Advertisement
Singapore markets close in 5 hours 43 minutes
  • Straits Times Index

    3,453.98
    +16.72 (+0.49%)
     
  • Nikkei

    39,676.34
    +77.34 (+0.20%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    17,603.63
    -32.25 (-0.18%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    8,198.78
    +43.06 (+0.53%)
     
  • Bitcoin USD

    67,650.89
    -383.42 (-0.56%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,391.37
    -13.96 (-0.99%)
     
  • S&P 500

    5,564.41
    +59.41 (+1.08%)
     
  • Dow

    40,415.44
    +127.91 (+0.32%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    18,007.57
    +280.63 (+1.58%)
     
  • Gold

    2,398.50
    +3.80 (+0.16%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    79.95
    +0.17 (+0.21%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    4.2600
    +0.0210 (+0.50%)
     
  • FTSE Bursa Malaysia

    1,628.63
    +6.56 (+0.40%)
     
  • Jakarta Composite Index

    7,326.56
    +4.58 (+0.06%)
     
  • PSE Index

    6,694.84
    -17.21 (-0.26%)
     

After a Record-Breaking Auction, Sotheby’s Watch Department Gets a Leadership Shake Up

When Sotheby’s held its Important Watches sale in New York on June 5, Sly Stallone’s Patek Philippe Reference 6300G-010 Grandmaster Chime sold for $5.4 million in an atmosphere that bore little resemblance to the staid, conservative auctions of yesteryear. That specific sale—the highest ever for a modern watch at Sotheby’s—even upset the leadership of Patek Philppe.

“We tried to create an auction room experience—there were cocktail tables, a hot dog stand activation and champagne bottles were popping,” Geoff Hess, the house’s new global head of watches, told Robb Report days before news of his promotion, from head of watches for the Americas, was made public last week.

More from Robb Report

ADVERTISEMENT

“The watch world benefits from something other luxury categories don’t and that is an incredible global sense of community,” Hess said. “We’re going to focus on ensuring our clients not only receive great service but also on immersing them into our community.”

That statement could well serve as Hess’s mission statement as he plots the future of Sotheby’s watch auction business. Together with Sam Hines—who has returned to the auction house as the new Hong Kong-based chairman of the watches department, following a two-year stint as managing director of Loupe This, the online watch auctioneer founded by Eric Ku and Justin Gruenberg—Hess will focus on creating more events (“There will definitely be a RollieFest 2025,” he said) as well as social content.

Sylvester Stallone Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime (Ref. 6300G-010)
Hess capped off a great spring season with the sale of Sylvester Stalloone’s Grand Master Chime.

“We had not less than eight videos at our auction yesterday, helping to bring our watches to life,” Hess said.

He also referred to Sotheby’s Rough Diamonds auction in April when the auctioneer teamed with the watch magazine Heist-Out to stage a live sale dedicated to avant-garde and overlooked vintage timepieces. The location? A wine cellar in downtown Geneva.

“How fantastic that an entity like Sotheby’s would embrace the notion of bringing 200 people into a cave,” he said. “We can leverage on the down trend in prices to recognize that more than ever before clients want to enjoy the auction experience.”

Meanwhile, Hines is due to begin his role in Hong Kong at the end of June, in time for the opening of Sotheby’s new Maison at Landmark Chater at the end of July, marking the start of an exciting new chapter for the house’s operations in Asia.

“In Hong Kong, the auction business was a seasonal business — spring and fall — and the auction houses would rent the Hong Kong Convention Center for weeklong exhibitions and auctions,” Hines said. “But Sotheby’s is now opening this dedicated space so auctions will take place within the Sotheby’s home. We’ll have flexibility to hold auctions all year round. The space has many floors. There will be a retail space, a gallery space, all really groundbreaking for the Asian business.”

Cartier Tahnk Normale and Tank Louis
Hess says, “[Y]ou’d have to be living under a rock not to see the uptick in interest in Cartier.”

Hines said the changes coincide with global shifts in the watch auction world that include the emergence of a new generation of influential Asian collectors.

“Twenty years ago, the Asian market was very small compared to the U.S. or Europe,” Hines said. “But it’s growing at rates where it’s rivaling traditional selling centers. Some of the biggest buyers in the world are in Asia now. So the Asian sales are like what New York was 10 to 15 years ago.”

He also noted new opportunities to deviate from the traditional selling calendar.

“Sotheby’s management globally is looking at why do we have to sell in October and April?” he added. “If an exciting sale could take place in August, why not?”

The sales calendar isn’t the only thing up for revision. In February, Sotheby’s announced a simplified fee structure, which went into effect on May 20. Designed to attract new buyers and sellers, the house now charges buyers a rate of 20% (down from 26%) on purchases with a hammer value up to $6 million and 10% of the portion of the hammer price above $6 million, applicable to all Sotheby’s auctions globally, excluding cars, real estate, wine and spirits.

Hess said the recent New York Important Watches sale reflected the fruits of the simplified and more accessible pricing. “We had over 1,400 registered bidders yesterday,” he said, noting that the figure represented an increase of 400 registered bidders compared with last June. “That’s a jaw dropping number, meaningfully larger than five years ago. Moreover, more than one-third of our buyers yesterday were new.”

While both Hess and Hines acknowledged the recent downturn in secondary watch prices, they emphasized that it was not a reflection of anyone’s enthusiasm for watches.

“When people ask about the current state of the market, we talk about a meaningful down trend, but the reality is the fun is back in collecting,” Hess said. “I definitely see collectors embracing smaller watches than ever before. It used to be that 36 mm watches suffered a little bit because they were smaller than the 40 mm sport watches that people got excited about. Now there’s less of that. Certain brands will benefit and certain references.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini 2024
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Mini of 2024.

“And you’d have to be living under a rock not to see the uptick in interest in Cartier,” he added. “People are embracing new case shapes and smaller cases and naturally, Cartier would be a perfect fit. The brands are recognizing that, too: AP just came out with their mini Royal Oak yesterday. That’s not a coincidence.

“It’s less about a specific brand that’s hotter than others. It’s about size, shape and also price. That’s the reason why we say the fun is back in collecting. The thrill of the hunt is much more powerful now. Buyers have more choice now than they had recently. That allows you to seek out value buys and that leads to people enjoying the hobby more.”

Best of Robb Report

Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.