When Aurel Bacs walks into the room, there is a certain air about him — not one of arrogance but more of authority; a man who is aware that he is leaving his mark. After all, he has singlehandedly perpetuated the most significant changes in vintage-watch collecting in the past decade. He was the first auctioneer to reach out to the end client. He revolutionized the auction world by introducing a heretofore-unknown level of transparency and knowledge, and in so doing, helped build and shape vintage-watch culture. He convinced us that naturally occurring signs of age — most noticeably patina — on dials were beautiful and originality in condition vastly superseded glossy restorations. And through his mastery of all channels of communication, he made vintage watches attractive and relevant to everyone, including you and me.
Look back over the last 10 years at every record-breaking watch ever auctioned — from the CHF2.5 million paid for a Rolex split-seconds chronograph earlier this year, to the one million dollars paid for a RCO black-dial Paul Newman Daytona — and you’ll see Bacs at the auctioneer’s lectern charmingly pitting the biggest players in the room against each other, simultaneously speaking in English, Italian, French and German to the interested parties until the smoke clears, the hammer comes down and, once again, history is made.
Bacs’s status as a financial rainmaker is unparalleled. He grew Christie’s annual watch sales from USD8 million when he joined in 2003 to USD127 million when he left in 2013. Since then, he and wife Olivia have gone on to set up Bacs & Russo auctions with Phillips, and their performance has been transcendent. And now, as of May 2016, under his guidance, Phillips Watches has chalked up nearly $53M for their Spring 2016 auction season alone, making them the undisputed worldwide market leader.