At first glance the Hong Kong Watch Sale: Two was an even greater success than the auctions Phillips held earlier this month in Geneva. The auction house sold HK$150 million worth of watches – almost 2/3 of the total achieved by the two Swiss sales combined – and broke multiple records, including the highest price ever paid for a wristwatch at auction in Asia for this third series Ref. 2499 featured in our preview of the sale, as well as the highest price ever paid for a Patek Philippe Reference 2523/1 World Time.
However, there was another figure, much less publicised by the auction house, which revealed that, while today’s market is more enthusiastic than ever, it is also much more selective. About 30% of the lots in the catalogue did not sell (115 out of 386), a far greater percentage than in the sales at the start of the month – Phillips sold 100% of their lots on opening night, during their themed stainless steel chronograph auction, and above 90% on the second evening, both extraordinary resutls.
While the Hong Kong Watch Sale: Two showed that collectors will continue to bid well over the high estimate for the most meaningful watches – Daytonas, GMTs and Patek Phillipe grand complications were once again strong performers, so were watches made for the Sultanate Of Oman (Lots 30, 36, 37) – many pieces failed to receive an opening bid.
“For us this was probably the most insightful
Pieces which only a few years ago fetched high prices do not generate the same excitement as they used to. This was most obvious with Audemars Piguet Offshores, which were almost all passed up, as well as well as the independents – even those with big local following such as Urwerk and Greubel Forsey.
However, the opposite was true for unique and low production modern pieces, such as Eric Clapton’s Ref. 5004, which sold well above its high estimate (Hammer price was HK$6,280,000). “Watches that are more readily available sold for less than we anticipated, while the special watches sold for much more than we thought,” said Boutros.
Somewhat more surprising were passes on Patek Philippe complications, including two World Timers (Lots 165 and 168) and two minute repeating perpetual calendars (Lots 171 and 386), while Day-Dates and DateJusts were also shunned for the most part. No interest was shown either for the two Paul Newman dials (Lots 228 and 231), which are so often auction favourites.
Several factors may explain the mixed results, including the timing of the event – collectors in Europe had to wake up at 3:30 AM to tune into the sale, while those in North America had to pull an all nighter to be able to follow it – as well as unfavorable exchange rates and additional shipping costs which added substantial costs to the final hammer price of these watches.
“When an auction house does a job correctly, it’s attracting buyers from all over the world,” said Boutros. “The time zone difference presents a challenge, but we still saw great participation across the globe, and vintage Rolex and Patek Philippe attracted winning bids from Europe, the US, Asia.”
When asked if the proximity of the auctions had any impact on the level of participation in Hong Kong, Boutros said Phillips believes there was “minimal impact,” and that clients present in Geneva also participated in the auction in Hong Kong.
The good news, on the collectors’ side, is that the combination of factors listed above opened the door for some really interesting deals, such as a pink gold and stainless steel Patek Philippe time-only with tear-drop lugs (Lot 186) which sold for under $3,000, or the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak QuantiÃ¨me Perpetuel (Lot 247) which someone picked up for approximately $16,000 (before buyer’s premium). Â And of course, overall, it’s important to note that the total over the last three auctions for Phillips is $53 million â very strong performance, market fluctuations notwithstanding.
For all the results from the auction, click here.