Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin

Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin

Aurel Bacs is the wunderkind of the watch auction market. Under his 10 years as head of Christie’s watch department, the venerable house’s turnover in watches has gone from $8 million to $130 million, and from world record to world record! It was time for us to sit down and discuss with someone who has his finger on the pulse of the market, and to have Bacs’ candid views on auctions and Vacheron Constantin
 

How did you come to work in the watch auction business?

Watches have been my hobby and passion since I was a teenager, thanks mostly to my father who during the "quartz crisis" of the 1970s and 1980s could no longer find inspiring mechanical watches and thus turned to vintage. In college I studied law and business, but spent more time hunting vintage watches at flea markets, auctions and trade shows than in class. In 1994, an international auction house was looking for a young specialist and I didn’t even know anything about the job. However, I decided, "why not give it a try?" and gave up my plans for becoming a lawyer.


How long have you been at Christie’s for?

My president called me a few weeks ago, reminding me that it has been 10 years this coming June.
 

What does your job consist of as Head of International Watch department?

This may sound ironic, but I have a feeling that in many companies the higher you go, the less your job description is really what you do day by day. Often I feel this is what it must be like to be a hotel director: besides his responsibilities as manager he also greets the guests, but will also pick up a piece of paper on the floor of his 5 star hotel. He will help carrying out a bag, while at the same time he has the responsibility of running the business, the functioning and profitability and success of his hotel.

In the same way he stands for the values of his employer, and as such I like to think of myself as the warrant of these values for Christie’s. At the same time I try to be as accessible and as human as possible, internally and externally, because what we do is engage with other people for whom collecting watches is a passion. At the same time I am unforgiving when it comes to quality, be it in terms of watches or when it comes to service and professionality.
 

In the 10 years you have been at Christie’s, the auction house has gone from being a contender to the undisputed king of watch auctions. How do you explain this and what are you doing differently?

It is very satisfying to see how in the past 4-5 years we have taken off a bit like an airplane. At the beginning there is a lot of noise. The engines squeak and then suddenly it accelerates, at first slowly, then faster and faster and at one point the nose lifts, followed by the whole body. That’s how I see our watch department during the last decade. When I joined in 2003, we had to find the best photographers who had the style and designs we liked; we had to re-establish contacts with the clients and brands and all this took time.

I don’t know what we are doing differently, I certainly don’t have a magic wand but I do believe that there are key ingredients which we strictly follow: unlimited professionalism, unlimited honesty, unreserved service. When we sell a watch for CHF 50'000 and imagine what that represents - there are people who don’t make that sum in a year - and someone who entrusts us with so much money for a vintage or modern watch, he or she deserves our undivided attention and presence. Client service is something I have the highest esteem for. Finally, I think that my team and I are passionate about watches: we understand what our clients talk about, watches aren’t simple commodities for us. I personally love watches, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I can understand and share the hopes and dreams, but also the worries and fears of my clients. Obviously there is also a little bit of hard work involved!!
 

What is more complicated today, finding the buyers or the sellers?

They go hand in hand. If you have an amazing collection, obviously with the right estimates, then you will likely have the buyers. If you don’t have the right watches you can do all the marketing you want, but it won’t get you very far. But if you want to have the pieces you need to have the buyers, so it’s a circle. However, it is getting increasingly difficult to find the perfect watches, as you have more and more collectors who want the very best but less and less who are willing to part with their beloved treasures. So the gap between supply and demand is widening and this is why we have seen – even at these times of economic uncertainties –  one world record after another. Sometimes such a record may for a simple watch at CHF 20'000, a complicated piece at CHF 100'000 or for masterpieces breaking the CHF 1 million barrier! The best pieces sell, regardless of their absolute value, but the average or mediocre quality is struggling to sell even at low prices. This is why you see such watches less and less in our catalogues. Collectors have such an incredible knowledge, know more than ever before thanks to all the forums and blogs, auction catalogues and museum exhibitions.
 
