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HODINKEE At Geneva Auction Week 2021

I’ve returned. My six-day sojourn into the Genevois wilderness has come to an finish.

I wrote earlier than I left that I anticipated your complete week to be an prolonged dalliance with absurdity – the type solely discovered within the Swiss watch business – and I wasn’t mistaken. I witnessed damaged document after damaged document, insane quantities of cash being thrown round, and an business surging to new heights in each curiosity and intrigue, all whereas inching nearer and nearer to a post-pandemic world, no matter which may be.

This was a genuinely novel expertise in comparison with the New York auctions I’ve attended up to now. So far as I may inform, I used to be certainly one of only a few American media members current. The viewers was a deeply worldwide clientele, a combination of real-deal, heavy-hitting collectors (John Goldberger, Claude Sfeir, William Massena, Gary Getz, amongst others); old-school personal sellers (the Italians are a power); watchmakers and model executives (Francois-Paul Journe, Max Busser, and Rexhep Rexhepi have been all current throughout a number of days); and retail powerhouses (Michael Tay, Danny Govberg) have been all in the home.

Only Watch-branded paddles rest on their sides.

Whereas in Geneva, I saved a operating record of notes of observations I needed to share with you. Given this was my first time overlaying the occasion(s), I am going to admit I used to be a bit excited, so you will discover this record to be a little bit lengthy, or possibly quite a bit lengthy. However hopefully it’s going to offer you a way of what it is prefer to be within the room.

1. Phillips Has Assembled A One-Of-A-Variety Dream Workforce

There was a definite second throughout Session Two Of Phillips Geneva Watch Public sale: XIV the place I felt like I used to be watching a movie a few watch public sale, reasonably than an public sale itself. It was three to 4 hours into the session, and Marcello De Marco, the bearded, man-bunned Italian wunderkind auctioneer had taken over behind the rostrum for Aurel Bacs. De Marco introduced a brand new vitality to the room, presiding over his tons with a particular aptitude, crisp hand motions, and a bouncy Italian accent that awoke the viewers.

Aurel Bacs with his gavel in the air.

Bacs is the world’s biggest watch auctioneer. Everyone knows that. However the group he is constructed round him is deeply spectacular. Tiffany To, Marcello De Marco, and Clara Kessi have been the three alternates to Bacs on the rostrum over the weekend, and every introduced a multilingual, worldwide gravitas to the proceedings that was extraordinarily entertaining (not less than for a non-bidder) and extremely profitable.

On that final be aware, I would like to provide credit score the place credit score’s due and congratulate Phillips on reaching a complete sum of CHF 68.2 million / USD 74.5 million at Geneva Watch Public sale: XIV, practically doubling the document for a watch public sale whole.

2. There’s A Complete Lot Of Cash In The World

Phillips set the document. Solely Watch hit CHF 30 million. That’s practically 100 million Swiss francs spent on watches this previous weekend, not together with Christie’s Uncommon Watches, Sotheby’s, or Antiquorum. We’re accustomed to seeing wild costs within the watch business and even at public sale, however that determine is positively insane.

A wall projection captures the bidding process in different currencies at Only Watch 2021.

There was a time not too way back when the annual whole for the public sale calendar did not cross CHF 100 million. To get there in two gross sales unfold out over a single weekend is a testomony to the outstanding development of curiosity that watchmaking has skilled in recent times. It is truthfully surreal to be within the room with individuals discussing – truly, yelling – about cash in six-figure intervals.

3. Predictions – And Estimates – Do not Matter

I gave a handful of predictions final week earlier than I left for Geneva. Surprisingly, I believe I did alright. Konstantin Chaykin carried out exceptionally properly at Solely Watch; the market did not decelerate in anyway, regardless of some tapping on the brakes throughout the latter half of the weekend; impartial watchmaking – as a complete – continued to mature; there weren’t as many current-production Rolex and Patek Philippe to grimace at; and naturally, issues acquired foolish.

The Konstantin Chaykin Martian Tourbillon for Only Watch 2021

The Konstantin Chaykin Martian Tourbillon for Solely Watch 2021 bought for CHF 290,000.

However I additionally realized that trying to make any predictions of substance is a idiot’s errand. The marketplace for many watches is shifting too shortly to watch granular traits, and really not often is the excessive efficiency of a single lot a market maker. Additional, the public sale homes clearly have given up the artwork of an estimate. I have never checked, however I wager you possibly can rely the variety of watches that did not hit their low estimate at Phillips on two fingers. At Solely Watch, just one watch did not hit the low estimate (sorry, Frederique Fixed).

