Your Complete Guide to Luxury Watch Auction Houses

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Luxury watches are not just practical tools, they are also seen as symbols of status and elegance, and as such, have become increasingly popular among collectors and enthusiasts. Consequently, many people now look to auction houses to purchase or sell these timepieces, which are considered to be works of art. This blog post aims to provide a detailed guide to luxury watch auction houses, including their advantages, the most reputable websites, and some tips for taking part in auctions. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, this guide will assist you in navigating the complex world of luxury watch auctions.

The beginning of Auction Houses For Watches

The first recorded auction house for watches was the Stockholm Auktionsverk in Sweden, which was founded in 1674. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that auction houses began to specialize in selling watches. In 1744, Sotheby’s was founded in London, and in 1766, Christie’s was founded in Paris. These two auction houses quickly became the leading auction houses for watches, and they continue to be the most prestigious auction houses for watches today.

The importance of auction websites for buying and selling luxury watches

For several reasons, auction websites are becoming increasingly popular for buying and selling luxury watches. First and foremost, auction websites offer access to a wide range of luxury watches that may not be available through traditional retail channels or luxury watch marketplace. Auction houses often feature rare, unique, or limited edition watches highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

luxury watch auctions

Benefits of using auction websites for luxury watches

In the upcoming section, we will delve into the various benefits and advantages that come with using luxury watch auction houses, including the ability to access a wide range of rare and collectible watches, expert knowledge and guidance from professional auctioneers, and the excitement of participating in high-profile auctions that attract bidders from all over the world.

Access to rare and unique watches

Many online watch auctions do offer scarce watches for purchase. These auctions often feature vintage and antique watches, limited editions, and other unique timepieces that collectors and enthusiasts may be interested in acquiring.

Expert authentication

Not all auction platforms offer authentication services, so it is vital to be vigilant about the platform you are using.

Some auction platforms offer a free authentication service for all watches sold on their site. However, not all auction platforms offer this service. It is essential to check with the specific platform before you purchase a watch to ensure they offer authentication.

If the platform does not offer authentication, you should do your own research to make sure that the watch is authentic. You can do this by looking for the watch’s serial number and comparing it to the serial number on the manufacturer’s website. You can also ask the seller for documentation that proves the watch’s authenticity.

By being vigilant about the platform you are using and doing your own research, you can help to protect yourself from buying a counterfeit watch.

For example, Sotheby’s offers “The Authenticity Guarantee is valid for five years from the date of the original purchaser’s record of the Guaranteed Item, except as outlined in Condition 2. This guarantee applies only to the buyer and cannot be transferred to any third party.”

Transparency in pricing

If you’re contemplating selling a watch at an online auction, the fees involved are quite transparent. You may need to pay a listing or consignment fee. As a seller, you might also be responsible for covering the shipping costs to send the watch to the online auction house. On the other hand, as a buyer, you’ll be required to pay the buyer’s premium, which is an extra charge on top of the final bid. This percentage varies among different platforms. Moreover, taxes may need to be taken into account.

Convenient online bidding

Purchasing watches at auction from the comfort of your home has never been more convenient. Numerous online platforms, like eBay, offer user-friendly interfaces for bidding through their websites or mobile apps.

Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Moonphase King Gold 45mm 517.OX.0180.LR (MSRP $35,200)

Drawbacks of using auction websites for luxury watches

While luxury watch auction houses offer numerous benefits, such as the opportunity to acquire rare and valuable timepieces, there are also potential drawbacks to using these services. 

Authenticity concerns

Verifying the authenticity of a luxury watch on auction websites can indeed be challenging. The prevalence of counterfeit watches means that buyers may inadvertently purchase a fake without hands-on inspection or access to provenance documentation.

Not being able to list elsewhere

Unable to list elsewhere can disadvantage some sellers when using certain auction websites or platforms. Some platforms may have exclusivity agreements, preventing sellers from listing their luxury watches on multiple websites simultaneously. This restriction can limit exposure and potentially reduce the chances of finding the ideal buyer or achieving the desired sale price.

