Bids & Pieces
Come 28 and 29 November, some of the rarest timepieces in luxury watchmaking could be yours to own. Phillips Auctioneers, in association with Bacs & Russo, presents Rolex Milestones and the Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three, two highly anticipated auctions offering Grail watches as the Patek Philippe Skymoon Tourbillon, a host of vintage Rolex Daytonas, and – appearing for the very first time on the auction scene – the legendary Simplicity watch by watchmaking independent, Philippe Dufour.
Bid online, on the Phillips Auctioneers app, or in person at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.
Sam Hines, international head of watches and deputy chairman of Asia for Phillips, shares some tips on how to score that dream watch of yours, along with his top picks.
Tell us more about Rolex Milestones.
This is Phillips’s first themed auction for Rolex. We wanted to do it because everybody is always talking about Rolex and we thought it would be great to do something like this in Asia.
What qualifies a Rolex as rare or important?
We consider factors such as scarcity, condition, freshness to the market, functions it has amongst others. With vintage Rolexes, the most important consideration is the timepiece’s condition.
Why are Rolexes so valuable?
The company is very smart in that they don’t interfere with the vintage segment, so the collector plays a huge part in determining the value of the watches. Plus, collectors fervently buy pieces to “out-collect” their friends. And there’s so much depth of history as well.
What advice would you give to Rolex bidders?
Leave the watches as they are, servicing only the movement. Leave the case, dial, and hands alone, keep them as original as you can. Do not polish the case, as it becomes thinner, loses its original shape, and reduces the original proportions.
What advice would you give to first-time bidders?
I would suggest absentee bidding. This is where you give a number to the auction house and then wait for the news. It’s unemotional; you just decide on a budget and leave it at that. I’ve had first timers do telephone bidding and get completely carried away, spending double of what they planned. Also, try to buy the very best quality you can. Don’t try and save $10,000 to buy a lesser example because knowledge is always increasing, and great quality pieces will continue to go up in value.
Is it true that brands found at auctions are inherently more valuable?
Not really. Sometimes watches appear because brands discount them and dealers looking to make money buy them to resell at auctions.
How has the auction market grown?
Auctions account for about US$300 million (S$424.29 million) in watch sales last year. We’re talking about 10,000 watches sold. It’s a huge market now.
Have the estimates for Patek Phillipes been moving upwards?
Yes. For top quality vintage and rare pieces, complicated pieces, the sky’s the limit. Discontinued models are also getting popular.
Tell us more about the independent brands.
We have a Roger Smith Series 2 with beautiful co-axial escapement and traditional dial with chaptering. It’s very unique as it’s hand made, and only five pieces were made. Then there is Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity, one of the early ones, in great condition. The hand finishing is simply amazing. This is the first time I’m selling a Philippe Dufour and Roger Smith. It would be interesting to see how they perform since they’ve never been on the market before.
Why should one buy contemporary watches from auctions?
For some watches, you simply cannot get (them outside auctions). For others, you benefit from the five-year guarantee. Plus, you would pay market price, not above market price, since we don’t have that retail mark up. If a watch retails at US$10,000 (S$14,000), you may be able to find it at auctions for USD4,000 (S$5,660). We base our estimates on past examples sold and what the market is looking for.
Hines’ Top Picks from the Rolex Milestones auction
Lot 801: Stainless steel Rolex Explorer ref. 6350
Estimate: US$12,500 – US$25,000 (S$17,680 – S$35,360)
Hines: “This watch was the first Explorer from 1953. It’s completely original. It’s got the thin pencil hands, honeycomb dial, and in really great shape.”
Lot 805: Stainless steel Rolex Submariner ref. 6536/6538
Estimate: US$60,000 – US$120,000 (S$84,860 – S$169,715)
Hines: “Rolex collectors love transition models. This one has the red depth rating, original dial, original lumes, and small crown. The case also has the original bevels.”
Lot 807: Stainless steel military Rolex Submariner ref. 5513/5517
Estimate: US$80,000 – US$160,000 (S$113,140 – S$226,290)
Hines: “This is a double reference, and made for the military. Its bezel is calibrated to 60 minutes. It’s got fat sword hands for legibility, a non-reflective matte finished case, and soldered lugs.”
Hines’ Top Picks from the Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three auction
Lot 949: Platinum Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711
Estimate: USD80,000 – US$120,000 (S$113,000 – S$170,000)
Hines: “For about five years, Patek Philippe made this platinum example for very select clients. We believe they made between 30 to 50 pieces.”
Lot 1011: Pink gold Patek Philippe ref. 5004 formerly in the collection of Eric Clapton, CBE
Estimate: US$300,000 – US$600,000 (S$424,330 – S$848,670)
Hines: “This is an incredible example fitted with the highly sought after and rare black tachymetre dial and applied pink gold Breguet numeral at 12 o’clock. It’s also in outstanding condition.”
Lot 1002: Platinum Patek Philippe Skymoon Tourbillon ref. 5002
Estimate: US$850,000 – US$1.2 million (S$1.2 million – S$1.70 million)
Sam Hines: “Incredibly made, double dial… I think the Skymoon Tourbillon is a lot rarer than people think because you can count with one hand how many times you see it at auctions.”