A monitor captures the bidding process in Swiss francs during Only Watch 2021.

Some individuals might grouch over it, however public sale homes remaining conservative with their estimates is sensible to me. They wish to deliver extra bidders in – their purpose being to promote the look ahead to the very best doable quantity, clearly – and a low estimate doubtlessly does that. And like we mentioned, it is also remarkably tough to guess how any particular watch will carry out lately – why would not the public sale home stay on the secure aspect? My suggestion for any potential bidder is to disregard any and all estimates and to have a sure amount of cash you are keen to spend on the watch confirmed in your head earlier than bidding. In any case, the public sale home would not decide the ultimate value. The bidders do.

4. Luc Pettavino Is The Nicest Man Round

I had heard this from quite a few individuals, however I lastly had the chance to fulfill Luc Pettavino at an Solely Watch preview and on the occasion itself. Pettavino is the proprietor of the Solely Watch public sale, which he began after his son’s prognosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy within the early 2000s.

Luc Pettavino speaking at the podium during Only Watch 2021.

Ninety-nine p.c of the cash spent at Solely Watch goes towards funding analysis for a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Christie’s even waives patrons’ premium on all tons to encourage bidding. Giving watches – and revenue – away for charity is not one thing that simply occurs on a regular basis within the watch business. It takes an actual chief and a real individual to encourage individuals to take action. Within the few moments I used to be in a position to converse with him, Pettavino exuded a uncommon heat and sense of humanity. Abruptly, all of it made sense.

5. There Are Presumably Too Many Heaps

Phillips Geneva Watch Public sale: XIV had 249 tons unfold out over two days. Christie’s Uncommon Watches had 118. Sotheby’s had 220. Antiquorum had 563! That is greater than 1,100 watches up for grabs over a single week. I did not attend both Sotheby’s or Antiquorum, so I can not converse to the vibe there, however I undoubtedly seen issues began to decelerate on Sunday, at Phillips Session Two, and on Monday, at Christie’s Uncommon Watches.

Curiosity in watches is at an all-time excessive, and I have never discovered an actual sell-through share for every particular person public sale, however I did begin to marvel the place precisely the tipping level is perhaps. Even in an ideal world, not each watch has a purchaser, so I encourage the public sale homes to proceed to be considerate of their method. I do not suppose any of us wish to see a “spray and pray” format take maintain throughout the public sale calendar.

6. These Auctions Are An All-Day Occasion

I’ve attended a lot of watch auctions in New York, and as a rule, they’re weeknight affairs that final two to a few hours. In Geneva, every session of Phillips took over six hours to finish. I used to be within the room for 90 p.c of the Phillips motion, so I had the power to look at the gang remodel all through the day.

A bidder raises his paddle in the air at Only Watch 2021.

The day all the time begins busy, and the public sale home strategically locations watches of significance round 10 to twenty tons in to get individuals within the room early. They do the identical close to the tip of every day, which implies there is a run of heavy hitters proper in the midst of the catalog as Session One attracts to a detailed in addition to on the finish of the catalog.

The purpose is clearly to maintain individuals and able to spend all day lengthy, however there isn’t any stopping the gang from scaling down as we hit every day’s center tons. Visitors went out for lunch or left fully, happy with the watches that they had already seen (or received). I seen some individuals would are available in laser-focused on a single lot, as soon as it was over, they left and by no means returned. It was clear that every attendee was there for their very own private causes. Only a few attendees (aside from me!) have been there to soak up the public sale in its totality.

7. Auctions Are Nearer To Playing Than I Realized

It was throughout a kind of noon lulls that I appeared round and realized I used to be surrounded by solely hardcore horological degenerates. As a lot as I really like our pastime, it considerably jogged my memory of being on the racetrack in the midst of the day, watching different individuals get wealthy and/or win particular tons.

The Phillips tent at La Reserve, the resort the place the public sale is held, even jogs my memory of a Las Vegas on line casino. It is temperature managed, the home windows are coated, it is a straightforward place to lose observe of time (ironic), and also you’re throwing cash within the air in hope of profitable massive.

8. Being Round Folks Is A Pleasure

A crowd of 850 people at Only Watch 2021 in Geneva.

Because the world begins to reopen and I run into colleagues and mates I have never seen in 20-plus months, I have been critically inspired by how good it’s to speak with them in individual and to bodily hug them. The sensation carried over from the current occasions in New York. Being in Geneva solely solidified it for me.

