The following timepiece auction analysis post is by Chris Meisenzahl. He is a long-time watch enthusiast and daily Speedmaster Pro wearer. He blogs at http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/ [update 01-04-2013 - his blog moved to http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/] and can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/speedmaster.
On April 13th, 2011 Sotheby’s held its “Important Watches and Clocks” auction in New York. This auction offered a great number of items that are interesting for various reasons: antique clocks, dress watches, and some sporty models. Let’s take a look at a few of the pieces available.
After flipping through the list one of the first to catch my eye was lot #116, a 2005 Zenith from the Thierry Nataf era. The watch is a titanium automatic diver’s chronograph from 2005. Sometimes when I wonder if Nataf’s regime was real or a dream, I see a piece like this and remember. This piece interests me not because of the watch itself, per se. But rather to see how these Nataf-era pieces will hold up with respect to value. Think back to when Panerai split from Ferrari circa Spring 2010; at that point I recall seeing Ferrari/Panerai models at my local dealer steeply discounted. This Zenith was estimated at 3,000 - 5,000 USD, with the final hammer price being 5,313 USD, I’d say right on the mark. We will see how collectors view the Nataf-era Zeniths in the coming years.
[ As an aside, it seems like nearly every watch at auction is the property of a “distinguished gentleman.” Surely there’s a cad somewhere with good taste in watches. ]
Let's jump to lot #128, a Breguet Type XX chronograph from 1971. This is a traditional-looking manual-winding chronograph with three registers (goes to 12 hours), in stainless steel. While certainly more sporty than dressy, I have a soft spot for these Type XX chronos. This one was estimated at 7,000 - 9,000 USD and only sold for 6,875 USD. Slightly disappointing in my opinion. While not a Patek or rare Rolex, it's still a Breguet and a classic watch. There's definitely a bit of patina on the numerals and hands, so perhaps the condition of this specific watch had something to do with the final price?
The third watch of interest is lot #88, a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms from 2008. I love it when the original and quite rare Fifty Fathoms models appear now and then. Several years ago Blancpain reissued a modern and I think impressive variant of the classic watch that some say is more the original diver’s watch than the Rolex Submariner (a debate for another day elsewhere on aBlogToRead perhaps). While the basic Fifty Fathoms reissue is an impressive watch in its own right, this specific model (lot #88) takes it up a couple of notches. Not only is it in 18k white gold, the watch also has a one-minute tourbillon displayed through the dial. Definitely more than just a high-end dive watch, this is clearly a luxury piece. The estimate was 20,000–30,000 USD, with the watch ultimately going for 40,625 USD. Definitely an impressive showing.
While Patek and Rolex are usually draw the most attention, they are not the only names worth watching, or collecting. This small snapshot of the recent auction took a look at three of the hottest brands of the last decade: Zenith, Breguet, and Blancpain. Hopefully before we are well into the summer we can take a look some results and trends for Vacheron Constantin, Richard Mille, and Jaeger-LeCoultre.