Considering Luxury Watch Consignment?

Douglas Pilarski

There Has Never Been A Better Time
Patek Philippe ref:2499, Circa 1955Pinterest Courtesy of Bonham's

An auction could help you find a buyer for one exceptional timepiece or an entire collection.

According to a recent report by Research and Markets, the global luxury watch market will grow to $73.5 Billion by 2025. Key companies include LVMH Group, Richemont, and The Swatch Group.

Taking The First Step - Identify An Auction House

I have identified four of the best-known auction house names in the business - Sotheby's, Christie's, Bonhams, and Antiquorum. These firms can handle your luxury timepiece whether you are buying or selling. There are others in the game, but these four stand out.

I will introduce them to you here.

Sotheby's began business in 1744

  • Their experts offer 400 years of pocket watches, wristwatches, tourbillons, and perpetual calendars. The auction house keeps relationships with 2,000 active bidders from seventy countries. Their venues in New York, Geneva, Hong Kong, and London host scheduled events.

Bonham's international fine art auctioneers & valuers began business in 1793

  • Their watch department is well-respected and staffed with experienced specialists around the Globe. Bonhams holds regular events in Knightsbridge, London. Special bi-annual events in New York, Hong Kong, and London.

Christie's international auctioneers started business in 1766

  • They hold frequent events and attract a broad audience of collectors. Christie's is attentive to the needs of collectors. Especially those who may want to buy or sell a timepiece outside of the auction season. Dubai, Geneva, New York, and Hong Kong hold events throughout the year.

Antiquorum hails from Geneva and started business in 1974

  • Antiquorum has carved its unparalleled niche in the auction world. Their auctions feature timepieces with exceptional provenance and rarity. They are well known for setting world records for hammer prices.

Getting your watch to an auction

You will want to get an estimate of the value of your timepiece. If you are thinking about parting with it, an auction sales estimate is a good start.

According to Sotheby's, the auction record is $24 million for the Patek Philippe no 198.385. The same Henry Graves Supercomplication hammered for $11 million in 1999.

First thing - gather up your materials

It's great if you have the box and the accompanying papers. Gather up the sales receipt, repair receipt, and hang tags- these items will help you sell your watch. Collectors look for these things. Something as simple as a box is attractive to your potential buyer.

Documentation goes a long way. Luxury watch buyers are knowledgeable and know horology. You'll sell your watch faster with the box and papers, according to

Collectors know what they want

Let's Jump to cars for a minute. A Ferrari buyer who knows the original tool kit, in its leather wrap, is in the trunk is more motivated. The toolkit has sold its share of stunning Ferraris. Especially if the manuals and tools are all present, are correct, and in good condition. The point is, it's the little things that make a difference.

Take pictures of your prized possession

The sales specialist will ask for high-quality photos of your watch. Make sure the front and back snaps are detailed. You'll want to detail anything unusual, such as a gouge in the case.

Remember, the auction house you choose to do business with will not appraise your watch. Instead, you'll get an estimate you can use to gauge a sales price.

Instead of an appraisal, you'll receive a sales estimate

The specialist will return a number based on the item's previous sales track record. In the case of a watch with provenance, the number will jump higher. If you have looked at the auction program, you'll be aware of a sales estimate. It guides the buyer and seller but is not set in stone or guarantees that the watch will fetch the published number or sell.

An ultra-rare Rolex Daytona that fetched 1,215,000 GBP in London. One of the highest prices paid for a Daytona. To give you some idea, the Daytona sold for less than $500 in the late '60s. According to auction house Phillips, Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona sold for $17.8 million in 2017.

Some watches seem to do better than others at auction. Think of the big names: the Rolex Daytona, Submariner. According to auction result reports, Cartier Tank Watches, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the Patek Philippe Calatrava.

Whatever you have to put to auction, you are in good hands with a major auction house. They are experts in their process, have impressive records of results, and are in contact with a large international audience of qualified buyers, collectors, and connoisseurs, looking to add to their collections.

Is now the time to move on from your perpetual calendar or tourbillon? Only you can answer that question. I always say, take your knowledge or trust to the watch shop.

The auction house representative will help you with timing, shipping, and all else related to going to the auction.

Likewise, suppose your watch is not a fit for a particular auction event. In that case, the representative will do their best to give you a positive direction in finding a more appropriate alternate venue.

I wish you the best possible experience!

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Douglas Pilarski is an award-winning writer & journalist based on the west coast. He writes about luxury goods, exotic cars, horology, tech, food, lifestyle, equestrian and rodeo, and millionaire travel. He is a regular contributor to and

Beaverton, OR

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