Held on May 10, the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: One received a lot of attention because of its ensemble cast starring Aurel Bacs. The former head of Christie’s watch department completed his comeback to the auction market with a hugely successful first auction for Phillips. Ahead of Only Watch auction, which he will also lead, Aurel Bacs tells Haute Time’s Arthur Touchot how he did it. “In order to have a successful auction you need to have the following ingredients, and if one of these elements is missing, the rest is neutralized,” said Bacs:
The property needs to be interesting. It needs to be appealing to collectors. That sounds quite straightforward but actually, many watch auctions are only selling around 40 % of their lots. So you need to have really exciting property that matches what collectors are looking to buy.
Prices need to be set at a fair range. Again, it seems logical, but it’s not always the case. I’ve found great watches with estimates or reserve price that have been set way too high, and they don’t sell.
You want people to realize that you have great property at the right price. The presentation can be an exhibition, but it can also be a catalogue. Again, on and off, I see great property that is being poorly presented, which is why collectors shy away from them.
Once you have a beautiful catalogue, you need to know how to reach collectors, because catalogues that sit in at the printing presses are useless. They need to be in the hands of the right people.
This may be the biggest issue. When you connect with the market, does the market trust you with their watches and with their money? The trust factor is very important, because having great property (1), at the right estimate (2), in a beautiful catalogue (3), delivered to the right person (4), counts for nothing if that person does not trust you. So reputation comes in at the end, but it’s the most important.