Christie’s was the first international auction house to hold an online-only sale, with the collection of Elizabeth Taylor in 2011. Since then, our online sales have become the best recruiter of new clients to Christie’s. It is amazing to think of how far we have come and how quickly technology has grown in the past seven years. Since then, the platform has established itself as an integral selling channel across numerous categories with luxury items being one of the pioneers in the space.
Our watch department began to hold online auctions in 2015 to help better reach our global clientele and to facilitate a need to transaction outside of our regular live auction schedule. We recognized that the watch conversation was shifting to digital and swiftly applied that into our sale strategy in order to adapt and service our clients accordingly. When executing these sales, we are looking at the full picture; we employ the same planning, strategy and diligence in curating online sales as we do with live auctions.
In terms of timing, our Watch Online auctions have become fully integrated to complement our sale schedules and it has allowed us to host more auctions and has given us room to experiment. A great example of the success of an online auction was the “Time for Winter” December 2017 sale. This sale was an expansive yet curated selection of 195 lots, with more than 25 watches that hammered above their high estimate. It was the highest sale total achieved (US$1.3 million) and the highest number of unique visitors for a watches online sale to date. Rolex stood out in the results but it’s worth mentioning that ladies’ watches performed above estimate as well, including a Ladies’ Cartier Tank, Reference 2442, which sold forUS$3,500 against itsUS$800 low estimate.
For a first-time buyer, participating in a live auction in person can be an intimidating process. What our online auctions help do is eliminate any hesitation and lower the barriers to entry so that people all over the world have greater access to the watches they want to learn about and collect, accompanied by the trusted expertise of our team who can guide them in making informed buying decisions.
If clients have doubts about consigning to online sales, we assure them that we use the same processes and same protections for our online sales that we do for our auction and private sales. This includes cataloging, high-resolution images, access to specialists and public previews. Our online-only platform makes us nimble and offers a much quicker turn-around — we can set up and launch a sale in a matter of weeks versus months.
In the end, what it boils down to is the assurance and peace of mind that when you buy a watch from Christie’s, you know that we stand behind every piece we sell. We have seen it, authenticated it and placed a value on it using our knowledge and expertise.
Here are a few examples of some interesting and notable lots that we’ve sold recently online.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar
We came across this very rare and coveted Reference 2438 during what we would consider the “off” season for live auctions. In the interest of time and servicing our clients, we decided to place it online during the summer sale.
Ref. 2438/1 Circa 1955
Watches NY Online July 2017
US$150,000 – 250,000
Audemars Piguet Twenty Dollar Gold Coin Watch
Having online auctions more frequently allows us to have more freedom on what types of watches we sell at all different price points. We can also experiment with theme sections and offer a more diverse selection of timepieces including traditional wristwatches, pocket watches, coin watches, desk clocks and more. This Audemars Piguet coin wristwatch realized over four times the high estimate. We believe this watch had such a strong result because of how many people were involved in our online auction.
Ref. 5610ba Circa 1962
Watches Online Auction October 2016
US$2,000 – 4,000
Cartier Ladies Crash Wristwatch
This watch was also placed online due to the timing of the consignment. It is a limited re-edition of the original Crash model. This is a highly sought-after model in the world of Cartier watches.
Watches NY Online October 2017
US$20,000 – 30,000
Rolex “Big Crown”
This is an extremely rare watch that we decided to place online because we had a similar reference (with bezel) in our NY live auction which occurred soon after this online auction. The dial has turned brown, making it more desirable for new and seasoned collectors alike. We experienced extremely competitive bidding up until the last hour for this lot, which smashed its high estimate and ultimately sold for nearly US$325,000, proving that property placed online can and will fetch prices just as high as live auction pieces.
Tropical Submariner, Ref. 6538 Circa 1957
Watches NY Online October 2017 Sale
US$150,000 – 250,000
Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon
This watch is a key example of how the online platform helps us reach a wider audience for unique pieces. We experienced interest from many different demographics and audiences that we wouldn’t necessarily reach in a live sale.
Watches NY Online March-April 2016
US$100,000 – 150,000