On 1 April, 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 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 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 this year.