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Sotheby’s Watch Sales Hit Record $109M

Space Traveller I by George Daniels was the highest seller last year, fetching $4.6 million.
Dec 31, 2019 9:41 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Sales of timepieces at Sotheby’s broke a record for the auction house, netting the highest annual total in the company’s history, at $108.7 million.

The total increased 22% year on year, and 153% over the past decade, with nearly half of lots fetching prices above their high estimate Sotheby’s said last week.

Space Traveller I by watchmaker George Daniels achieved the highest price of the year, going for $4.6 million, and setting a record price for an independent watchmaker and for an English watch. That price is more than 30 times the amount the same watch fetched at auction 31 years ago.

“This has been an historic year for our team, reflective of the ever-growing fascination with watches around the world,” said Sam Hines, worldwide head of watches for Sotheby’s. “Propelled by the sales of exceptional property, careful sourcing and fast-expanding online sales, these results prove that, for many collectors, watches transcend the pure function of timekeeping.”

The average sale value for a timepiece rose 10% year on year to $49,000, with seven watches selling for more than $1 million. Sotheby’s also noted a record 3,369 items sold in 2019, jumping 24% versus last year.

The auction house saw an increase in new buyers at its watch sales, with approximately half of participants taking part in their first auction at Sotheby’s. Buyers from 100 countries participated, a rise of 17% compared with 2018. 

Online growth of watch sales proved solid as well, with 80% of bidders participating online, and 56% of lots selling via the internet, four times more than five years ago.

Pocket watches were the strongest-performing category in 2019, Sotheby’s noted. Masterworks of Time, a collection of 800 watches to be sold over four auctions, has already brought in $15.8 million from its first two sales. That figure is above the low estimate of $15 million expected for all four sales.

“A collection such as Masterworks of Time is a barometer for the market, showing a deepening of appreciation for rare watches,” said Daryn Schnipper, chairman of Sotheby’s international watch division. “It is fantastic to see that the excitement met by a small group of educated collectors [30 years ago] has now spread to a much larger, global and transgenerational audience.”

Image: George Daniels’ Space Traveller I pocket watch. (Sotheby’s)
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Tags: Daryn Schnipper, George Daniels, Masterworks of Time, Rapaport News, Sam Hines, Sotheby’s, Space Traveller I
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