Sotheby’s is claiming to be the highest grossing auction house in the world this year, with watches worth a total of $48 million (£36.8m) going under the hammer since January.
In a hugely disrupted calendar, Sotheby’s shifted early and urgently into weekly online sales as its physical premises were forced to close.
Its latest success was a single watch auction of a rare 1969 Rolex Daytona JPS reference 6264 in 18-carat gold that sold last week for £1,215,000.
The 1969 Rolex is named after the legendary 1970s Lotus Formula 1 livery with the black and gold of its cigarette sponsor John Player Special.
The watch sold for double its pre-sale estimate, demonstrating the lasting value locked into the most desirable Rolex references.
“Time hasn’t stopped for us this season. It has been a transformative few months. In the past couple of weeks, we have auctioned two of the most valuable Daytonas ever sold, and together with collectors, we are rewriting the rule book of watch auctions,” says Sam Hines, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Watches.
“The record-breaking sale of this Daytona JPS summarizes in many ways the takeaways of this pivotal season: the eagerness of collectors to embrace new ways to transact with us, their resolute confidence to buy and sell high-value lots online and, of course, the unabated appetite for freshness, quality and rarity. It has been thrilling for us to steer this transformation and we look forward to continuing to shape the market with collectors and sharing our passion with them in the second part of the year,” he adds.
Daryn Schnipper, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Division, says the necessary shift into online sales for even the most valuable watches proves how far the auction world has come.
“Resilience, reinvention and vision are cardinal virtues for watchmakers and have been the driver of many revolutions in the field of horology.
“In a year that has seen so many successes for Breguet, including a record for a Tourbillon by the watchmaking genius at $2m, these values were certainly present in our minds. Many myths have been debunked, in particular the assumption that historic timepieces won’t sell well online: our “Masterworks of Time” sale in June – the first ever online auction of world-class pocket watches – was 100 % sold and set some of the highest prices of the season.
“It’s been fascinating to see antique pieces generating so much passion online and on social media – further proof that historic timepieces are so relevant today. They transcend the function of mere timekeeping to tell us the history of the modern world,” he says.