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The end of a year always brings a plethora of summaries, tallies and outlooks, and the watch market—as in auctions—offers the same, confirming a healthy worldwide trend. Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo just announced that its 2019 watch auctions totaled $111 million, with sales opportunities smartly extending beyond the traditional venues to include digital initiatives and the launch of Phillips Perpetual, the London-based private sales platform.
“Two-thousand nineteen was an extraordinary year for Phillips’ Watch department, and we are both proud of our entire international team, as they continue to set the bar higher season after season,” shared Aurel Bacs and Livia Russo, senior consultants for Bacs & Russo, in a joint statement. “From inspiring the ways in which watch enthusiasts are able to grow their collections to championing independent watchmakers, we continue to strive to be innovators while remaining committed to offering highest quality timepieces and outstanding client service within the ever-evolving landscape of watch collecting.”
Recounting an overall sell-through rate of 96%, Phillips’ watch auctions saw some additional impressive stats in 2019, including five timepieces selling above $1 million in the New York Game Changers December 2019 watch auction, including a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in pink gold and a second series Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 in yellow gold. Other record-setting highlights include the Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803 from the personal collection of Jack Niklaus, which sold for $1.22 million and the Rolex GMT-Master, Ref. 1675, worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, which sold for $1.952 million, also at Game Changers. The sale saw a total increase of 75% from December 2018.
In total, Phillips sold 12 watches over $1 million in 2019, across sales in Geneva, Hong Kong and New York, with Patek Philippe and Rolex leading the pack. In Asia, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo achieved an annual total of HK$330 million, which reflected a 40% increase over the previous year.
In testament to Phillips’ championing of independent watchmaking brands, a new record was set for Urwerk: the Atomic Mechanical Control and paired wristwatch garnered $2.9 million at the New York Game Changers auction; this set a new world record price for a watch made by an independent watchmaker. In a similar vein, the Geneva Watch Auction Nine garnered $2,391,444 for a pocket watch by independent watchmaker George Daniels.
In further support of independent watchmakers, Phillips hosted Independent’s Day in Geneva in May. This exhibition offered a stellar opportunity for attendees to view the creations of 13 independent watchmakers, including Philippe Dufour’s tryptic: Simplicity, Duality and Grande Sonnerie; unique timepieces by F. P. Journe; prototypes by Charles Frodsham and; and the worldtime wristwatch prototype by Louis Cottier.
On the Digital Front
Not surprisingly, digital growth was high on the list of goals for 2019, with investment being made in this arena. Global online registrants, hailing from 75 countries, were up 80% over the previous year. And the total number of lots sold to online bidders was up 50% from 2018.