A guide to watch auctions: the best 4 auction sites

All about watch auctions

Antiquorum (Switzerland)

Established in Geneva in 1974, Antiquorum has carved its own unparalleled niche in the auction world by cultivating a thriving collector’s market for timepieces worldwide and consistently obtains the highest prices for timepieces, auctions timepieces with exceptional provenance and rarity and has set many world records.

A perpetually innovative source for collectors, in the early 1980s Antiquorum pioneered the sale of wristwatches at auction, creating a new and exciting market. Next came the thematic auction devoted to a single subject, the first of which was the Art of Patek Philippe held in 1989, the 150th anniversary year of that prestigious watchmaking firm. Antiquorum regularly offers thematic sales at which enthusiasts may enrich their collections and, through Antiquorum’s authoritative and informative catalogues, acquire invaluable knowledge on each specific subject.

In 2005, the historic thematic auction “The Quarter Millennium of Vacheron Constantin” achieved a total of US$ 15,110,000 (SFr. 18,123,069). A record for Vacheron Constantin, this was also the second best result, after Patek Philippe, for a single-brand sale. Among the world records: the “Tour de l’Ile”, at US$ 1,564,000 (SFr. 1,876,250), set a world record for a contemporary wristwatch and the “King Fouad I”, at US$ 2,755,000 (SFr. 3,306,250), achieved the highest price ever paid for a Vacheron Constantin watch.

(description from Antiquorum’s website)

Sotheby’s (various sites)

On 1 April 2019, Sotheby’s launched Watches Weekly, a rolling calendar of online sales with a new selection of watches being unveiled every seven days. Responding to the confidence and desire of collectors looking for important pieces to purchase online, this series provides a fast and dynamic way to buy and sell watches and has attracted collectors from around the world. Many of the buyers in the first sales were new to Sotheby’s (54%) and under 40 (40%). The sales have already set new benchmarks for online watch auctions, including a record for a watch sold in an online sale for the Patek Philippe Nautilus, ref. 5711 in platinum with blue jeans dial, circa 2014 which sold for HK$ 3,750,000 (US$ 484,000).

2019 proved a record year for watch sales at Sotheby’s, achieving $109 million globally, the highest annual total in the company’s history, and a 22% uplift on 2018. Offering the finest timepieces ranging from the 16th century to the modern day, including the most sought after modern and vintage clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches, Sotheby’s Watch department showcases the thriving and international nature of this category, frequently achieving world record breaking results in all of Sotheby’s selling locations. 

Forming and maintaining strong relationships with the world’s collectors and connoisseurs is paramount to the service provided. With a truly global presence, the department holds sales in London, Geneva, Dubai, Hong Kong and New York with a specialised team in each location whose passion for watches is matched only by their unparalleled knowledge and experience. The market is one of constant change and as such, the worldwide team is dedicated to keeping abreast of the latest trends and developments. Our specialists recognise – and take pride in – the fact that constant learning and the sharing of knowledge both within and outside the industry, is as essential as in any other academic genre or category.

The watch auction department has consistently achieved benchmark prices, including $24 million for the Patek Philippe Henry Graves’ Supercomplication – a longstanding auction record for a timepiece – and the George Daniels ‘Space Traveller I’ which set the highest price for both an English Watch and an Independent Watchmaker at $4.6 million in 2019. Clocks also achieved record prices last year: a contemporary clock by Cartier sold for $1.03 million in Hong Kong, a clock by Vacheron Constantin realised $667,467 in London and a Cartier Comet Clock achieved $350,000 in New York.

Online sales continue to grow rapidly with 56% of all lots sold online in this category in 2019 and 80% of bidders participating online. The top watch sold online in 2019 set an auction record for a Millennium wristwatch by George Daniels, selling for $289,800 in Hong Kong in April. 

Demonstrating the breadth and extent of its collective knowledge and expertise, the department has been entrusted with and sold numerous ground-breaking pieces and collections. Following the success of the first two sales from the Masterworks of Time collection of watches held in London & Geneva in 2019, already surpassing the low estimate for the entire collection when they sold for a combined $15.8 million, Sotheby’s will offer the final two sales from the series in New York in June and Geneva in November 2019.

(description from Sotheby’s website)

Christie’s (various sites)

Featuring the world’s leading names in watchmaking such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Breguet and Vacheron Constantin, Christie’s watch auctions attract a wide audience of collectors and record-breaking prices for the finest vintage and modern timepieces.

Christie’s holds sales in Dubai, Geneva, Hong Kong and New York throughout the year. At Christie’s we also recognize that collectors are often looking for a specific watch, or are seeking to buy or sell a timepiece outside of the watch auction season.

(description from Christie’s website)

Koller (Switzerland)

More than half of the luxury watches sold in the world today come from Switzerland, and the principal brands nearly all proudly display the “Swiss Made” label. As the largest Swiss auction house, it naturally follows that Koller organizes dedicated auctions for rare wristwatches and pocket watches. Men’s wristwatches from major brands from the 40s, 50s and 60s are by far the fastest-growing category in these sales, led by Patek Philippe, and closely followed by vintage Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, IWC and Breguet watches, all of which are regularly featured in our auctions.

(description from Koller’s watch auctions website)

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