In the Room: Watches of Knightsbridge on film
When we see videos of auction houses, it's usually for the mega auctions where every lot seemingly breaks every conceivable record, the auctioneer switches from French to Chinese to English every other sentence with sickening ease and you get the sense that if you don't own at least one megayacht then you don't belong. Most auctions though are not like that and everyday there are hundreds, if not thousands, of lots being hammered that aren't fetching record prices and it's important to remember that.
Watch journalists , and I include myself in that description, tend to focus on those mega-auctions because six figure sums are sexy and one-of-a-kind watches make for nice headlines but that is a minority among an already small minority. For every one Rolex split-second chronograph that sells for a million dollars there is hundreds of vintage watches selling for under a thousand and that is a great thing.
Fifteen years ago no-one was paying attention to Seiko because they were Japanese, ten years ago no-one was paying attention to Heuer because they weren't Rolex and five years ago no-one was paying attention to Universal because they weren't Patek. A Wittnauer chronograph can have the same movement inside of it as a Paul Newman Daytona can and it's worth remembering that there is only one thing of importance when buying a watch: Do you like it? If not then who cares how much you paid for it?
What I like about this Watches of Knightsbridge video is that it shows the reality of the auction world. You have shots of regular people (Regular people who bid on obsolete vintage watches but still) taking wrist shots, scribbling down notes on the catalog and milling about before the auction starts. The auction room has the staff sat behind laptops, entangled cables spiralling off the table, a plastic bottle of water next to them. It's ordinary and normal and all the more wonderful because the excitement in the room is still there. The murmur as bids are raised, the hushed whispers of the phone bank relaying information and the polite ripple of gasps when a watch sells for a high price
It's still a luxury auction though and the video highlights the best sales of the past July auction; the two Blancpain Fifty Fathoms divers, the Heuer Autavia and the solid gold Rolex Daytona. These watches sold for large sums of money but when they are placed next to watches selling for only $1000 or so they seem all the more successful. Watching Mr. Bacs hammer down the 39th consecutive million dollar watch can become desensitising as you lose all context for what the value of money being spent. "Oh, that one only sold for $300,000. What a disappointment. Better luck next time".
Make sure to check out the video above to see what a real auction looks like. It was shot by Alex Stevens of Watches of Knightsbridge who I had a good chat with a few months ago about getting into vintage watches, auctions and what not to buy. Check it out at the link below.