Skip to main content

Lessons from the Artcurial "Important Watches" Auction

There are many contradictions in the month of January.  There are reasons for optimism.  In the northern hemisphere we've passed the winter equinox and our hours of daylight are lengthening.  The world is literally getting brighter.  Many major holidays have passed and the warm glow of that time has a halo effect.  And yet, there is also the knowledge that tax season is ahead and a bill with uncertain properties may come due.  The additional holiday spending can possibly weigh on the budget, out of precaution perhaps spending is slightly subdued.

The month's positive zeitgeist might suggest that it is a good time to hold an auction, particularly in the more mild climate of Monaco. 
Monaco
Indeed, the Artcurial auction house did just that on January 14, 2020 with their "Important Watches" auction.  But the results suggest that the more negative aspects of the month perhaps dominated.  I'll explain.

Online I was able to watch approximately 105 lots go under the hammer.  You can watch those lots on a livestream I recorded on YouTube (my live reactions are included).  I skipped the pocket watches because I have less interest in those.  First, the positive: the pocket watches did seem to do very well.  I don't know why, perhaps there were institutional bidders such as museums.  And Patek put on a strong showing, as is usual.  So did Audemars Piguet, particularly the reasonably sized Royal Oak references (especially skeletonized).  There also were not many surprises, good or bad, when it came to models such as the Reverso and the Submariner.

The surprises were mostly not positive.  The "main event" of the auction was a Rolex Triple Calendar Moonphase ref. 8171 in steel. 
A Rolex Triple Calendar "Padellone" sold in 2017. Credit: Author's photo of Phillips Auction catalogue.
Kept in the family of its original owner this timepiece had an estimate of € 200,000 - 300,000.  It did not sell.  In November Philips Auctions sold the same reference in steel for more than € 900,000.  Things that make you go "hmmm."  One possibility is that the more recent example was in rough condition.  This reference has a snap caseback which, with regular use, tends to lose its seal, allowing for damage to the face over seven decades.  But this was not an isolated outcome.  Out of 105 lots 18 did not sell, roughly 17%.

It remains to be seen whether this was simply a January slump, the condition of the lots, or an emerging softening in vintage watch value.  I've written elsewhere about signs that this may be a new normal.  In the case of Artcurial, though,  there are options to address this.  The Head of Digital for Phillips Auctions, Arthur Touchot, recently made a strong case on Instagram that 2019 marked the point where vintage watch bidding online is almost equally as important as floor bidding.  Artcurial conducted its auction in French, which almost certainly was more hospitable to the floor crowd.  And they could also consider alternative months for their auction.  If LVMH continues to hold their "Watch Week" in Dubai during January the likelihood of drawing a crowd becomes still more remote.

One last note: a Rolex "pre Daytona" 6834 chronograph sold for just under $37,000, a bright spot in the Artcurial auction.  Tony Traina of Rescapement observed that Mickey Mantel's personal 6834 is going up for auction with Heritage Auction next month with an estimate of $40,000.  It will be interesting to see how that particular lot plays out.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The History of the Radioactive Rolex with One Complication

My family and I have a tradition when we visit the beach. We search for sea glass. When jagged and sharp shards of broken glass land in the ocean the constant sluicing of sand changes them. Over decades or more the edges soften. Clear glass becomes cloudy. Given enough time the entire shape of the glass can morph, from rectangular to ovoid. Each piece of sea glass is inherently unique due to imperceptibly small forces which slowly accumulate, resulting in major changes. We know this is also true of vintage timepieces. After decades lume changes in hue. Dial faces crack, craze and fade. An object which was often mass produced consequently becomes a “pièce unique.” Watches are engineered to accurately and unchangeably mark the passage of time. We love and value vintage watches for the fact that they are altered by time itself. The story I offer here underwent similar changes. It began as an effort to understand more about an unfinished chapter in the history of Rolex. It b

Vapor Waitlist

This isn't a post I really wanted to write or share. The reason: it involves a brand I admire and respect. Some readers might decide that what I write here casts a negative light on that brand. At the end of the day, when I see information that just doesn't make sense, I feel obliged to comment on it regardless of whether it might ruffle a few feathers. I just feel a responsibility in that regard when it comes to readers and subscribers. It is important to me that the state of the watch market is truthfully known. As a side note: I'm going to soon post another story about the brand in question that highlights a neat achievement on their part, so please stay tuned. Ok, so here we go. Last week, a story in Bloomberg claimed that watch brand Zenith now has wait lists that are similar to those seen at Rolex and Patek Philippe. To set the stage: buyers have recently waited months or years for certain models from Rolex, Patek, and Audemars Piguet (among others). The Bloomber

The Death Dodger and His Radioactive Rolex

One of the most popular Horolonomics posts details the story of a radioactive, strontium-laced Rolex GMT Master. The Navy pilot who owned the watch in question sued Rolex. The watch also traced a surprising path through the hands of the owner's descendants, ending up in the inventory of a watch dealer in Florida. In many ways, my Horolonomics post was "Chapter 2" of the dangerously radioactive GMT Master story. Chapter 1 was authored by Steven Pulvirent, in collaboration with Eric Wind, while Pulvirent was still writing for Hodinkee. With this post, I offer Chapter 3 of the radioactive Rolex saga. This chapter also involves a Navy pilot, one who is much more well known than the Rolex owner in Chapter 2. Along the way, we will learn some interesting facts which shed light on the history of Rolex. Let's begin at the beginning. Moar Archives A few weeks ago I found myself poking around, virtually, in the archives of the Smithsonion National Air and Space Museum.