9. Zenith Is On A Critical Roll

Zenith was on my thoughts quite a bit whereas I used to be in Geneva. I used to be lucky sufficient to spend a morning visiting the corporate’s historic manufacture in Le Locle earlier than the GPHG, and the corporate loaned me a pattern of the Defy Excessive to put on throughout my week in Switzerland (Fingers-On coming quickly).

The famous Zenith attic.

Contained in the well-known Zenith attic.

However even when I hadn’t been spending time with the model itself whereas I used to be overseas, Zenith would’ve been practically not possible to flee. The corporate – rightfully – received the chronograph class on the Grand Prix this yr for the Chronomaster Sport, which is shockingly the primary time it has finished so for the reason that award was based. After which, it ended up closing out the Solely Watch public sale as the ultimate lot, reaching a vastly spectacular sum of CHF 480,000.

Zenith's contribution to Only Watch 2021.

The Zenith Defy Double Tourbillon Felipe Pantone Distinctive Piece for Solely Watch.

That determine was the very best whole of any of the taking part LVMH manufacturers, which included Louis Vuitton (CHF 220,000), TAG Heuer (CHF 290,000), Hublot (CHF 320,000), and Bulgari (CHF 220,000).

10. One Should By no means Underestimate F.P. Journe

Three completely different Journe watches broke the million greenback mark in Geneva: Two at Phillips and a 3rd at Solely Watch. And so they did not simply break it, they smashed it. The Chronomètre à Résonance “Souscription” bought for CHF 3.9 million, the Tourbillon Souverain à Remontoir d’Egalité “Souscription” bought for CHF 3.54 million, and the FFC Blue for Solely Watch reached CHF 4.5 million.

The FP Journe FFC Blue for Only Watch 2021

Previous to this weekend, no F.P. Journe watch had damaged the two-million mark. Now, three of his watches have, and two others over the weekend broke CHF 900,000. I legitimately suppose F.P. Journe is the most popular model on the planet proper now – much more so than Rolex or Patek Philippe. Although he is a identified curmudgeon, I swear I noticed Journe crack a number of smiles throughout Solely Watch (the place he wore a shiny orange vest) and at Session Two of Phillips.

Oh, and he is additionally a really tough man to come up with. I spoke with Messrs. Journe and Coppola about their Solely Watch collaboration for this piece, and it was far simpler to get in contact with Mr. Coppola. I used to be lastly in a position to converse with Journe – over the telephone, with a translator – the day earlier than the story was set to publish. I am very grateful each have been keen to talk with me for the article, however I do suppose it is amusing that – as a watch author at a watch publication – it was simpler to get in contact with a world-famous movie director than it was a watchmaker.

11. Not Everybody Cares About The Identical Issues

In my post-event protection of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, I asserted that the Oris Aquis Caliber 400 might need deserved to win the Diving class reasonably than the Louis Vuitton Tambour Avenue Diver. I meant that as no disrespect to the visually attention-grabbing Louis Vuitton watch, however as an alternative as an indication of the power of the Aquis Caliber 400 as a product for diving.

An Oris Aquis Date Caliber 400 with a blue dial on a man's wrist.

(I nonetheless suppose the Oris deserved the win, do not @ me.)

After talking briefly with one of many jurors who voted for the Vuitton after which studying the feedback on my recap article, it is develop into clearer to me why the LV is a deserving winner. The juror talked about to me that, in his eyes, the Aquis appeared similar to one other Oris dive watch – for all intents and functions, it is the identical Aquis design that Oris has had in its catalog for years and years. The Louis Vuitton, alternatively, is a contemporary tackle the classic compressor-style case. It is up to date and enjoyable. And it is sensible that many jurors glanced on the Aquis and did not wish to reward a “repeat” design.

12. Cartier! Vacheron! Lange! Curiosity In Richemont Watchmakers Surge

Cartier has been performing remarkably properly at public sale for some time now (simply take a look at my protection within the newest challenge of HODINKEE Journal), however this previous weekend was a wholly completely different ballgame.

A three-quarter image of a Cartier Crash on a white background.

The record-breaking Cartier Crash.

A honey gold Lange 1 laying in a watch box.

And it seems to be like A. Lange & Söhne has lastly begun to shed its popularity as gentle at public sale with quite a few robust tons at Phillips. A 20-piece Lange 1 in Honey Gold from 2016 bought for CHF 189,000 – a value I wager will likely be seen as a steal in a number of years – whereas a 30-piece restricted version ​​1815 Tourbillon from the corporate’s Handwerkskunst collection reached a surprising CHF 630,000.