You have auctions in Geneva, New York and Hong Kong. What are the differences between these markets and how do you chose which watch to sell where?

In theory there should not be any difference between the three locations, since no matter where the buyer is located, he can comfortably bid at any auction and have the watch delivered to him or her.

However, the truth is that collectors are ready to travel reasonable distances in order to attend an auction but will not systematically fly across the globe to do so. Given this understandable reality,  we tend to put a watch for auction at a location where we think the clients for it are present or attending. If I have a beautiful vintage wristwatch with a patina, I will tend to sell it in Geneva as I know this type of ageing meets most likely the European taste. If I have a diamond encrusted skeletonized watch with complications or a historical pocket watch with an enameled scene, then Hong Kong is the natural location.

New York is a fascinating melting pot: there are Americans, Italians, Indians, Chinese etc... In my humble opinion, there is not a specific style and I haven’t seen any type of watch which we couldn’t sell there. A few years ago we sold a historical Vacheron Constantin pocketwatch, made especially for Packard. Everyone told us that the watch should be sold in Geneva. Not true! It sold for US$1.8 million and we didn’t miss a single bidder.



 
Made in 1918 for JW Packard this unique piece features a chronograph, minute repeater, grande and pette sonnerie as well as a 7.5 minute sonnerie


Last fall we sold Gordon Bethune’s superb collection, which consisted mainly of vintage pieces and many experts advised us to disperse the collection in Geneva. I am sure you will remember the numerous world records we broke, in each and every category! New York is capable of surprising us season after season.

 
How has the internet and online bidding changed?

It is a fantastic 4th bidding channel for us (note: paddle, absentee, phone  and online)! What is great for our clients that they can watch the auction live, even if you are miles away. To many collectors it is the next best thing after being in the room. Interestingly, we have phone bidders who like the connection with a Christie’s staff, but who are also following the auction online. I even once had a client who was in the auction room but was bidding online via his notebook! However, our collectors will never want to miss the personal contact with our specialists before or after the auction.
 

10-15 years ago the buyers and sellers of watches at auction were mainly dealers. What is the situation today?
Going back to the 19th century, and not only for watches, the auction industry was set up to sell the possessions of privates to the public. At the time there was hardly any cataloguing done, and information or descriptions were scarce. For obvious reasons this "package" did not appeal to private buyers, so dealers would buy large portions of the sales, take their acquisitions to their shops, restore the objects and then sell to the private parties - with all the service one can desire. 

This set-up has substantially changed during the second half of the 20th century, when auction houses realized that they would need to reach out to the "end consumer" if they wanted to achieve higher prices. By introducing state of the art catalogues, top service in all internationally spoken languages and a superb retail experience, all the obstacles which kept the privates away had gone and private parties started considering auctions as their preferred way of buying antiques.

Watches are no exception. During the 1990s and 2000s we gradually moved towards a fully client-friendly environment and the private collectors felt more comfortable engaging at auction. With offices all over the world, where our clients can communicate with specialists who speak their language, our audience has multiplied. I remember the 90s where I had 50 bidders (and 40 of them were dealers!) and the 10 collectors were half-hearted, not knowing if they should bid or not. Today, we have over 1000 bidders from over 40 countries. Dealers, collectors, museums and even investment funds fiercely compete, and the great part is that since the collectors today have the same knowledge as the dealers they can bid at the same level. Actually, they can often go higher than the dealer, who needs to make a living off the piece, and today when I analyse the auction results, 80% to 90% of our watches are selling to private buyers. This explains also how we have gone from a turnover of $8 million to $130 million in 10 years.
 

What is the position of Vacheron Constantin in the auction market today?

Vacheron Constantin is not one of the “noisiest” of all auction players. 50 to 100 years ago, their production was extremely small, which means that even if you are on the market for a certain number of Vacheron Constantin watches, you can’t find them easily.
Look at Picasso and Modigliani - the latter maybe shows up at auction once a year whereas Picasso’s works are more readily available, may it be oils, porcelain, drawings etc… So, Vacheron Constantin plays a niche role, which shouldn’t prevent it from playing a prominent role just like a Modigliani, which is rarer than a Picasso.

