Watch the game unfold with an expert at the Hong Kong Olympics Watch

It was the day before the auction of important Sotheby’s watches in Hong Kong, all shiny and hopeful. I sat down with Rich Lopez, Senior Watch Specialist at Sotheby’s, to review some of the most impressive pieces on the sale.

I wanted to deepen the psyche of the legendary watch collector. I wanted to understand the emotional satisfaction that comes with winning an offer. I wanted to know how these timepieces could offer a single human so much weight and prestige among other watch geeks.

Rich assured me that the auction model wasn’t just for the watch scholar, nor for the one percent. “With online sales this means that there are now prices for everyone, you can start bidding on watches without reservation and set your price between one thousand and five thousand,” he explained.

So watches are for (almost) everyone, but why is the used watch market exploding so quickly? Why, for example, is the market value of a Royal Oak Audemars Piguet at an all time high? Why do people give firstborns for a Patek Nautilus? Why can’t anyone get their hands on a new Rolex?

I wanted to learn more about the inner workings of today’s pre-owned watch market right from the source. As appealing as the second-hand market may seem, I felt the need to clear up some basic facts before sending other readers on a daring foray into the auction world.

Rich told me about his top picks at the next auction.

Lot 2208, Patek Phillipe 5004 Platinum (sold for [US] $ 986,570)

We’re starting big with the Patek Phillipe 5004 Platinum. Before I even spoke to Rich, I was intrigued by this rare premium bundle. My incessant research into the dark depths of the horological space had previously led me to speculate on a return to the perpetual calendar.

Please, no more AP Royal Oaks or Patek Aquanauts! Show me something complex. Something on a leather strap. Something a savvy collector would see of value. “Everything happens in cycles,” Rich said. “Years ago you couldn’t give away a steel Nautilus, but I think the perpetual calendar will come back to the fore.”

Rich argued, quite frankly, that this was due to supply and demand. There aren’t enough Nautilus in the world to meet everyone’s needs and wants, so if a customer has $ 100,000 to spend, they may shift their focus elsewhere and seek out the best quality perpetual calendar. that he can buy. And so the cycle continues!

Formerly owned by Eric Clapton, this Patek 5004 comes with a personalized blue dial, perhaps the only one of its kind. Anything Patek makes with a blue dial in this current market is known to double or triple its price.

This year has also seen the rise of the green dial, with Cartier, Hublot, Omega and virtually every watch brand all offering their vision of the green mania. I predict the boom in the mass market of the salmon-colored dial. I will also add that the Royal Oak Salmon could potentially bring me back to the monopoly of steel watches.

Lot 2095, FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain “Subscription” (sold for [US] $ 2,043,950)

Next in Rich’s picks, and his best-selling favorite, was the FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain “Subscription”. FP Journe is the new kid on the block in the auction world. The brand has exploded over the past year, adding to the intrigue surrounding lesser-known independent watchmakers.

Journe’s subscription model was really unique: if you bought a watch and he made another in the same series with the same number, he would later give it to you for free. It was an unusual commercial gimmick that paid off right across the board. The number one series of this watch is auctioned off with a competitor and is estimated to be at least $ 4 million. The moral of the tale? Read on and keep an eye out for little marks, kids!

Lot 2255, Rolex Day-Date, Reference 1803 (sold for [US] $ 501,960)

“It’s time to get Rolex into the conversation,” said Rich. This 1803 day-date reference is what connoisseurs would call a unique piece. It is the only Day-Date with a special order black dial that typically belongs to a sports model (like the Rolex Submariner). People wanted to hate this watch. “No one wanted to believe it was real, people were destroying it until we produced the papers indicating that Rolex had repaired the watch,” Rich explained. He continued that the way the market is changing, it really is the time to sell unique pieces and special editions.

Rolex still reigns supreme in the world of watchmaking – it is the most recognizable of all brands and controls 25% of the global luxury watch market. But even if you have the money, you’d be hard pressed to get your hands on a brand new model right now. There is a Rolex drought! The scarcity of these retail watches boils down to the uneventful issue of supply and demand, so let’s go for the second-hand market.

Lot 2242, Patek Philippe Reference 5307 (sold for [US] $ 1,655,209)

I was not ready for the 5307, a perpetual calendar tourbillon in platinum and diamonds. I even gave Rich an audible gasp over the phone. “IS THIS FACTORY SET?” ” I screamed. I’ve seen Nautilus bezels set with diamonds and sapphires, but a “Grande Complication” baguette diamond set looks like a cut above the rest. I thought the Patek diamond setting was a job just for the guys from the 47th Street aftermarket. Fine jewelry watches are my favorite type of watch, reserved for the super rich and famous. They are a perfect hybrid of mechanical intelligence and stupidly expensive rare gems. These are royal levels of Tutankhamun.

The main takeaways

The more I got into things with Rich, the more it started to sound like the equivalent of the Olympics to watch fans. The auction begins at 2 p.m. HKT (2 a.m. EST), which means people have to stay up late for the results. I’m not sure I have the same level of commitment to the cause, but it’s a global market and the competition is fierce, so serious bidders have no choice but to stay awake no matter what. the time zone.

Does all this hysteria indicate that we are living [another] rebirth of the mechanical watch? The frenzy around the second-hand market and the surge in the value of many iconic timepieces indicates a cultural wave of watchmaking fandom. But for many people who buy a high-priced watch, functionality comes after aesthetics. From a sociological point of view, watches are the postmodern signifier of wealth. In the same way that jewelry has served as a status symbol for monarchs and clergy, a Rolex President distinguishes your high-income “craftsman of taste” from your everyday millennial.

Rich and I ended our conversation on the topic of auction accessibility. “You don’t have to feel intimidated by the retailer anymore, you don’t have to worry about the seller judging whether or not you are actually going to buy,” he told me. “You can log in and see the collection of watches we have at all prices.”

You don’t have to enter this store either: you can usually preview the pieces in the months leading up to an auction, and if you can’t make it to a physical visit, specialists are available for questions. online or by phone. .

Sotheby’s offers two components to its watch sales. The first part is for large watches (live auctions with prices ranging from 20,000 to sky-high), and the second part is for fine watches (online auctions with watches without reserve and usually capped at around $ 100,000. ). Part 2 sales last for two weeks so customers have enough time to do their due diligence; they can search for articles and contact specialists on time.

While we can all marvel at the spectacle of a diamond encrusted Nautilus under the hammer for millions of dollars, it’s not just a one percent game anymore. Go ahead, I say, and start your journey cheaply. Great deals !


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