13. There’s A Little Factor Known as Purchaser’s Premium

It is a humorous one which I solely realized after Jack and I spent a while DMing backwards and forwards over Slack on whether or not or not the CHF 4.5 million somebody paid for the Journe FFC Blue at Solely Watch was the very best quantity reached for an impartial model at public sale. Its competitors, we thought, was the George Daniels Area Traveller 1 in yellow gold, which bought for GBP 3,615,000, at Sotheby’s London, in 2019. We needed to calculate inflation over the previous two years and convert GBP to CHF to find out that sure, Journe and Francis Ford Coppola’s collaboration did beat the Daniels pocket watch to develop into the brand new document holder.

The Philippe Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie laying down.

Or so we thought. The following day, after I was at Phillips, Aurel Bacs approached me to kindly let me know that my article was incorrect – the Philippe Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie N°1, which had bought that Friday at Phillips, now held the document. I thanked him and felt confused; I used to be within the room for that lot – how did I miss it?

It seems I forgot about patrons’ premium, the payment the client of the watch pays to the public sale home on prime of the hammer value, which is the amount of cash that goes to the consignor. A patrons’ premium is a surcharge between 15 and 25 p.c of the hammer value, relying on public sale home and hammer value, that is added to the ultimate, all-in sale. Since Solely Watch would not embrace a premium, the FFC Blue holds the document for the very best hammer value achieved by a watch from an impartial maker, whereas the Dufour has the very best all-in (together with premium) value, at CHF 4,749,000 (the hammer value for the Dufour was CHF 3.9 million).

14. Solely Watch Is The Final Room For Watch Recognizing

In contrast to a commerce present or meetup, Solely Watch is attended primarily by choose high-level model executives and high-profile collectors. I may go searching and see watchmakers and folks of be aware in all places. Laurent Ferrier was sitting on the aisle; close to my seat I may see Kari Voutilainen sitting subsequent to his daughter and Pierre Jacques, CEO of De Bethune. F.P. Journe himself was someplace close to the entrance. I may even see the smile develop on the face of Czapek CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel as his firm’s contribution crossed the CHF 200,000 mark.

A row in the audience at Only Watch 2021.

And naturally, with all these gamers within the room, everybody comes with a watch able to impress. The individual in entrance of me was carrying a $400,000 Jaquet Droz automaton! I wasn’t in a position to get practically as many photographs as I’d have favored, so you will simply need to take my phrase for it.

15. The Romain Gauthier Continuum Is Exceptionally Gentle

The Romain Gauthier Continuum on the author's wrist.

I am a little bit of a Romain Gauthier stan, so I hoped for a chance to speak with him after Solely Watch and to see his newest creation, the all-titanium Continuum. Thankfully, we have been in a position to make it occur, and I chatted with Mr. Gauthier for quarter-hour in regards to the public sale and his new watch, which he simply so occurred to be carrying. It weighs solely 55 grams (identical because the Omega Aqua Terra Extremely Gentle) and prices CHF 37,000 (lower than the Omega), whereas that includes all the eye to element and unimaginable finissage Romain Gauthier is understood for.

16. Solely Watch Has Develop into A (Very) Wealthy Man’s Sport

This was a take I heard from a lot of severe collectors in Geneva and likewise over textual content message. For those who had been following the biennial public sale in its early years, there have been (apparently) honest-to-goodness offers available. Not a lot immediately.

Rahul Kadakia at the podium during Only Watch 2021.

Pettavino even mentioned that within the first few years, he would bid and purchase a lot of items at every Solely Watch. At present there’s a lot curiosity and a lot cash being thrown round that it has successfully priced out numerous events. On one hand, that is unlucky; on the opposite, all of it goes to charity, so the upper the outcomes, the higher, proper?

17. It is A Laborious Life For Non Wristwatches

Is it not stunning to anybody that the Patek Philippe Difficult Desk Clock did not break CHF 10 million after the Grandmaster Chime hit CHF 31 million at Solely Watch 2019, turning into the most costly timepiece ever within the course of?

A man holds the Only Watch 2021 catalog up and is reading the page dedicated to the Patek Philippe contribution while the Only Watch auction takes place in the background.

Actually, your complete whole of Solely Watch 2021 was CHF 30 million, which implies the only Patek lot from 2019 reached a better determine than all 53 tons this yr. Throughout the board, clocks and pocket watches do not carry out in addition to wristwatches, however it could have been good to see what Patek may do as a follow-up to the Grandmaster Chime. I assume we’ll have to attend till 2023.

18. The Deep Sea Specials Sunk

Two of the weekend’s most-discussed tons each failed to achieve their low estimate and basic expectations. I am speaking in regards to the pair of Rolex Deep Sea Specials that have been up for bid, respectively, at Christie’s and Phillips.

