Major auctioneer Christie's is currently running their first ever "online-only auction," "The Essential Watch Collection" These days, we're all accustomed to researching watches online, and then, very likely also buying them online. Major auctioneers have for a long time been trying to get a piece of the "eBay pie," and the plan is to approach the sale of vintage watches online by offering a curated, safe environment where watches are vetted by professionals and available through a trusted source.
Christie's isn't outright saying it, but "The Essential Watch Collection," populated with 22 watch lots is a test. For the most part, Christie's wants to determine whether there is a market to sell desirable vintage watches from popular brands such as Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe and more, online. If so, this would create a lucrative corollary business to their live auction events. This particular auction is running from October 1 - 8, 2013.
Of course, the Christie's name is world-renowned, having been established back in 1766. With that name (and heritage), we automatically assign a great level of trust that they've vetted everything that they sell. This plays in quite nicely for us watch types with their latest online auction, a collection of 22 "essential" different pieces from the 1950's through the 1980s - primarily Rolex, but also featuring Audemars Piguet, Breitling, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Movado, Omega, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. Since one doesn't have to worry too much about the trust of the seller as Christie's has a good reputation, they are hoping the focus will be on the interest people have in the watches - which are generally really good given the theme.
It is important to note that such online-only timed watch auctions aren't new. Companies in Europe such as Fellows or Auctionata have been engaged in this for a bit longer, though they seem to be a bit more focused on Europe where Christie's perhaps is able to cast a wider bidder net.
As stated, to our knowledge this is Christie's first foray into an online auction of watches and we're glad they're taking the step. We further see the move as an overall positive sign when it comes to the confidence (even in today's economy) brands have that the online auction space is an area to invest in. While venues such as eBay have been widely criticized for not offering a safe or "luxury" experience, Christie's (who has just a little bit of experience in the matter) feel that they can do better.
So what about the value of the watches? Are these the bargains you may be used to hunting for in the various forums or local antique shops? No - these seemed priced appropriately without being too high or too low - with starting bids clearly set to get attention of those knowledgeable about the pieces. That makes sense - Christie's knows their stuff, and these watches also look to be in excellent condition - much nicer than what you're going to find from most places other than a private collection sale we'd imagine.
The auction itself started October 1st, and runs through to the 8th. If you hop on over to their auction page you can check out everything that's available (some have starting bids as low as $2,000), set a "watch" (no pun intended) on those of interest to you, and see a countdown of how much time is left until the auction closes.
One potential issue with open "timed" auctions such as this is the tendency for serious bidders to only bid during the final moments of an auction. Most people will closely watch an auction all week and only bid at the very end. This is precisely what happens on eBay, and is a logical tactic for trying to get the best price. If you bid too much in advance all you are doing is giving someone else the opportunity to outbid you. That is, unless you bid so high as to thwart all the bidding competition. It will be interesting to see how these online-only auctions at Christie's handle this "sniping" phenomenon.
I, for one, am glad to see Christie's trying this out, and I hope it's a great success. If things go well, then we may just end up with another trustworthy source for those looking to add an older luxury piece to their own collection. I'm also curious - if you participate in the auction (especially if you win one), please reach out to us, as we'd like to hear how the process is from the buyer's perspective (as well as what the watch is like, of course!). Again, this is The Essential Watch Collection auction and it will go until October 8th, 2013 christies.com