It’s a challenging time for the luxury watch market, with sales dipping in the face of the coronavirus lockdown, new product releases delayed, and trade show Baselworld collapsing. But all this doesn’t necessarily impact the secondary market, and David Hurley, executive vice president for The Watches of Switzerland Group in the United States, says that investment-grade timepieces are still much sought-after: “During Covid, it seems people have doubled down on purchases that hold and grow in value,” he says in an interview with Professional Watches. “Rolex continues to be a top performer along with AP, and Patek.”
That will come as good news to Fellows Auctioneers, which has a Luxury Watch auction in August featuring an array of timepieces, both modern and historic, from a variety of world-renowned brands. There is a current model Rolex 18ct Everose gold Oyster Perpetual Date GMT-Master II available as well as other contemporary models from Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Omega and more.
See also: Why Wristwatches Will Always Be Timeless
One of the auction highlights is a rare, complete set of WWII military “Dirty Dozen” watches, from an extensive private collection which forms a special, single lot.
The Dirty Dozen
Fellows’ Luxury Watch Sale, taking place on 24th August, contains a full set of extremely rare ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches. These historic timepieces, all designed by different watch manufacturers, were commissioned by the British Ministry of Supply for the military. They requested watches which were suitable for the Army, Air Force and the Royal Navy, with manufacturers able to produce enough quantities within their capabilities. The watches were designed and delivered in 1944 and 1945.
The Dirty Dozen watches were created in extremely limited supply, with there believed to be only 1,000 – 5,000 of the Grana watches ever designed. It is also alleged that there are only around 20 full sets of the Dirty Dozen watches in existence. This particular set will feature as Lot 169 in Fellows’ 24th August Luxury Watch Sale, with a full estimate of £25,000 – £35,000.
The Dirty Dozen watches come with a stylish box perfectly fitting all 12 vintage timepieces. The watches are all in a good condition, and they were acquired one-by-one by their owner over the period of a few years. All watches are currently working despite their age. The Dirty Dozen watch collection is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after watch sets by timepiece collectors.
The name for this set is derived from the multi-million-pound grossing film The Dirty Dozen, starring Charles Bronson and Donald Sutherland, depicting the adventures of twelve roughneck American soldiers during the Second World War.
Other highlights of the Fellows sale include a Rolex gentleman’s stainless steel Oyster Perpetual Military Submariner “MilSub” wrist watch with an estimate of £50,000 – £70,000, and an Audemars Piguet gentleman’s 18ct rose gold Royal Oak Offshore chronograph bracelet watch with an estimate of £35,000 – £45,000.
The auction will be available to view at their London office on the dates below. You can book an appointment to view via their website or by calling 02071274198.
Monday 17th August 12 noon – 7pm
Tuesday 18th August 12 noon – 7pm
(Photo ID required)
Virtual viewings are also available free of charge, by request.
Details of the Fellows auction here.
Meanwhile, Audemars Piguet’s CEO has predicted that watch retailers will not need physical stores in the future. François-Henry Bennahmias said that he was planning a “dematerialization” of retail where a bricks-and-mortar model was not needed to sell a watch.
Speaking to WatchBox, Bennahmias said that the coronavirus crisis had prompted him to completely rethink how watches and other luxury items and experiences are sold. He revealed that 40 of AP’s [Re]Master01 were bought during the global lockdown.
The [Re]Master01 sells only through boutiques at $53,100, yet somehow AP managed to sell over $2.1 million worth while its retail outlets were shut.
Since neither Audemars Piguet or its authorised dealers will sell its watches online, the sales have presumably been made by direct selling to existing customers, and delivery direct to their homes where they could not collect from stores. AP has a string of boutiques throughout Europe, the Far East and the USA, as well as franchise partners including London Jewelers, Material Good and The Watches of Switzerland Group.
Move to e-commerce?
François-Henry Bennahmias is convinced that this changed pattern of retailing will persist after lockdown, though this doesn’t necessarily indicate a move towards e-commerce.“When you talk about luxury, you want to be touched in the part of your brain where emotions are triggered. Emotions could be for a watch, a piece of art, shoes, a handbag; anything. Emotions are between people. The computer will not give you an emotion,” says Mr Bennahmias.
Commentators agree, one saying “The buying experience counts! This cannot be accomplished online… Internet sales are coldly impersonal, and they do not offer to any extent the connection a prospective client has to the brand, its quality or most importantly, the people behind the brand.”