September 1, 202315 min Read

Tony Kavak from Stockholm Streets to Stardom – The Rise of Luxury Watches

By Niclas Berglund

It’s a windy autumn day in Stockholm, 2001. Two men stand on a street talking about watches. They are only vaguely acquainted. The conversation is light and general when one of the men makes an offer.

“I know a guy who wants to buy that model. You can get 3200 euro for it.”

Tony Kavak, wearing one of his Panerai watches, looks down at his wrist in confusion. After all, he bought the watch for just over 2000 euro and immediately thinks something isn’t right.

“Is he trying to scam me?” thinks Tony Kavak.

He is a diving instructor who loves watches. He’s used to buying them. But he has never sold one. This is the first time he has been offered money for a used watch. What he doesn’t know on this day is that nearly two decades later, he would own a watch store renowned worldwide – Luxury Watches. Selling watches would become his life.

I walk with Tony Kavak along Grev Turegatan towards his watch store, Luxury Watches, located on the same street. He’s wearing a light linen suit, and on his wrist sits a Patek Philippe reference 5004 in yellow gold with a unique link made of the same precious metal.

I wonder how he feels about the watch market slowing down, perhaps even taking a step back. Tony Kavak slows down; we’ve reached the store. He looks at me kindly before answering.

– The market hasn’t stopped, nor has it regressed. On the contrary, interest in watches seems to grow every day, and we’re seeing a clear increase in our sales. What you’re referring to is the pricing of watches that has taken a step back. This has nothing to do with the interest in watches; it’s about the economy of our society as a whole taking a step back. We see a similar pattern in the stock market and in real estate, explains Tony Kavak.

The founder of Luxury Watches shakes hands with the security guard outside his store before we enter. The store is brightly decorated. Although his staff is busy with customers, there’s a sense of calm inside. The space has a mezzanine where the founder has his office, and the staircase leading up to the office is made of glass. The feeling of walking in the air without seeing the steps almost makes me lose my balance. Tony Kavak circles his desk with familiar motions and settles in. He shares that he is a third-generation watch collector; both his grandfather and father were passionate collectors, and watches have always been a part of his life.

Tony Kavak in his store, Luxury Watches, in Stockholm.

Love Brought The Founder Of Luxury Watches To Stockholm

He grew up in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. His father Cercis Kavak owned a factory that produced plastic parts for cars and televisions. Tony Kavak worked for his father in Istanbul for a long time before he found love on a business trip to Sweden, a trip that would lead him to relocate to Stockholm.

When Tony Kavak wasn’t working for his father, he traveled to pursue his other passion in life – diving. He is a master instructor, a highly advanced level of diving instructor.

– It doesn’t matter what it’s about; when I delve into something, I go all in. I always give 110% and quickly set goals. I visualize – that’s where I want to go, what do I need to do to get there as quickly as possible. It’s the same with watches, and it was the same with diving. I’ve traveled all over the world, training others in diving. For a long time, that was my life. I loved everything to do with diving. To become a master instructor, you probably need to be a bit crazy, says the founder, laughing.

Tony Kavak was most active in his diving during the 80s and 90s. At this time, he was a significant collector of Panerai watches.

He speaks warmly about the brand’s history and how he, two decades ago, was fond of large watches.

Tony Kavak with his split-second Patek Philippe reference 5004R.

The founder outside Luxury Watches on Grev Turegatan in Stockholm.

Patek Philippe reference 5004R.

Tony Kavak activates the split-second function on his 5004 in rose gold.

The Offer That Started It All

The man who made that offer on the windy day in Stockholm over 20 years ago was Roger Janzon. Like Tony Kavak, he was a passionate watch collector.

– I told Roger that this watch doesn’t cost that much, something doesn’t add up, Tony Kavak recalls, smiling at the memory.

Roger Janzon explained to Tony Kavak that the watch cost 2000 euro when it was available in stores. Now that the model is hard to come by, collectors are willing to pay well over that prize for the same watch.

– I considered the offer but still wasn’t convinced. I had a bad gut feeling. I just want to add, this was a time when people checked the yellow pages to find used items. I wasn’t particularly attached to this model. A few days later, I contacted Roger Janzon and said, “Okay, I want to sell it,” says Tony Kavak.

Roger Janzon picked up the watch, and Tony Kavak remembers feeling uneasy about this new situation for him, handing over a watch to an acquaintance who claimed he could sell it. A few hours later, there was a knock on his door. There stood Roger Janzon. Without the watch – but with money in hand.

– I couldn’t believe it. I had made money on a used watch that was over seven years old, says Tony Kavak.

Shortly after the successful watch deal, Tony Kavak visited his mother, who lived outside Stockholm. He told her about the peculiar transaction. His mother found the deal as strange as her son did and suddenly left the room. When she returned, she was holding a plastic bag. The bag belonged to Tony Kavak’s father, who had passed away a few years earlier.

