Patek Philippe reaffirms its supremacy for the first semester 2017

 In The market's eye

The balance of power among the two leading brands, Patek Philippe and Rolex, was respected for the first half of 2017. The star of watch auctions is undoubtedly Patek Philippe which remains the strongest value over all these last years in the world of auctioneers. Rolex has nevertheless achieved amazing results which have marked the spirits.

Although Rolex has seen spectacular price surges as well as a profusion of variants and models on the auction market, especially in the field of sports watches, notably Geneva sales, the fact remains that Patek Philippe is the champion in any categories for each capital.

It is not surprising that Patek Philippe titled his latest exhibition in New York, “The Art of Watches”, which perfectly symbolizes the brand now elevated to the rank of artwork on art market. If Rolex is the equivalent of “Ferrari” in the automobile world, Patek Philippe watches are the equivalent of “Picasso” in the art world.

So difficult to compare these two famous brands, so much the philosophy of each one is diametrically opposed in the appreciation of the brand’s values: Rolex for records and self-achievements, Patek Philippe for transmission of values from watchmaking heritage. Only excellence brings them together and no one can deny the quality of manufacturing of one or the other, without forgetting the diversity of models that have been the delight of all collectors for so many years.

But beyond the brand, there are also market trends that attract an increasingly geek audience, attracted more and more towards different sports models at the expense of watches with complications, but both are perfectly complementary. It is not enough to oppose one another, it is necessary above all to see in these two brands a perfect complementarity in the vintage market. Patek Philippe Vs. Rolex: the dream match point between Haute Horlogerie giants.

Only quality, rarity and provenance criteria prevail today, and regardless of the results obtained at any auction houses, record prices confirm and amplify this trend among vintage collectors. If the brand is the discriminating criterion, the watch must be in a state close to perfection to find favor in the eyes of a few billionaires and watch fans, which make the auction flourish, especially in Geneva, the unique rendezvous of the watch market.

In this game, Phillips auction house is alone in its ivory tower under the watchful eye of Aurel Bacs, who as usual always finds the right tempo to impose his rhythm at the Geneva auction festival. In recent years, he has implemented this strategy, which consists in taking only a few watches, but most often in an impeccable state, which is bearing fruit after sales with only two centers in Geneva and Hong Kong.

But soon a new center in New York will open its doors for Phillips next October with the inaugural sale including the famous Rolex Daytona “Paul Nemwan” from Mr Paul Newman. More than an icon, a symbol that summarizes the market of vintage wristwatches since its first appearance in the early 80’s. A case to follow that is likely to mark an important step in the history of watch auction world, probably a next world record in perspective.


GR / USD Geneva New York Hong Kong TOTAL
Antiquorum 9 889 660 6 316 608 2 174 449 18 380 717
Sotheby’s 3 486 607 7 433 501 7 431 122 18 351 230
Christie’s 16 645 006 15 386 812 12 031 062 44 062 880
Phillips 33 826 949 13 701 893 47 528 842
TOTAL 63 848 322 29 136 921 35 338 526 128 323 669

In total, Phillips led the year with a turnover of $ 47,528,842, of which the product in Geneva at $ 33,826,949 is almost two-thirds. In other words, the building is held mainly with Geneva, which is the unavoidable center of this association between Bacs & Russo and Phillips. Phillips retains his crown and adds a new world record to his array with the famous Rolex Bao at more than 5 million Swiss francs.

But his rival Christie’s came just behind, having nevertheless realized a superb season and confirms once again his position of challenger No. 1, ahead even in the field of Patek Philippe records at the beginning of the year. When it comes to Patek Philippe records, Christie’s international director is on the top of the podium and is one of the experts in the field, and his knowledge of the market added to Christie’s network, especially in Geneva, allowed to win the best Patek Philippe bid as well as to position itself just slightly behind Phillips with a turnover of $ 44 062 880.

Professionalism in the specialty honors the world’s leading auction house. Sales across all continents in Geneva, New York, Hong Kong and Dubai are showing solid and consistent results. There is no doubt that this work bore fruit with the highest bid of the season for a Patek Philippe, reference 2497 belonging to the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, which sold almost 3 million Swiss francs. The highest price at the beginning of the year for a Patek Philippe, which was usually reserved for Phillips, who this year had more modest results compared to his challenger Christie’s.

