Just a few weeks ago, Phillips in association with auction house Bacs and Russo held its auction in New York where 100% of the lots and over $35 million worth of watches sold. This auction marked several important milestones for the house, which today announced the most successful year in its history, both live and digitally online. The annual auction total was over $209 million – a first for an auction house. Interestingly, while the number was up 57% from 2020, that was nearly 90% growth from pre-pandemic sales numbers in 2019.
“The watch auction market has grown exponentially and we have seen a massive increase in global auction participants this year,” says Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant at Phillips in association with Bacs and Russo. “Phillips has organized our sales with the utmost attention to detail, selecting only the highest quality watches, which is reflected in the fact that we have sold 100% of the watches offered this year.”
In fact, this year sold at 100% was also a first for an auction house in history, and Phillips can boast that more than 27 of its watches have passed the million dollar mark. Notable world records have been set for some watches in particular, including an Omega, Philippe Dufour, Roger Smitha and others. Additionally, Phillips’ retail destination, Perpetual, both online and through a dedicated store, saw unprecedented growth in 2021 compared to 2020 with a 245% increase in sales.
In a private interview, Paul Boutros, Americas director of watches for Phillips, said that many factors have contributed to the sensational growth in the pre-owned watch market. “The market is the strongest it has ever been for collectible watches with an unprecedented number of people discovering the watches. The supply is so low and cannot meet the demand. The pandemic is one reason, but another is the influence of social media, the number of celebrities wearing more and more beautiful watches on their feeds and in movies, and the fact that there is a lot of cash. cryptocurrency and they are looking for physical assets so they can have fun with their money.
In fact, according to year-end statistics released today by Phillips, auction participants throughout 2021 came from 84 countries and more than 40% of registrants were new to Phillips. About a third of all bidders were under 40 years old.
According to Boutros, with so many brands unable to keep up with demand, customers who want something immediately, especially newcomers to the world of watch collecting, without having to wait years for a particular watch, are turning to the secondary market. The watches they want run the gamut from top brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Sohne, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin, to smaller independent brands like FP Journe, Richard Mille, MB&F and others.
Perhaps that’s why the Patek Philippe Ref. 5711 Nautilus with Tiffany Blue® dial sold at December auction in New York for $6.5 million. It set a new world record, and all proceeds were donated to The Nature Conservancy, as requested by Tiffany. Prior to the auction, Patek Philippe had announced that it would cease production of the Ref. 5711, but the special edition was announced and sent collectors rushing to get one. Hence the $6.5 million auction for a watch that should have sold for around $50,000 to $120,000.
At that same December auction, which fetched more than $35 million, an Omega Speedmaster once owned by author Ralph Ellison also sold for a record high for that watch: $667,800.
The list goes on and on and records have been set by other auction houses besides Phillips. It is indicative of the good health of the second-hand watch industry for vintage and modern watches (1980 and newer).