Sotheby's Dubai hosts first watch auction - in pictures

Sotheby’s will host its first-ever watch auction in Dubai featuring 120 rare, vintage and modern timepieces

Rolex Comex Submariner, reference 16800 (circa 1984)
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Sotheby's Dubai is set to host its inaugural watch auction tomorrow, offering Middle East collectors a chance to bid for their favourite timepieces. With a total of 120 lots, the sale has been broken down into three categories of watches: rare vintage, modern complication and independent.

“Expect fresh-to-the market untouched vintage wristwatches and modern pieces in pristine quality,” says Sam Hines, worldwide head of Sotheby’s watch division. “Technical or sport vintage watches by sought-after brands, such as Rolex and Patek Philippe, perform extremely well in the Middle East; Daytonas and Submariners, in particular, are very hot.

“Demand for modern complicated wristwatches is also strong, while there is a fast-growing interest in Richard Mille, Kari ­Voutilainen, and MB&F.” He notes that independent watchmakers achieve some of their greatest prices at auction, while a quarter of the sale is made up of women’s watches.  

The modern complicated category features one of the most valuable timepieces in this auction: Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Grande Complication, which is estimated to sell for up to Dh2.2 million. The watch is a unique piece from 2002, and has never been offered at auction before. The 648-part hand-crafted timepiece is adorned with diamonds and blue sapphires, with a mother-of-pearl case, dial and bracelet.

Lot 73, Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Grande Complication

On the other end of the price spectrum, in the rare vintage category, is a Rolex Daytona, reference 6263, which comes to auction directly from the family of its original owner, an engineer from the British Armed Forces. The chronograph (circa 1973), which has light scratches on its stainless steel surface, has an estimated starting price of Dh128,500.

A Rolex Daytona. Re-sellers are coming out in droves as gold climbed for a sixth straight session to settle at $1,423.44 an ounce in the spot market in New York Tuesday. Courtesy Sotheby's

A second Rolex, which Hines lists as his favourite, is lot 108: the Rolex Comex Submariner, reference 16800 (circa 1984). “I love Rolex, so this is a personal choice. The watch is in great condition and is ­accompanied by its original accessories,” he says.

Also within the rare vintage category is the Flower Pendule Mystérieus. Cartier’s Mystery clocks created a stir when they were first produced in 1912 because the time, indicated by two rotating crystal discs, appears to “float magically in the air” without any visible mechanical means. The bejewelled vintage specimen (circa 1990), featured here is made from yellow gold, with a mother-of-pearl and crystal-set dial, and black obsidian base, and is estimated to sell for up to Dh955,000.  

Cartier Flower Mystery Clock

Among the independent watchmakers, Richard Mille is represented in the sale by a group of three watches: two limited-edition tribute timepieces from 2015 and a reference RM002 from 2007. The latter is estimated to sell for up to Dh826,000, and comes in white gold with a manual winding tourbillon movement, modular time-setting mechanism and long-lasting carbon nanofiber baseplate.

Formula One enthusiasts can look out for the two tribute timepieces, which are dedicated to Brazilian racer Felipe Massa, and are estimated to sell for up to Dh625,000. One is a pink gold and black ceramic semi-skeletonised flyback chronograph wristwatch with calendar; and the other is a titanium semi-skeletonised split-seconds chronograph, equipped with caliber RM004-V2 especially designed for the intensive environments of F1 racing.

Richard Mille RM004 Felipe Massa

The coolest-looking offering comes in the form of MB&F's HM6 from 2016, in pink gold, which was inspired by the 1980s Japanese cartoon Captain Future. This is estimated to sell for up to Dh735,000. Some of the other brands ­represented at the auction include Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Parmigiani, Ulysse Nardin, Bovet, Baume & Mercier and Graff.

MB&F HM6 in pink gold 

Demand from watch collectors has been on the rise this year. Hines notes that 2018 has been the auction house’s best year so far, with sales already totalling US$63.9 million (Dh234.7m) – a 15 per cent rise from last year’s total annual sales. The Dubai auction is one of four more sales due to be held before the end of the year. Hines says the global demand for ­exceptional watches is reflected in the Middle East. “In the last five years, the number of ­Middle Eastern bidders in our watch sales climbed by 40 per cent, with collectors from the region buying ­timepieces in excess of [Dh92m]. And almost half the Middle ­Eastern [bidders] were first-time buyers last year.”  

If this is your first auction or you’re looking to add meaningful timepieces to your collection, heed Hines’s advice of always asking for a condition report, which the specialists from the ­auction house should be able to provide and help you comprehend. “For vintage watches, pay attention to the case and check to see if it has been polished. When a case is polished, it loses its definition and becomes less valuable. Also check the dial and make sure it is original,” he says. “When buying a contemporary watch, make sure the accessories are included, such as the certificate.”

Aesthetic appeal aside, research is key when it comes to choosing a timepiece that will hold its value in the long run. Look up similar examples that have made it to auctions in the past, and compare what they sold for to the asking price of the next watch that you’d like to potentially add to your collection.

The Sotheby’s Dubai watch auction will be at the auction house’s DIFC premises on November 19, at 7.30pm


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