The Market


The big time: Phillips posts 30m CHF at its latest Geneva watch sale

The big time: Phillips posts 30m CHF at its latest Geneva watch sale 30th June 2020

While the classic car market has taken a short break before the next tranche of online sales and ‘virtual Monterey Week’, activity continues on other fronts. Rare classic cars and collectable watches have many synergies – we take a look at Phillips’ recent Swiss sale.

The evening event took place at the Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva on 27-28 June. While a limited number of registered clients attended the auction in person, a far greater number participated online and on the telephone.

At a glance:

* Top-selling watch: 1948 Patek Philippe pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with pink dial and moonphases, 3,380,000 CHF gross, 2,800,000 CHF net (est. 1.2m CHF to 2.4m CHF)
* Gross: 30,072,875 CHF
* Percentage sold by number: 100%
* Number of watches offered: 210 (after withdrawn lots)
* Percentage of watches sold met/exceeded top estimate: 56%
* Percentage of watches Rolex: 38% by number, 24% of gross
* Percentage of watches Patek Phillipe: 27% by number, 57% of gross

The catalogue was bolstered by the addition of watches from the personal collection of president of Louis Vuitton's watchmaking division and former head of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver. It was his rare Patek (below) that was the top-selling lot. The one-of-13, pink-dialled, rose gold perpetual calendar chronograph ref. 1518 was consigned by only its second owner since 1948.

Look away now if you’re from a car market auction house: over half the catalogue beat top estimate and just 3% failed to meet lower guide price. As always, Rolex (38% by number) and Patek Philippe (27% by number) dominated the two-day sale.

When it came to percentage of the gross, the Big Two – the Porsche and Ferrari of the watch world – accounted for 81% of the final 30m CHF total, split 24% Rolex / 57% Patek.

So the collectable watch market had another good day, as Paul Maudsley considers below. Don’t forget, if considering purchasing at auction, buyer’s premium on the hammer price at Phillips for the sale was 25% (up to and including 400,000 CHF), 20% (400,000 CHF to 4,000,000 CHF) and 15% above 4,000,000 CHF.

Finally, think on this. RM’s super-successful early June online sale grossed the equivalent of $21.5m at a sell-through of 91% on a 191-car catalogue. Working from on-the-day conversions, Phillips’ 210-lot, 100% sold watch catalogue generated $31.7m. Average value per lot sold: $124.2k for RM; $148.9k for Phillips. And you can slip on a 1948 Patek and walk home with it – try doing that with a 1967 Mercedes-Benz Six-Door Pullman.

Collectable watch and classic car consultant Paul Maudsley commented on the auction:
“It was a bold and commendable move to conduct a physical sale in today’s climate as most have been purely online, but the way they spaced the tables out for registered bidders worked well and showed that Phillips put their clients’ safety first. And the big plus, of course, was the highest number of internet bidders ever registered for one of their sales, and an expanded team manning the many telephones for clients all around the world.
“It was a strong sale; the prices were very solid – with some incredible outliers – and everything sold, which is always a fantastic feeling. You might wonder at £7,750 retail for a brand-new modern Rolex GMT watch that can be bought online, with a premium already on top, for £12,000 selling for £22,000 – maybe put that down to cabin fever of the lockdown.
“The results show that for the very rare, and great provenance, the watch market is extremely healthy.

“A highlight for me was the 1999 F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain ‘Souscription’ in platinum selling for 1,400,000 CHF (above). It was estimated at 150,000 - 300,000 CHF.  Many of the Patek Philippe watches were very rare and sold very well; having time on people’s hands has made decision-making easier. They’re thinking, ‘I’ve wanted it for a long time, I’m going to go for it.’
“Condition is all at this level. Take the 1,040,000 CHF 1969 gold Rolex Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ 6241 ‘John Player Special’ (so called because of the gold sub-dials on the black face, pictured, top). It was in superlative condition; these watch dials often have got marked by past watchmakers and when found like this one, collectors prize its perfection. The 1951 gold Rolex 6062 Oyster Perpetual ‘Stelline’ moonphase can be a £400k watch if with a totally mint untouched dial, yet this one, although very charming, sold for 187,500 CHF (£160k) as a result of its aged dial.
“Antiquorum (which also held a sale on 28 June) was doing well, too. As we’ve seen with online classic car auctions, the more relaxed way of bidding online has reaped dividends. People are more focused; they want to move on and buy something they’ve always wanted and don’t necessarily need to view it – I’m really not surprised at the success of these sales.”

Phillips in Geneva 27-28 June 2020, official results

Total gross: 30,072,875 CHF
Number of watches not sold: 0
Number of watches withdrawn: 5
Total number of watches: 210
Number sold: 210
Percentage watches sold by number: 100%
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 138%
Percentage of watches sold below low estimate: 3%
Percentage of watches sold not met avge of estimates: 20%
Percentage of watches sold met/exceeded top estimate: 56%
Average value of watches sold: 143,204 CHF
Percentage of watches Rolex: 38%
Percentage of watches Patek Phillipe: 27%

Photos by Phillips