Secondly, Vacheron Constantin is a more discreet choice. I think that there is a saying about Rolls Royce and Bentley: Rolls Royce is for those who want to show their growing success and achievements whereas Bentley is for those who already got there. The one who has a vintage Vacheron Constantin wears it for himself and not for the environment, not to impress his fellow colleagues at the board meeting.

I find Vacheron Constantin's watches to be aesthetically a bit more flamboyant, a touch more playful and of excellent quality. At the same time you can buy a lot of value with a Vacheron Constantin at today’s prices. That doesn’t do much glory for the brand but at the same time it offers great opportunities, since at CHF 20'000 you can’t acquire a complicated Patek Philippe, but can certainly bid on some beautiful pieces from Vacheron Constantin.
 
If Vacheron Constantin watches are rarer then the prices should be higher? What prevents Vacheron Constantin from attaining overall higher auction prices? 

There is a general fact, no matter if we are talking about watches, wines, art or real estate, “A good client is an educated client”. And in auctions, an educated client is a strong bidder! I think that both the brand and the auction houses should communicate and educate as much as possible. Imagine I have a Vacheron Constantin which I know has been made, for example, in 6 pieces for the Spanish market; imagine the excitement this would create if we can share this information with the market. The more information there is, the more the bidder is comfortable bidding, and I think there is not enough communication and noise around the brand, which makes people realize what a fantastic brand Vacheron Constantin is.
As an auctioneer I promote all brands, but promoting a brand doesn’t just mean “bigger pictures”. Promoting a brand means explaining it, in bringing the details forward so that the collectors can appreciate it.
 

Do you have contact with Vacheron Constantin’s Heritage department?

Yes, we have a great relationship but would I like to receive even more information! Of course, I understand that there are many reasons not to put the archives on-line for everyone to see and that’s not what I’m asking for. But maybe I am suggesting to be less discreet. We’re not taking anything away from them but on the contrary, we are a loudspeaker, but this discretion is commonly shared by many brands.
 
In the past 2-3 years Vacheron Constantin has nevertheless hit very high prices at auction, how can this affect the less complicated vintage pieces?
This can obviously have a positive impact. It’s like a train: the coaches go where the locomotive takes them. For example, when a Patek Philippe
sells for a million dollars this will not only have a positive effect on other Patek Philippes, but also on other brands such as Vacheron Constantin. Not everyone has the means or is comfortable paying a million for a watch. So, if you can’t afford a Vacheron Constantin minute repeater, you turn to a chronograph or a triple date calendar, which has the same DNA without the price tag. There is always place for a Plan B.
 

Which vintage Vacheron Constantins do you find iconic and who deserve to be in a collection?

There are 3 to 4 Vacheron Constantins I would like to have in my collection, not just because of their aesthetics or quality but because I consider them icons of 20th century watchmaking, and hence expect them to also perform on a financial level.
I consider the first Chronomètre Royal ref. 6368 or 4838 to be one of the most beautiful watches ever made by any brand! This watch is, in terms of aesthetics, quality and design just above and beyond! For me it has fantastic potential.

Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin

Another personal favourite of mine is the “Cioccolatone”, there is nothing comparable from any other brand, this massive, self-confident square watch with its stepped lugs. Be it a manual, an automatic, central seconds or triple date, it is an iconic design. This watch needs more fame, some people don’t even know it exists. A nice example shows up at auction once every 2-3 years when you have Patek Philippe 1518 or 2499 (note: vintage perpetual calendar chronographs) showing up at each auction!

Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin

For me the “Cioccolatone” triple-date moon phase can comfortably be the next watch going for over CHF 500’000 to 1’000’000! Why am I saying this? We think that in the next 10 years there will be 1000 Chinese collectors who would be willing to pay $1’000’000 for a vintage collector’s watch, but there are not 1000 watches of such quality and rarity!

