Curating a vintage watch collection requires an appreciation for history, an eye for artistry and a generous smattering of common sense. Christie’s UAE specialist for watches since 2014, Rémy Julia’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of vintage timepieces makes him one of the region’s leading watch experts, uniting rare timepieces with collectors and travelling in pursuit of the ultimate pieces. “A new auction trend for the region is ‘vintage is king’ – or ‘queen’, since we see more and more female collectors participating in auctions,” says Julia.
1. Train your Eye.
By learning about watches you get an understanding of what ‘beautiful’ means in the world of watchmaking; a watch will not suddenly be more beautiful now than it was 10 years ago. There are rules and standards that remain fairly constant over decades of development such as the idea that a watch case should fit the movement in the closest possible way — you wouldn’t have a tiny movement in a huge watch case and consider that beautiful. A beautiful watch has some parameters such as shape, the watch casing fitting the movement, the hands, the dial…
2. Learn history.
Watches with lasting appeal tend to be inspired by history. For example, Vacheron Constantin’s ‘Les Historiques’ is about the revival of icons of their time. Or Patek Philippe, and the evolution of their perpetual calendar chronographs, which started after the Second World War, you see the same shape, the hands are the same, the casing size is not so different – there is a true continuity of design and this will be continued over time.
A rare Patek Philippe Nautilus and a Rolex Paul Newman ref.6239 are among the sought-after pieces sold at Christie’s auctions in Dubai.
2. Study the market.
When you study any Christie’s watch auction catalogues, you will realise that the watches offered carry estimates of a fraction of the retail price, unless it is a limited edition or an exceptional, unique or super rare timepiece. The final price is made in the auction room by the collector’s community and not by the auction house. A watch is clearly not an investment if it’s not bought at the right price, time and with the right appreciation and knowledge. In past years, the average price for watches offered in our Dubai auctions was rather low, just a few thousand dollars, now the average price has
jumped to $25,000. This is due to a growing client base and a steady development in taste and appreciation of vintage timepieces which elevated the Dubai offering in quality and rarity. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t watches for $3,000 in our auctions – there are – many.
Auction houses aren’t just for the wealthy, says Christie’s Remy Julia.
4. Buy vintage
The main area of investment lies within vintage watches. If you buy a new watch, the chance of making an investment is actually quite low. Only a tiny percentage of new watches could be considered investment pieces – the rest would be like buying a Range Rover: when you leave the garage, you lose a certain percentage of its value. That’s simply because there is over-supply in the market, despite brands investing in the idea that watches are investments, few will actually increase in their original retail price. For me, vintage is the only sound investment and within this category, pocket watches
especially. You can get a minute repeater, perpetual calendar pocket watch at a fraction of the price of a wristwatch.