The “low glass” Rolex Deep Sea Special No. 1 (left), and the “high glass” Rolex Deep Sea Special N0. 35 (right)

The “low glass” Rolex Deep Sea Particular No. 1 (left), and the “excessive glass” Rolex Deep Sea Particular N0. 35 (proper)

Regardless of some confused advertising and marketing from Christie’s relating to the historical past of their instance, I felt there was nonetheless real curiosity in every merchandise as objects of curiosity. However evidently the Deep Sea Specials are simply too esoteric to draw curiosity from the standard watch crowd. I am unsure who ended up with these watches, however I am half considering it was people extra within the historical past of aquatic exploration than in dive watches by themselves.

19. Richard Mille Is Its Personal Factor

All weekend, each time a Richard Mille got here up on the market, the room exploded in a flurry of curiosity. Bidders raised their paddles, specialists on the telephone with collectors shouted out more and more rising numbers. It was outstanding, and it did not even matter what mannequin it was. Each Richard Mille acquired consideration and curiosity, in a manner that appeared disparate to even Rolex and Patek Philippe.

The Richard Mille RM 27-04 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal that sold at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XIV.

Proper now, in 2021, I really feel like Richard Mille operates as a separate entity from the remainder of the watch area, reaching costs and attracting high-profile clientele in methods most different corporations could not even dream of doing.

20. We Want To Introduce Tailgating To The Swiss Public sale Scene

Auctions are thrilling. They’re additionally lengthy drawn-out affairs that jogged my memory of sporting occasions. As a spectator with none bidding energy, it feels such as you’re at an (American) soccer recreation however you don’t have any thought who you are rooting for – you are simply clapping and cheering as costs rise greater and better. And the Geneva Auctions have all of the slow-burn pleasure of the MLB postseason.

That is why, for my part, the American contingent in Geneva must introduce tailgating to the Swiss public sale scene. I would love nothing greater than to sit back on the garden of La Reserve and watch Aurel work his magic whereas cooking up some sausages and consuming a chilly one.

21. Virtually A Royal Oak File

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Only Watch 15202XT.GG.1240XT.99

I assumed, like many others, that the ref. 15202 at Solely Watch broke the document for a Royal Oak at public sale, after hitting CHF 3.1 million. Thank goodness I fact-checked myself. Actually, the document for a Royal Oak at public sale is definitely the Royal Oak Idea Black Panther Flying Tourbillon Distinctive Piece ref. 26620IO, which was auctioned off earlier this yr for charity and bought for USD $5.2 million. Danny and Nora have each weighed in on the Black Panther phenomenon, in case you by some means missed that kerfuffle.

22. Being A Watch Specialist At An Public sale Home Has To Be Worrying

I can not think about how anxiety-making it should be to handle telephone bidders. You must maintain the consumer on the telephone completely satisfied and knowledgeable on what is going on on within the room, whereas additionally listening to the auctioneer and having a complete room of attendees looking at you.

Christie's Watch Specialists on the phone with bidders at Only Watch 2021.

Christie’s Watch Specialists on the telephone with bidders at Solely Watch 2021.

An enormous kudos to Bob Xue of Christie’s, Alexandre Ghotbi of Phillips, and each different specialist who dealt with every telephone bidder and consumer with aplomb over the weekend.

23. Rolex And Patek Maintain On Keepin’ On

I’ve spent quite a lot of time reviewing the record of most costly watches bought at public sale lately. The consistency of the highest 10 is outstanding. Eight timepieces from Patek Philippe, and two Rolex Daytonas. Even when you lengthen it to the highest 15, it is solely this yr that manufacturers exterior these two have damaged in, with Audemars Piguet and Philippe Dufour becoming a member of.

A Patek Philippe Ref. 2497

A Rolex Day-Date "Rainbow" Ref. 18058

What is going to it take for an additional firm to interrupt the highest 10? Who has the most effective likelihood? Clearly, if the Omega Speedmaster worn by Buzz Aldrin on the Moon ever turns up, it’ll have robust odds of constructing it occur, however the chance of that’s slim to none. May a watch from Daniels, Dufour, Journe, or Roger Smith stand an opportunity? Or maybe the Breguet No. 160 “The Grand Complication” (AKA, the “Marie Antoinette”), if it ever left the L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Artwork Museum in Jerusalem?

It is not possible to say. For now, the reign of Patek Philippe and Rolex appears safe.

Photos courtesy of Phillips, Christie’s, and the writer.