There are also the minute repeaters which are amongst the most elegant and sophisticated trophy watches while remaining still affordable. Vacheron Constantin could be a fabulous performer here as the Patek Philipe minute repeaters are going for over $500’000. Other Swiss brands either didn’t make any or their production can be counted on one hand. Buy one as long as you can, for at some point the prices will fly away.

Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
Ref 4261 scan courtesy of Paul Boutros

The most undervalued pieces are currently the chronographs and triple calendars. Today these watches are selling between CHF 15’000 and 30’000. When considering that they are pieces of horological history the prices can only go up.
 

   
 
Ref 4178 Ref 4240


In your Geneva May auction there are 5 chronographs and 4 triple calendars, are they easy to come by?

No, very, very difficult. Currently, as far as I know there is no Vacheron Constantin collection “out there” for sale. If I had a collector with 50 pieces who asks you to sell his collection it would be like winning in the lottery, but there is no Vacheron Constantin collector who wants to sell.
 

How do you explain that?

If I had a Vacheron Constantin collection I wouldn’t sell either! But with my love for watches I would be a bad seller anyhow…

There is a cynical and slightly outdated 100 year old auction house rule which explains why people sell their collections: The 3 Ds: Death, Divorce and Debt!

Today it’s more human and less cynical. Collectors sell their pieces when they’re ready to move on. The truth, is that today I see more incoming collectors than outgoing collectors for Vacheron Constantin because you can have access to fantastic pieces at prices which remain affordable. So, more buyers than sellers!
 
Do you have an interest in the modern watch market?

Everything at one stage is modern. Le Corbusier and Bauhaus were at one point modern and today are considered classic. Today’s contemporary pieces are tomorrow’s vintage, and of course I’m most interested in seeing where we are heading.
 
Which modern/current Vacheron Constantins do you see being tomorrow’s collector pieces?

It is important to draw a line between what is trendy and what is classic. I don’t really like trends because trends come and go and sometimes you don’t even know why. We live in a globalized world and it is no longer enough if only a handful of Germans, Americans or Italians like a certain design or not, as today we have also the Russians, the Chinese, the Middle-Eastern or South American clients, and you need to think if the watch has a universally applauded design or a universally appreciated design. You just need to pick up the watch and look at it and ask yourself, “is it perfect? Perfect today, tomorrow or in 10 years?” If the answers are yes, then these will be the watches which will be the success at auctions in the future.

The Overseas is a great example, it is sporty yet elegant, it is not too big and I don’t see it going out of fashion. The Patrimony Contemporaine models have no expiry date and they are everlasting. That is the force of Vacheron Constantin, the brand is a bit more playful than other more strict Geneva brands but they are never fashionable or trendy. If you want to survive, be modern but not fashionable.




   
 
   

 
What do you say to people who want to know if watches can be a good investment?
I hope that the first reason why people buy collector’s watches, be at auction or retail is because they like them. A good wine should be drunk, a fine painting should be admired, and I believe that a watch should be worn and taken pleasure of. Would I want each watch to go up in value? Commercially speaking, yes of course, but I would be foolish and dangerous if I said so and I don’t say so. However, from experience, those who have been buying with their heart and soul and doing their homework have done well, and those who have bought for purely investment have not performed! The soul and heart are the best advisers when buying a watch!