In the international auction world, on the other hand, Antiquorum and Sotheby’s are far behind with a combined turnover of $ 18,380,717 and $ 18,351,230 on the three major capitals respectively. Adding London’s sales to Sotheby’s, Christie’s rival in the art market in general, arrives still behind Antiquorum with more than $ 20 million, if we take the last auction of Antiquorum in Monaco associated with local player Monaco Motor Legend, demonstrating a difficult start to the season compared to the two leaders. It is a fact that sales at Sotheby’s are not up to the reputation of this auction house, which nonetheless had the world record all categories for the Graves in 2014 in Geneva. Since then, there is no doubt that Sotheby’s is looking for a new lease of life and hope that it will soon return to the highest level.

For its part, Antiquorum seems to have stabilized its results with a good sale in Geneva, two solid sales in New York but a sharp decline in sales from Hong Kong. As we mentioned in our previous articles, the Antiquorum auction house operates with two different entities, one in New York in .com and the other in Geneva with .swiss, which also complicates the perception of the brand for buyers and sellers. But given the figures in the last table, it is slightly ahead of Sotheby’s if we keep to the three big sales of the beginning of the season, which is an encouraging sign, seeing evocative trends in the auction market at the beginning of the season.

If one looks by capital, Geneva is always on the first step of the podium with $ 63 848 222, and perfectly legitimate because being the homeland of watchmaking. Then comes Hong Kong with $ 35 338 526 and New York which maintains itself well with $ 29 136 921. All watch auctions between the big four players reported $ 128 323 669 between January and July 2017.


AP / USD Geneva New York Hong Kong TOTAL
Antiquorum 23 346 32 330 17 337 24 337
Sotheby’s 21 260 23 979 32 736 25 991
Christie’s 69 354 90 522 56 220 72 032
Phillips 152 439 48 899 100 669
TOTAL 226 399 146 831 155 192 55 757

Regarding the average price of watches sold over the same period, Phillips sold watches on an average price of $ 100,669. Christie’s was the challenger with an average of $ 72,032 per lot sold. Again, Antiquorum and Sotheby’s are way behind the first two. At Sotheby’s the average price is $ 25,991 while it is $ 24,337 at Antiquorum.

Beyond the market players, the main places for auctions retain the logical ranking order with Geneva leading over Hong Kong and New York. In these three markets, the order of arrival of sales houses differs, reflecting the dynamism between the main players in the market. If Phillips settled down as the undisputed leader in Geneva, under the hammer of Aurel Bacs, it remains that Christie’s has also imposed its rhythm in Asia with its latest sale that quasi game equal with Phillips.

Last but not least we must not forget the dynamism of secondary markets which are becoming more and more evident, taking example from the place of Dubai with Christie’s or that of Monaco with its historical player, Artcurial, the French leading auction house in the field. Finally, we should also mention a strong market player who is the specialized auction house, Dr. Crott, led by Stefan Muser, which gives rise to intense auction battles in May and November sessions in Frankfurt, Germany.

In our latest report at the beginning of the year, we took account of all sales in 2016, which does not allow for a comparison with the figures for the beginning of 2017. However, similarities are observed as the market leader Phillips confirmed his position at the beginning of 2017, likewise was the order on the podium for capitals with Geneva, Hong Kong and New York. Only one variant was the third place on the podium awarded to Antiquorum just ahead of Sotheby’s, taking the last position.


AP / USD Rolex Patek Phillippe
Geneva 92 758 138 237
New York 34 573 41 852
Hong Kong 31 665 80 017
TOTAL 52 999 86 702

Globally, trends are confirmed, Geneva remains the world capital of watch auctions and Patek Philippe reaffirms its supremacy before Rolex, a weighty challenger who nevertheless twirled the auction with this new world record last May in Geneva at Phillips.

If Phillips remains the market leader, his two best auctions of the season in Geneva for Patek Philippe were for a reference 2499 and 2523/1, where prices remained modest at 1,750,000 and 1,450,000 Swiss francs during prestigious sessions in May, much less than the most important Rolex which made between 3 and 5 million Swiss Francs.

This progress report is essential to understand the mechanisms of the watch auction industry before this summer break to start again in September with the end of the season. The program will be rich in events and we will continue to give you our market analysis while trying to better reflect the trends that confirm that the auction battle for exceptional watches will again be tough. The market has become more and more selective, only exceptional pieces are now prized and the rest gets average prices, the trend is confirmed in all areas of the art market.

Starting next October, you will be able to discover a new version of our website enriched with more detailed information to better understand the market in all its forms, including market reports for each brand, which will give collectors and the Swiss watch industry the market trends, we will also take a historical look at watch brands and look back towards watch auctions from the last century.

If the vintage trend is a reality, often difficult to apprehend from the auction mechanism, it is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the manufacture of tomorrow’s watches! Between tradition and innovation, 500 years of history are behind the never-ending story of watches! Patek Philippe being the perfect example!

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