Watches + Jewellery

Under The Hammer: Watches going once

Auction sites can be daunting but, when it comes to watches they are amazing places to pick up something unique. You just need to know how to trawl.

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There’s not much to love about the first Sex in the City film (the least said about the car crash that was the second the better), however it does give good auction. Seeing Samantha yell “50-fucking-thousand” at a Christie’s New York jewellery sale does raise a smile, which is more than could be said for the rest of the film. It's just one example of the Hollywood-isation of auctions - mini dramas where more seems to be at stake than just the item under the hammer. They are all excited flurries of paddles, competitive glares from the two last bidders, the look of dejection counterpointed with that of elation from the loser and winner; it’s enough to intimidate any auction-house virgin. Which is why online sales are gaining in popularity. There’s lots to love about going virtual. It’s the ideal place to find some really unusual styles, you can do it in your Yolke pyjamas and you won’t get caught up in a paddle war.

But how do you start? How do you know what you’re buying and where do they get the watches from? Michael Jagiela, senior watch specialist at Fellows Auctioneers, answers our questions. Happy bidding.

How do you acquire your watches?

The watches come to us from diverse sources, most exciting are watches that have been handed down through generations of the same family.

What is doing well as auction at the moment?

Vintage Rolex models always sell well, as do Omega and Cartier timepieces. At the moment, watches from the 1950s and 1960s are very popular among watch collectors. They are hard to find, especially if you are looking for an example in its original state.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to start collecting vintage watches?

I would say just buy what you like. If prices go down, up or sideward, if you buy what you personally like then fluctuations in the watch market won’t matter. Also, if you look at a watch and you’re not happy with it or the price, walk away, there will always be something else that comes up.

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What guarantees do you give?

The vast majority of our watches are second hand, they are not brand new, and as a result we put great effort into our descriptions, condition reports and photography. You should be able to see every issue so you can bid with total confidence. If there are box and papers they will be noted, we do open the case backs to check their authenticity, so we recommend the watches are resealed.

Are there any real dos and don’ts when it comes to vintage; things you wouldn’t necessarily think about when buying new?

When you purchase a watch from retail you will be guaranteed that all the components within the watch are genuine and original. This isn’t always the case with second-hand watches. Luckily, as an auction house we pay a lot of attention to aftermarket interventions and alterations. We inform our prospective buyers about such alterations ahead of each auction by being very honest in our catalogue descriptions and condition reports. Fortunately, this is only a small percent of the watches we sell therefore don’t be afraid to buy second-hand – you can purchase a watch that you have always wanted at a fraction of the retail price!


Here are five interesting buys from Fellowes’s upcoming November 26 auction

Lot 39

Breitling Callistino

Part of Breitling’s collection during the 1990s, the Callistino is no more, which makes this curio even more desirable. Apart from the name on the dial and the slightly chunky bezel there is nothing about this that says Breitling; it’s even a diminutive 28mm. What it is though, is seriously stylish.

Estimate: £300-£400

Lot 44

Bulgari Bulgari steel women’s watch

The Bulgari Bulgari, so called because the name is repeated on the bezel, has always been a design that people either love or hate. If you’re in former, then this is a wonderfully charming take with the diamond hour markers adding a touch of flamboyance to this icon.

Estimate: £750 - £1,000

Lot 232

Piaget 18ct-gold bracelet watch

Piaget make a lot of noise about their quest for thinness, but it’s the brand’s gold bracelet watches that are the real things of beauty and this amazing manual-wind design is proof.

It’s elegant, understated (despite all the gold) and, with current gold-bracelet styles clocking in at upwards of £30,000, a steal.

Estimate: £1,800-£2,600

Lot 247

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Bubbleback.

First launched in 1933, the Bubbleback in the name refers to the distinctive protruding caseback Rolex was obliged to create to accommodate the movement’s ultra-thick rotor. Rolex only made bubblebacks for about 20 years, making them catnip to collectors.

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,800

Lot 351

TAG Heuer Alter Ego

Another 1990s flash back is this Alter Ego. Launched in 1999 and with the unlikely ambassador pairing of Kristin Scott Thomas and Helena Bonham Carter, this futuristic design is unlike anything in the TAG Heuer stable at the moment. A real find.

Estimate: £300-£400

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