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2016 Geneva Watch Auction Experience - Part 1

May 20, 2016

Join us for a journey through the spring auction season in Geneva. We will provide insight on how to capitalize on the preview experience, discuss current market trends, and explore the auction process. We will also introduce some of the most important dealers in the international watch community.

Today's vintage watch collecting market is fierce. Prices are strong and rising. Flukes are turning into trends and watches you could buy for 20,000 dollars ten years ago are worth over 1 million dollars today.

The collecting world today is full of top notch, fine combed, purple light carrying historians of keeping good time. During the preview days dealers and collectors from all over the world were gathered around tables elegantly romancing timepieces through loupes. If you don't know that your dial matches your case, you don't belong at these tables, especially in Geneva. From Phillips to Christies, Sotheby's to Antiquorum the auctions all exhibit fantastic collections. Lets take a look at the first few days of preview.


Day 1

Sotheby's Preview

Matthew Bain Sotheby's previewMatthew Bain, Zi Yong, Katharine Thomas

We started at Sotheby's preview. Pictured above is the Katharine Thomas and Zi Yong, two of Sotheby's finest watch experts.

Matthew Bain geiger counter These days you must be prepared at preview with your loupe, gieger counter and purple light. On old watch dials that were produced with radium, you want to make sure the luminous material is original. This is a new preview trend that just started over the last few years. The Gieger reading photographed at 526.51 is off the charts. You might want to be careful wearing a watch with that much radium. Original and mint condition are paramount to the value of a watch.

Matthew Bain Heuer ref 1158 The Heuer pictured on Matt's wrist was one of the surprise lots. Presented in lot 161, the Heuer (ref 1158) was accompanied by a "fine gold bar, the 'Prix Rouge et Blanc Joseph Siffert', which was an award created for outstanding bravery. The lot ended up begin sold for a staggering 225,000 CHF and it was only estimated at 10,000 to 20,000 CHF.

Quick Deals

Daytona for Daytona

Matthew Bain, Roberto Giovagnoli Matthew Bain, Roberto Giovagnoli, rolex daytona Matthew Bain, Roberto Giovagnoli

Matthew Bain & Roberto Giovagnoli

After Sothebys, we met up for a quick Daytona trade.(Stay tuned to read about the current state of the Daytona market and how they performed in auction.)

The Davidoff Brothers

Roy Davidoff, Sacha Davidoff, Matthew BainMatthew Bain at Davidoff watch store

Roy Davidoff, Sacha Davidoff, Matthew Bain Locals…
If you're ever in Geneva make sure to stop by the Davidoff brothers shop. They are an excellent duo of hometown horologist. Nestled in the heart of town, you can always trust them to have some excellent timepieces in store. While we were there they had an astonishing array of Omega Speedmasters. Defiantly a stop worth making.

Roy Davidoff, Sacha Davidoff & Matthew Bain

Antiquorum Preview

Matthew Bain enters AntiquorumMatthew Bain, Julian Schaerer

Matthew Bain & Julian Schaerer

Matthew Bain, Julian SchaererMatthew Bain using loupe to inspect watch

Antiquorum was an interesting preview for us. The sale was pocket watch heavy. Normally that is not our target market, so we were left with less options. Never the less, Antiquorum presented a beautiful show with several stand out wristwatches. To mention a few…The Rolex ref 6265 in lot 470 was gorgeous and the complicated Moonphase Pink Gold Audemars Piguet in lot 246 was surely a rare example of Audemar Piguet's elegant watch making.

Day 2

Phillips Preview

phillps auction previewphillps auction preview assorted watches

Matthew Bain previews watch Preview time is serious at these auctions. You would be a fool to not examine every watch you are planning to bid on. With over 300 lots and two days of auctions at Phillips it was sure to be a doozy of a preview. Fortunately we help of Phillips staff member, Leigh Zagoory, to assist us through the process. The highlights in Phillips were abundant. They had many exceptional and rare timepieces in both of their sales. It was no wonder they had high results. The "Start, Stop, Reset" catalogue was curated by the talented Pucci Papaleo (featured below). As the author of many watch books, including the Ultimate Rolex Daytona, Pucci knew how to make a show that would dazzle the crowd.

Leigh Zagoory, Matthew Bain Pucci Papaleo, author Ultimate Rolex Daytona

Leigh Zagoory & Matthew Bain

Pucci Papaleo

Leigh Zagoory, Matthew Bain, Erick KuErick Ku, Matthew Bain

Erick Ku & Matthew Bain

The buyers were especially fierce at Phillips. Ask Eric Ku (pictured above), he will surely let you know how strict you have to be when it comes to the quality of a watch. Cases were opened, serial numbers were checked, and condition reports were critically examined. The 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronograph Auction presented a vibrant discussion for the watch community. While many of these pieces are staples of the industry, other pieces are on the cutting edge of vintage. Old brands are having new revivals and the markets interest in chronographs was throughly examined. The results acknowledge that vintage chronographs are stronger than ever. Even more so, the condition of these older watches is of utmost importance. Everyone was scrutinizing each piece throughly. A quick checklist for those not aware of what makes for a nice vintage timepiece.

Check the case

  • Was it polished?
  • Does it match the era of the presumed watch?

Check the dial

  • Is it scratched?
  • Is it re-lacquered?
  • Is it washed?
  • Is it original?
  • Does the dial match the era of the case?
  • Is it Swiss T or T Swiss T or Swiss only?

Check the Hands and Markers

  • Do the hands match the markers?
  • Does everything Gieger that is supposed to?
  • Does it backlight?
  • Are the lume dots intact?

Phillips Preview Phillips Preview Phillips Preview


Christie's Preview

Matthew Bain, Ed Faber, Jeff Morris

Matthew Bain, Ed Faber, & Jeff Morris

Christie's was the last auction of the weekend and they might have saved the best for last. The auction featured a stellar grouping of watches. The traffic at the preview was busy all weekend. After seeing all of the other auctions we were keen to notice that there were similar trends throughout the weekend. Some of the themes were Berguet Numerals on Pateks, 3/6/9 Rolexes, different variations of Newmans, and increasing rarity and acclaim for Heuers and non mainstream chronographs. Stay tuned for our next blog in this Geneva series. We will discuss the results of the auctions, the direction of watch trends, and will guide you on a tour of our private dinner at the Audemars Piguet Museum. Stay tuned!

Christie's watch auction preview Christie's watch auction preview Matthew Bain, Jeffrey Binstock

Matthew Bain & Jeffrey Binstock

John Goldberger, Matthew Bain, Giovanni ZavoltaMatthew Bain, Andrew Shear

John Goldberger, Matthew Bain & Giovanni Zavolta

Matthew Bain & Andrew Shear