It soon became clear that what the mother was holding was something very special.

It was Tony Kavak’s father’s watches that the mother placed in front of him. She asked her son if he thought the watches in the bag could also turn out to be a good deal.

When Tony Kavak opened the bag, he could hardly believe his eyes. It contained several watches from the watchmaker Patek Philippe. The crown jewel of the bag was an unused 3700 made in December 1975 – the first edition of Gerald Genta’s coveted model Nautilus launched by Patek Philippe in 1976.

– I was shocked, I hadn’t thought much about my father’s watches, but now seeing his collection, I was completely floored. I still have my father’s watches to this day, says Tony Kavak.

"I Recall The Turning Point When I Began Speculating In Watches"

Tony Kavak’s watch collection had now grown even larger, with his own collection suddenly complemented by his father’s treasures. There was something special about his father’s watches; Patek Philippe’s models appealed to him in a way no other brand had before.

– I started to slowly review the models I had in my own collection and realized I had many watches that I never used. I decided to speak with Roger Janzon again. I asked if he thought it was possible to sell some more of my watches, says Tony Kavak.

He continues:

– It happened quickly; he got back to me the same day and had sold two more of my watches, Tony Kavak recalls.

The penny began to drop for the founder of Luxury Watches, and his business mind started to kick into gear. The entrepreneurial spirit had always been with him since he worked for his father in the factory in Istanbul.

– I clearly remember the turning point when I really began to speculate in watches and understood their full potential. It was in 2002 when I sold one of my Panerai watches. It was a model called Egiziano. A crazy model that’s about 60mm in its case. I bought it for about 9000 euro and sold it for over 30,000 euro. I tripled the money. At that point, I went all-in on watches, says Tony Kavak.

We’re interrupted when a customer calls from the store’s ground floor, “Tony, do you have a moment?”

Tony Kavak stands up to see who’s calling out for him. He smiles at the customer and asks if he could get back to him in twenty minutes. The customer nods and starts browsing the store’s offerings. Tony Kavak’s phone rings, and he apologizes again as he takes the call. A moment later, we pick up where we left off.

The store’s staff greet customers at the Grev Turegatan location in Stockholm.

"I Emptied The Store's Account Every Day"

– It was with this new insight that I began to follow in my father’s footsteps when it came to watches. I felt something with Patek Philippe that I hadn’t previously felt with my other watches. It was then that I bought Patek Philippe’s reference 2499 at an auction, says Tony Kavak.

I ask if it was that watch he sold to Jay-Z in the high-profile watch deal, as reported by Bezl in the article The watch deal that went down like a bomb.

– No, I still have this 2499 in my collection, explains Tony Kavak.

However, the transition from Panerai’s large watches to the more classic models turned out to be a difficult shift for the watch collector. When he received the Patek Philippe 2499, he thought it was too small, and it was left unused.

– I regretted that deal. I had sold many watches to be able to buy that one, which at the time cost about 100,000 euro, says Tony Kavak.

Tony Kavak’s 2499. Many consider this reference the ultimate Patek Philippe.

It would be a few more years and several private watch deals before the entrepreneur in Tony Kavak took over and finally took action. He decided to open a store that would focus on selling used watches. He firmly believed there was a big market for this. The challenge now was to reach out to watch collectors around Sweden and make them understand that they could buy and sell used watches with Luxury Watches.

– When Luxury Watches first opened on Sibyllegatan, in the city center of Stockholm in 2010, it was by appointment only. A major reason I decided to open Luxury Watches was to work with what I loved most, watches. It was also a way to connect with like-minded individuals, because I also wanted to buy watches – and I did, almost limitlessly at first, says Tony Kavak, laughing.

He continues:

– I bought everything that came into the store, and I searched everywhere for watches for sale. Every day I emptied the store’s account. George, my son, and Roger Janzon got furious at me and questioned my strategy, says Tony Kavak, smiling at the memory.

Today, the founder of Luxury Watches is more selective when it comes to buying watches. He doesn’t buy everything that comes into the store, but if it’s a watch from Rolex, Patek Philippe, or Audemars Piguet, they always buy it.

Luxury Watches Stockholm Expands

Three years after opening their first store on Sibyllegatan, they opened the doors on Grev Turegatan, a few block away, where they are located to this day. The move was a significant step, marking the moment when Luxury Watches would genuinely open up to the broader public. Tony Kavak and his son George Kavak invested a lot in the location to give it a luxurious and pleasant feel.

– My earlier strategy of buying every watch we came across turned out to be a good one. Combined with these purchases and my personal collection, we had created an incredible inventory. We could offer our customers pretty much anything they desired. We had a vast stock of watches, says the founder of Luxury Watches.

Patek Philippe 5004J with Tony Kavak’s custom-designed bracelet in the same precious metal.

The store in central Stockholm has a room designed by Patek Philippe themselves.