04/08/2013 - 14:17
04/10/2013 - 01:21
04/08/2013 - 17:59
JB
04/08/2013 - 20:17
04/10/2013 - 01:25
04/09/2013 - 04:11
04/10/2013 - 01:27
04/10/2013 - 01:34
04/10/2013 - 01:37
WHL
04/09/2013 - 19:08
04/10/2013 - 01:39
04/10/2013 - 10:41
04/10/2013 - 05:43
Great Interview Alex!
04/08/2013 - 14:17
I've had the pleasure of meeting Aurel Bacs on several occasions and sitting with him last year at a VC dinner here in NYC.  He is interesting, engaging and highly knowledgeable, and he has some good advice for the Heritage Department.  They should be providing more information about the prduction quantity of each model and dial layout, and othr facts that wouldbe of interest to collectors.
Thanks Michael
04/10/2013 - 01:21
.
Great read, Alex. Thanks. I really have to get me a vintage VC one of
04/08/2013 - 15:04
those dayslaugh
You gotta get that Cioccolatone while you can!
04/10/2013 - 01:22
.
One of the best interviews I have read. Thanks Alex...
04/08/2013 - 17:22
...He is really enthusiastic with his responses and uses great methapors and examples.  His answers on VC would make anybody ignorant of VC want to explore VC more and fall in love with the brand.  Thanks Alex.  Look forward to the definitive VC book to be authored by you, at which time VC auction prices will go up !
WOW Kunal, thank you for the kind words
04/10/2013 - 01:22
,
Terrific interview!
04/08/2013 - 17:59
So interesting to read this perspective on the auction market for V&C.  Thanks, Alex! Robert
Glad you enjoyed the read Robert
04/10/2013 - 01:23
.
Thank You Alex and MR Bacs for the interview.
04/08/2013 - 18:34
Why no one want to sell their VC collectors is easy to find out. Even at my small level I would not sell one fo my 2 VC, I think they are worth much more that the prices they have gotten in the recent years. We are talking about the best quality watches possible along with Patek, not under. Some dials are unmatched imho, Aurel Bacs took the example of the Chronomètre Royal , which 3 hands watch can match it? I don't see one, honestly. I am biased on these two theme for sure, but still, if I take the modern 47212 (platinum perpetual calendar chronograph), what a fabulous watch and really rare. It should be imho be much worth than other example less rare on the other brand. Which owner to sell such a watch? I think no one. Just my 2 cents.
I agree with every word you say Francois
04/10/2013 - 01:24
.
Thanks Alex for this intesting interview
04/08/2013 - 19:11
"and gave up my plans for becoming a lawyer" what a wise decision (like our superstar Alex...)
It's never too late you know :-)
04/10/2013 - 01:25
.
Fascinating interview, Alex
04/08/2013 - 20:17
Thank you so much for posting it. Some very interesting observations about the market place and Vacheron's position. It would be great to meet him someday! Joseph
Merci Joseph :-)
04/10/2013 - 01:25
,
Mr. Bacs makes some great points indeed ;-)
04/08/2013 - 23:10
nt
He definitely knows what he's talking about
04/10/2013 - 01:26
M
Great interview Alex! A joy to read and contemplate
04/09/2013 - 03:23
some well thought opinions. Pure Quality and a joy to read. Best to all, Tim
Glad you liked the interview Tim
04/10/2013 - 01:27
.
Great.....
04/09/2013 - 04:11
Thanks Alex I found your article insightful and interesting. Time to start saving for a 4838!!!
Thank you Hamish
04/10/2013 - 01:27
,
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/09/2013 - 04:13
Thanks again Alex for a great post . Mr Bacs has nailed it , totally agree with his responses , Regards .
Thanks Chris and good to see you back :-)
04/10/2013 - 01:28
,
Another great, informative interview--thanks, Alex. /EOM
04/09/2013 - 04:17
N/M
Thank you Benjamin and happy you liked the read
04/10/2013 - 01:29
,
Timely and insightful interview, thanks Alex!
04/09/2013 - 04:25
Timely interview, Alex! Since the 2005 anniversary auction by Antiquorum, results of VC timepieces do not seem to reflect the quality and rarity of the brand. Of course, the economic condition of the world plays a vital part in these difficult times but other brands, particularly Patek and Rolex do not, generally speaking, encounter the relative lower prices as VC did. Perhaps more detailed research and publication of those researchs should be made readily available to enable more informed or uninformed customers appreciate the Brand. But to those VC collectors, now is the golden opportunity to get those beautiful pieces at such underappreciated prices whilst it lasts:). Thanks again for the heads up.
