Phillips Concludes a Record-Breaking Watch Auction Season


Amid global currency swings, geopolitical issues in Europe and the Middle East, and China’s clampdown on luxury gift giving, retail sales of high-end timepieces are taking a hit. The secondary watch market, however, is thriving—just ask the auctioneers at Phillips. On November 12, at the house’s Geneva watch auction, a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in rarer-than-rare steel was crowned the most expensive wristwatch in the world. “Contemporary, ‘mass-produced’ and meaningless luxury watches are suffering,” explains Aurel Bacs, cofounder of Bacs & Russo, which partnered with Phillips to produce three watch sales this fall. “Whereas vintage or contemporary meaningful watches, not mass produced but handmade in small numbers, are flying out the door.” This momentous sale was followed by a special Rolex-themed sale in Hong Kong on November 28. “Rolex has created icons—the Daytona, GMT Master, Submariner, Milgauss—names that sound like Marilyn Monroe,” Bacs says of the 38-lot sale. “It’s like a Hall of Fame, and all are represented in multiple versions.”

But as all good things must come to an end, and Phillips’s watch season concludes tomorrow with its third Hong Kong auction. Below, recaps the most interesting lots in the Geneva sale and Rolex-themed auctions and previews the highlights in Hong Kong. (