Timing right for explosion in the watch market

A Heuer Skipper watch which went for £62,000 at auction

A Heuer Skipper watch which went for £62,000 at auction - Credit: Piers Motley

Exmouth auctioneer Piers Motley writes for the Journal.

Piers Motley-Nash

Piers Motley-Nash - Credit: Piers Motley-Nash

Over the last eight years or so there has been an explosion in the Vintage Watch market, one that we have set world records in with over £500,000 of sales.

The names Rolex and Omega are known by everyone, but your old man's watch which once sold for under £100 could now be worth five figures and one that made a £5000 could be worth six figures or more. If connected to a famous name the values can be breathtaking, with the world record having been set in 2017 when Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona sold for a staggering $17.8 million!

While we have sold quite a number of Rolex including an Explorer Oyster Precision for £14,000 it is with more obscure makes we have found our best results.

In 2018 a dealer I've know for twenty years came in with a watch he had just bought at another auction room for £10.

With a little research we discovered that it was a WWII Panerai Diver's (Kampfschimmer) Watch. Dating from 1944 these Italian made watches had Rolex movements and were used by German and Italian special forces.

a WWII Panerai Diver's (Kampfschimmer) Watch.

a WWII Panerai Diver's (Kampfschimmer) Watch. - Credit: Piers Motley

Prices vary for different types and provenance. One, with documentation including photographs of the owner with frog suit on sold for nearly £100,000. Ours with its anonymous dial was bought by a UK resident for over £29,000 (inc. 21.6 per cent buyer's premium).

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Our best seller and once World Record holder was by Heuer (now TAG Heuer). Bought in 1983 for £80 from an Exeter auction room we had the honour of marketing this to a world wide audience in 2017.

The Super Rare HEUER SKIPPER 'Skipperera' was commissioned in 1967 to mark Emil Mosbacher's victory on the yacht Intrepid at the America's Cup. With only about 20 known in existence this was going to be one for the emerging collectors of this brand.

With only about 16 still known, the founder of Lotus Sports Cars, Colin Chapman, is thought to own one.

Only one example with a water damaged dial had come up for auction making £19,000, so we knew this was going to fly. With international marketing and two online bidding platforms the room was filled and telephone lines booked.

The bidding took just moments and none of the phone lines had made a bid. The hammer went down to a New York banker who, with our buyer's premium and online bidding charges, paid over £62,000. 

A week later the watch was in a taxi and delivered to the new owner who was staying at The Savoy. 
Amazingly, since the sale I've been approached by two people with examples, though we've yet to sell our second.

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