Congratulations Alex on this exciting interview !
04/09/2013 - 09:41
For sure, VC collectors will looooove this article. Please keep on strengthening our dreams and passion... Thanks Alex !
Merci Bernard
04/10/2013 - 01:38
M
All valid points Dmas :-)
04/10/2013 - 01:31
,
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/09/2013 - 10:08
Interesting interview and covered the questions I'd like asked..........thanks. Nice to see he's a fan of the Overseas too.
The Overseas is the model range which has been in the VC collection
04/10/2013 - 01:33
For the longest (soon 20 years) and even though it may be under the radar it is one of VC's greatest icons
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constan
04/09/2013 - 11:46
Thank you Alex for this so complete and interesting interview. Reading it I learned a lot about auctions but also about Vacheron Constantin iconic watches. I was so glad to see that the Overseas and the "Chiocolato" models are two of the future icons. I owe an Overseas and wish I could  have purchased a "Chicolato" but the price is a bit too high for me.  Your interview of Aurel Bacs ads to the prestige of VC, showing that the brand is in high demand by the "Grand Collectors", so good to know.
Thank you WHP :-)
04/10/2013 - 01:34
,
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/09/2013 - 13:13
Congratulations for this very interesting interview. More to come, please... Could we think of going to the other auction houses as well to discuss Vacheron Constantin quotes and values ? Thank you again, Berny
In terms of interviews we have covered Antiquorum and Christie's I
04/10/2013 - 01:36
Guess next is Sotheby's
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/09/2013 - 15:12
Great insights, thanks Alex!
Xie xie Jason
04/10/2013 - 01:37
,
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/09/2013 - 17:52
it's great .
Thank you and welcome to the Lounge
04/10/2013 - 01:39
M
Fantastic interview....
04/09/2013 - 19:08
Christie's has done a great job in developing the market for seconardy market watches, and Mr. Bacs deserves a lot of credit for this. I would second many of his observations about Vacheron Constantin in the marketplace, including those on individual pieces. Bill
Thanks Bill
04/10/2013 - 01:39
M
An interesting question and answer session...
04/09/2013 - 23:31
Having Mr Bacs in the 'hot chair' has to be something worth listening to and it didn't disappoint! Clearly, his ten years as head of Christie's watch department places his finger 'on the pulse' and a serious authority on the subject in question. His comments help to condition one's thoughts and aspirations. An enjoyable article in every respect. My thanks to all that made the Interview possible. Tony
Aurel Bacs really knows his subject and has an acute vision
04/10/2013 - 01:40
,
Thanks for sharing this great interview
04/10/2013 - 02:05
And I really like the photo at the top, great action shot :)
Thank you crasher :-)
04/10/2013 - 10:41
,
Thanks for this Alex
04/10/2013 - 05:43
A great insight, I thought the questions were well put and the answers candid and 'bright'. But... Does he wear a hat!? G
I asked and he replied that he did not wear one!
04/10/2013 - 10:42
.
Re: A theory on why VC doesn't do so well at auction...
04/10/2013 - 15:58
VC vintage servicing costs are too high, easily 2-4x what Patek will charge for a similar timepiece.  What Patek seems to understand is that when collectors go to auction, they bake in the cost of servicing. At current prices, servicing a vintage VC is in many cases, just not worth it. Thus, they sell for gold scrape value or not at all. While I understand the desire to make servicing a profit centre, VC might be better served to service on a break-even level, or maybe even taking a slight loss like Patek. This would in turn lift the vintage auction market and ultimately elevate the brand as a whole, more than compensating for the loss of servicing revenue.  Patek is in the position it is in today in large part because of their performance at auctions, a lesson that should not be forgotten or overlooked.
I suppose all things are relative...
04/10/2013 - 18:08
