Watches have been in the news lately, especially the ultra-rare, super expensive types that bring big bucks at auctions. Luxury timepieces are very hot items at auctions, which makes more watch aficionados consider bidding on a fine chronograph. While there are certainly fabulous timepieces to be found at auctions there are things the novice buyer should know before wading into these sometimes-murky waters.
Watch expert Ariel Adams gave some very pertinent advice for those considering buying at an auction in an article that appeared this week in Business Insider. Here are a few of the most important things that a new bidder needs to consider.
First, be aware that watches are not good investments. Just because you read that some billionaire in Dubai bought a rare timepiece for $7 million a few years ago and just sold it through Christie’s for $20M doesn’t mean you can get similar results, albeit on a much smaller scale. If you buy a watch that you love, consider it an emotional investment or be more realistic and call it a luxury expense, but don’t expect to be able to sell it to finance your retirement.
Next, realize that watch auctions are highly glamorized and heavily hyped. The people who do press for auctions of luxury goods know how to make every item sound fabulous, rare and likely to appreciate with time. Their catalogs are glossy collections of vivid color photos and grandiose descriptions of the merchandise. It’s the sizzle that sells the steak, so don’t let yourself be dazzled by the glitter but blind to reality.
Another good point from the article is that while the glamorous vintage watches are the ones that get the publicity for the auction, it’s the less expensive and newer used models that keep the auction houses in business. While a pre-owned watch or one that comes from unsold retail stock may not be a collector’s item, it’s much more likely to be a good value.
A newcomer to auctions needs to be aware that some watch brands secretly run up the bidding on their own timepieces via a proxy. This can artificially inflate the perceived value of the brand’s watches as well as cheating the more honest bidders.
When you read news about watches selling for millions at auction, Rolex and Philippe Patek are the two names that turn up most frequently, but watches that bring in sums like this are very rare. Actually, models by these and other luxury brands are well represented at auctions but for much more reasonable prices. These are the watches you should be looking into instead of drooling over the ones you can’t afford.
Lastly, don’t be taken in by the auctioneer’s excitement. It’s his job to make each item sound glamorous by connecting it to a celebrity or literary figure. “Owned by Brad Pitt” may mean that the director of one of his early films gave one of these watches to everyone in the cast and Pitt sold it or gave it to a friend without ever wearing it.
The most important thing you should know about auctions is “buyer beware.”