Watches have seen a boom during the lockdown, with top vintage models like Rolex and Patek Philippe seeing prices increase by as much as 20%.

“In March, I thought ‘are watch sales going to completely stop?’ and ‘who’s going to buy a watch right now?'” shared George Fatakov, co-owner of Phigora — a specialist in vintage watches. “So we got a little scared, but what actually happened surprised us. It was the complete opposite.”

Prices of vintage watches started to rise. Fatakov told us: “When the fear first set in, a lot of the industry reacted by trying to lower prices – but then the exact opposite correction happened and it went the other way. Rolex prices went up by at least 20%.” There’s been some fluctuation since, but sales are rising and prices show no sign of dropping.

Steady hands reassemble a vintage watch mechanism at Watch Central.

Fatakov and his partner, Mike Iskhakov, started selling watches on eBay six years ago. Vintage watch sales have always been around, but Mike says “they took off in the last five years.”

Being in the Diamond District was a logical development for Phigora; they needed to be near the dealers and more importantly have access to specialist watch servicing. They ended up partnering with Watch Central, who have been servicing watches for 20 years..

Servicing a Audemars Piguet watch.

“Watch Central have a great reputation in the industry and they specialize in all the high-end repairs,” Fatakov told us. “Pre-owned watches demand good servicing. You need to be able to give customers the confidence knowing that their watch has been serviced, inspected, authenticated, and backed by this sort of warranty.”

During the pandemic, Phigora was still able to make sales online. They estimate that their customers are 70% male and buyers are typically collectors, either adding to their collection or just starting it off. There are also many who buy gifts for graduations, anniversaries or birthdays. In recent years, “birth year” watches have become particularly popular. “This usually means a Rolex, because you can identify the exact year of production based on the serial number,” explains Fatakov. “So if you your son was born in 1983, you can find a watch from that year and it becomes something you can wear, keep in the family, and it will gain value over time.”

Watchmaker Victor Sligan working in the service center.

Although Phigora carries all the major luxury watch brands like Audemars Piguet, Omega, Breitling and Cartier, Fatakov returned to Rolex when we asked about his favorite watch.

“My favorite model within Rolex is the Submariner. It wears nicely as a 40-millimeter watch, they designed it beautifully. It’s a sports watch, but it looks nice as a dress watch too. It just wears as a perfect watch.” We checked, there are currently 40 vintage Rolex Submariners available on their site. Prices range from $7,999 to $25,999.

Phigora is at 31 West 47th Street, 5th Floor. They welcome walk-ins and you can review all their watches online at phigora.com.

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    1. Haha. I thought of that when we got into the “air lock” doors to get in and out! Phil

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