Patek's fees for servicing may be higher than VC's but not by all that much in my experience. PP's fees are not low by any means and in fact are quite outrageous for what they provide. In addition the time taken is very long indeed. But the same is true for VC and I suspect AP as well. At least VC has local boutiques and sevice centres were some work can be done at lower cost and short wait time (but not for complicated pieces which must return to Geneva). My own feeling is thaty the difference in auction prices is a reflection of marketing hype. The same is true of Rolex who for a long time, until quite recently, in fact, used ETA movements. I find Omega a superior brand but at a much lower price. Returning to VC...for instance the Malte perpetual chrono and the PP 3970 (or is it 5970) both use the Lemania movement. The finish, dial, engraving and in fact everything makes the VC watch far superior to thePP and yet the PP commands much higher value. You actually see them at auction and provate sale never unwrapped, never worn. They are an investment, not a timepiece! My 2 cents worth :-) JB
I respectfully disagree, the price of servicing at Patek, VC and AP
04/10/2013 - 23:45
are quite similar in both vintage and modern (I do not have experience with other brands) however I agree that Patek is where it is thanks to auction results but let's not forget that they have been supporting the auction market since 1989 and the Antiquorum Art of Patek Philippe auction, this shows that they are smart and did the right thing
Re: I respectfully disagree, the price of servicing at Patek, VC and AP
04/11/2013 - 14:45
It's hard to do an exact apples to apples comparison when it comes to vintage pieces, but I have heard of Patek only charging 1000-2000 CHF for servicing some of their time only watches from the 1960's while almost every instance of vintage VC servicing I've come across has come with an estimate well above 4000 CHF. It is however, relative in many ways. A vintage time only Patek might command anywhere from 7000-12000 CHF at auction while an equivalent VC would typically go for 2000-5000 CHF. Say you picked up the vintage VC for 4000 CHF and you get hit with a servicing estimate of 4000 CHF. At this point, you are paying again your purchase price to restore the VC so its price effectively doubles. 4000 CHF on an 8000 CHF Patek on the other hand, is easier to swallow psychologically. From this example, you see the hesitance many collectors have towards picking up vintage VC pieces at auction. Then there is the issue of resale. Our hypothetical 8000 CHF vintage Patek could concievably be resold for 12000 CHF fully restored. However, the 4000 CHF VC would have quite a bit more trouble finding buyers at 8000 CHF fully restored. So to support the vintage market (and the brand itself by extension), VC actually needs to initially undercut Patek on servicing costs to allow demand (and prices) to catch up. Unfortunately for VC (and everybody else), this is the way it has to be as Patek has first mover advantage when it comes to auctions having gotten that ball rolling way back in 1989.
I would need more data
04/12/2013 - 19:45
I also have a few data points and anecdotal information that is not statistically significant enough for me to say one way or the other. I've had vintage VCs where nothing was really wrong with them (just dry) and paid in the range that you say you've heard PPs being serviced for.  I've also had a few VCs that have needed signficant work that have cost me more than I originally expected, but making a new balance shaft for a 100+ year old watch, and having that watch run at chronometer-level specs is impressive. I have an uncle that only collects PPs, we have compared some servicing prices in the past and it has been awash, some similar things/services have at times been higher from VC, yet other times higher from PP.  But all within a fairly close range. All I've been able to conclude in the past was... it's all about the same when it comes to these haute de gamme Brands. BR, Dan
Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
10/15/2013 - 14:23
Great read Alex, I guess I am very late to say this but nonetheless. Thanks a lot for these articles.
never too late :-) thanks EV
05/09/2014 - 17:05

e

Re: Aurel Bacs of Christie's talks auction market and Vacheron Constantin
04/03/2014 - 12:09
I know of people that have bought watches only for the potential of making money on them. I find that really sad. I totally agree with the last section of this post which talks about buying a watch because you like it, or it's history or background!
watches are a hobby and passion I agree with you, if you make a buck then its a bonus but
05/09/2014 - 17:04

never buy as investment