The trend in the world of luxury watches has recently been gaining steam and appears to only be going up. Auction house Phillips, in conjunction with online men’s retailer Mr. Porter and men’s style brand The Rake, held a joint auction titled, Styled. Timeless Watches and How to Wear Them, on December 5th, 2018 in New York. The auction featured 136 unique and rare vintage watches with 135 of the 136 watches selling, earning a little over 11.5 million dollars. This trend is not limited to only vintage watches, however, as according to NPD Group, new luxury watches in the U.S. ranging in price between $5,000-$10,000 are up 14% and sales among watches priced above $10,000 are up 16% over the past year. These two trends, a strong primary and secondary market, entice watch collectors as well as investors who see these timepieces as a safe investment that will hold their value over time.
A Growing Trend
The watch world has seen some truly astonishing results over the past few months. First and foremost was the sale of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona, a watch so synonymous with the late movie star that his name is always used to describe the watch. This particular watch, auctioned off by Phillips, brought $17.8 million dollars. This result eclipsed a stunning $5 million sale of a Rolex “Bao Dai” in May. However, the more telling sign of the strength of the watch market may be what has transpired in sales on December 5th and 6th.
The aforementioned Phillips sale from December 5th, 2018 is particularly telling because it lacked the truly iconic piece owned by a movie star or historical figure. Phillips sold rare and unique watches, none of which carried exceptional provenance, and averaged over $85,000 per watch. The sale was heavily comprised of highly coveted vintage Rolex Submariners and Daytonas and sparsely issued Patek Philippe dress watches in precious metals.
Another high-profile sale was held on December 6th, 2018 by auction house giant Christies. Among the watches auctioned off was a pocket watch gifted to Franklin Delano Roosevelt by his wife, Eleanor, on their wedding day. Of the 160 watches listed 128 were sold for a total of $10.5 million dollars. This particular auction was comprised of luxury watches from all the major Swiss manufacturers and was stocked with exotic dialed Rolexes, dials in colors other than variations of black and white, Day-Dates and Date-Justs in 18k gold. Most notably sold were a rare Rolex from 1952 and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket watch which sold for $1.5 million and $65,000 dollars respectively.
Who is Buying?
It would seem that with the tens of millions of dollars pouring into the watch market the market’s base has widened to include not only aficionados but also those who see watches as investments or stores of value. Speculation has been occurring more and more over the past few years and has driven the price of certain watches up well over 500%. For example, the type of watch that set the world record for the highest grossing watch, the Rolex Daytona. Five to ten years ago these watches were routinely sold on the secondary market, in the same condition and of the same reference, for anywhere between $20,000-$35,000. Currently, at this point in 2018, most of these watches go to auction with a reserve (a minimum bid that must be met for the watch to sell) of $100,000 dollars. Price increases of this kind have taken place across the board in the vintage luxury watch market, as seen in the two auctions in December.
With two Industry giants holding large scale live auctions in back to back days the strength of the vintage watch market was put to the test and inarguably passed by bringing in $22 million dollars on the sale of 263 watches. Having both a thriving primary watch market and secondary watch market keeps the value of luxury watches high and the increased interest from those who see watches as an investment is sure to continue to send the prices of watches upward.All Insights