Luxury Watches boasts a wide selection of Patek Philippe timepieces.

Tony Kavak strolls down Grev Turegatan in central Stockholm, sporting his 5004 in yellow gold with a custom-designed bracelet in the same precious metal.

Today A Watch Is Seen As An Investment

George Kavak, CEO of Luxury Watches, comes up to the office holding a watch. He wants to seek advice from his father about a watch that a customer wants to sell to the store. They converse in Turkish, and with a few brief sentences, they agree on a reasonable price to offer the customer. I ask him how he feels about all the different models that come into the store.

– I love Patek Philippe, I know everything about the brand and have visited the factory on several occasions. Even today, I devour every piece of information I can find about the brand. I have great respect for all watchmakers, but my heart lies with Patek Philippe. It all boils down to personal preference. I love the color blue, which color do you like?, says Tony Kavak.

In recent years, I’ve noticed how watches have increasingly become a status symbol and more of an investment rather than something one wears out of love for the timepiece. I ask the founder of Luxury Watches about his views on this phenomenon.

– Consumer behavior is very different today compared to when I was growing up. As an 18-year-old, you rarely had the chance to buy a watch for 1000 euro. Nowadays, youngsters come in and purchase watches that are considerably more expensive. Part of this is due to the growing awareness that a watch can be a long-term investment. I know of several instances where parents have stepped in to help their children make such an investment, much like buying an apartment.

He continues: 

– What’s unfortunate in all of this is that the watch, as you touched upon, is sometimes also used as a status symbol. Many people are fixated on the price tag, which overshadows the actual value and beauty of the watch. There’s a lot of business in the watch world now, which I find saddening, Tony Kavak expresses.

Tony Kavak holds one of the world’s finest Patek Philippe collections.

Unique dial with pulsation indicator.

Tony Kavak wears his unique 5970 in rose gold.

The store is bustling with customers, and it has been twenty minutes since a customer inquired about Tony Kavak. He stands up to see if the customer is still there and excuses himself. A moment later, he returns and asks if I’d like to join him and his son, George Kavak, who took over as CEO of the family business a few years back, for lunch.

Tony Kavak raises his hand to get the waitress’s attention, and she approaches our table.

– I’ll take the bill, please, says Tony Kavak.

The waitress smiles kindly and replies, “Your bill has already been paid.” With a gesture, she directs our attention to a table further down in the restaurant. Three men at the table raise their hands in greeting.

– Why didn’t you say something? I would have ordered whiskey as well! Tony Kavak calls out across the tables, and the entire restaurant bursts into laughter. Once the laughter subsides, he adds, “Thank you so much, my friends.”

Tony Kavak stands and walks over to the men. They shake hands, and the men proudly display the watches on their wrists. Naturally, the watches were purchased from Tony Kavak at Luxury Watches.

– That’s a fantastic watch; it really suits you, says Tony Kavak to one of the men showing off his Rolex Submariner.

Tony Kavak takes his time, speaking to everyone at the table, carefully observing the watches on their wrists.

"The Red Carpet Outside Luxury Watches Is For Everyone"

We’re heading towards the exit when George Kavak is suddenly stopped by one of the diners. He asks him about a Rolex Skydweller. Tony and George Kavak are two well-known faces in the watch industry, and it’s clear how their expertise is sought after. As you can read in Bezl’s report The watch deal that went down like a bomb Tony Kavak is now a major player in the vintage watch market, especially with brands like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. The watch collector has big clients like Jay Z.

Artist Jay-Z with Tony Kavak and George Kavak outside the Luxury Watches store in central Stockholm. Photo: Luxury Watches

– The red carpet outside Luxury Watches is for everyone. Today, we have clients from all walks of society. World-famous celebrities and top business executives from all over the world come to us for advice. But just as important is the customer who has just turned 18 and has saved up for their first watch. This is something I remind my employees about every day. We don’t discriminate between people. Visiting Luxury Watches should be a pleasant experience, says Tony Kavak.

He continues:

– On several occasions, I’ve experienced staff in watch stores who, in an arrogant manner, barely bother to answer my questions. This is a problem in the industry today; there are more customers than watches, and in this way, some dealers become complacent and take their customers for granted.

Tony Kavak Looks Ahead

– If you choose to buy a watch from us at Luxury Watches, it’s a trust I don’t take lightly and cherish deeply. I see my customers as partners with whom I aim to build a long-term relationship, says Tony Kavak.

In conclusion, I ask the founder of Luxury Watches about his vision for the company’s future.

– I was asked the same question by a close friend some time ago. He asked me where I saw myself in 10 years. I replied, “right here.” We’re growing as a company, and it’s in sync with the rising interest in watches. Watches are my life, and I will never stop doing this. I love it too much, says the founder of Luxury Watches ⏱.

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🎥 See the video Luxury Watches founder, Tony Kavak.