BY MARK KEAST

According to Christie’s watches specialist Rebecca Ross, the impact of the pandemic on the 2020 luxury timepiece market, with the suspension of modern production, has been significant (not surprising), and has led to a rise in popularity of top quality vintage watches.

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“We are in unprecedented times, and no one can predict what happens next,” she says.

Ms. Ross, based in New York, hosted one of a series of free webinars presented by the luxury auction and private sales house.

Ms. Ross’ job is to travel around, “treasure hunting” for watches to be put up for auction or private sale.

“I really do love my job,” she says. “You probably see that.”

Christie’s has a global watch department and has two live auctions per year in New York, two in Geneva, two in Hong Kong and one in Dubai. People can bid live sitting in the auction hall, over the internet, or over the phone. Thirty-five countries participate, including Canada – which ranks among the more active participants. Per watch, the sale prices range between $50,000-$80,000. Christie’s also has seven or eight online sales per year, and we have a feeling those will go up in number (currently 60% of all new buyers to Christie’s auctions came via online), as a “new normal” emerges post pandemic. Average lot value in these online auctions are between $10,000-$30,000, according to Ms. Ross.

Eighty per cent of Christie’s watch auctions are vintage, pre-pandemic.

“This is what our collectors are looking for,” says Ms. Ross, adding there will be more demand for vintage now. Buyers focus on the complications of pieces that are put up for auction (does it have multiple functions), its condition, historical aspects (the story behind the watch) rarity and style. Steel sports Rolex watches are a current trend, she says.

“In the real estate market we all know that it’s about location. In the watch market it’s all about condition,” she says.

CHRISTIE’S TOP-SELLING VINTAGE WATCHES IN NEW YORK: A PATEK PHILIPPE UNIQUE 18K PINK GOLD WRISTWATCH WITH NATURAL SEED PEARL HOUR MARKERS THAT WAS ESTIMATED TO SELL FOR BETWEEN $10,000-$15,000 USD AND SOLD AT A 2015 AUCTION FOR $437,000

CHRISTIE’S TOP-SELLING VINTAGE WATCHES IN NEW YORK: 18K GOLD SQUARE-SHAPED CARTIER WATCH THAT BELONGED TO JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS, SOLD IN 2017 FOR $379,500 USD.

CHRISTIE’S TOP-SELLING VINTAGE WATCHES IN NEW YORK: AN EXTREMELY RARE ROLEX, MANUFACTURED IN 1952, 18K GOLD AUTOMATIC TRIPLE CALENDAR WRISTWATCH WITH STAR DIAL AND MOON PHASES, ESTIMATED TO SELL BETWEEN $1,000,000-$2,000,000, SOLD IN 2018 FOR $1,572,500.

CHRISTIE’S TOP-SELLING VINTAGE WATCHES IN NEW YORK: VERY FINE AND RARE 18K WHITE GOLD AUTOMATIC PERPETUAL CALENDAR PATEK PHILIPPE WRISTWATCH WITH MOON PHASES AND BRACELET, MANUFACTURED IN 1969, ESTIMATED TO SELL BETWEEN $300,000-$500,000 USD, SOLD IN 2019 FOR $1,155,000.

CHRISTIE’S TOP-SELLING VINTAGE WATCHES IN NEW YORK: FINE AND RARE STAINLESS STEEL CHRONOGRAPH UNIVERSAL WRISTWATCH, SOLD IN 2019 FOR $10,000 (ESTIMATED TO SELL BETWEEN $8,000 AND $12,000)