Unknown Buyers

Selling on auction platforms presents challenges in identifying buyers. For instance, when you’re selling luxury watches, you may not have access to the buyer’s email, phone number, or even address. You need more information to build a relationship with a potential future client, hindering the opportunity for repeat business or referrals. Auction platforms that limit contact between buyers and sellers can contribute to this disconnect and make it challenging to develop a loyal customer base.

Lost fees

When selling timepieces on certain auction platforms, if your reserve price isn’t met or the buyer chooses not to purchase the watch, you might face some financial losses. In such cases, you may lose the listing fees and the shipping cost incurred to send the watch to the auction platform. This can disadvantage sellers, as it creates a risk of incurring costs without completing a sale.

BNIB OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Sapphire New Style Clasp 310.30.42.50.01.002

Unclear return policies

Auction websites may have unclear or restrictive return policies, making it difficult for buyers to return a watch if it doesn’t meet their expectations or if they encounter issues.

Grailzee terms are very clear, “No Refunds. All Purchases made from a Seller using the Digital Service are between the applicable Buyer and Seller; for that reason, in the event, you seek a refund related to a Purchase or have any questions, you must directly contact the applicable Seller.”

Limited information

Auction websites often need to provide more information about a watch’s condition, maintenance history, or origin. Buyers must rely on the seller’s description and photos, which may not always be accurate or comprehensive

Tips for buying luxury watches at auction

Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a luxury watch, working with a reputable auction house can be an excellent way to connect with interested buyers or sellers and achieve a successful transaction. However, the process can be complex, and it’s important to be well-prepared in order to maximize your chances of success. In this section, we will provide a set of helpful tips and strategies for buying or selling luxury watches at auction, including advice on researching the market, setting a budget or reserve price, evaluating condition and provenance, and participating in auctions effectively.

Set a budget and stick to it

When buying watches at auction, it’s crucial for you to keep your emotions in check. You should determine your maximum bid beforehand, taking into account the buyer’s premium, taxes, and potential shipping fees. By setting a limit and adhering to it, you can avoid getting carried away during the bidding process and prevent overspending on a timepiece.

A Comprehensive Breakdown of Total Costs for a Winning Watch Auction Bid

After winning the watch auction for $10,000, it’s crucial to consider additional costs. The buyer’s premium can range from 5% to 20%, which equates to $500 to $2,000. Additionally, taxes in Hawaii are 4.712%, adding approximately $500 or more to the total. Don’t forget the shipping cost, which can be around $100. If you’re importing the watch from another country, import fees may be another 6-7% ($600-$700). It’s essential to account for these extra expenses when determining your budget and placing bids at an auction. The grand total price would be roughly $12,000, considering a 20% increase. However, the final cost may vary depending on the type of watch auction you participate in.

Do your research on the watch and its value

Before bidding on a watch at auction, conducting thorough research on the timepiece and its value is crucial. Ensure that you make accurate comparisons; if the watch you’re interested in comes with a box and papers, look for similar listings for sale. Avoid comparing watches from other countries or those without the same accessories. Utilize watch search engines like watchcharts.com and watchrecon.com, or browse through sold items on eBay. Examining current watches for sale allows you to better understand the market value, enabling you to make informed decisions when placing your bids.

Read the auction house’s terms and conditions carefully

It’s crucial to thoroughly read the auction house’s terms and conditions before participating in a watch auction. These terms outline the rules, procedures, and any fees associated with the auction process. Understanding the auction house’s policies will help you avoid potential issues and ensure a smooth transaction. If you find the rules unfavorable or unsuitable, it’s best to refrain from participating in that particular auction.

Ask questions about the watch and its condition

If you have the opportunity to contact the sellers directly or there is an option to ask questions, don’t hesitate to inquire about the watch and its condition. Gaining as much information as possible about the timepiece will help you make an informed decision and ensure that you’re satisfied with your purchase. This proactive approach can also help clarify any doubts or concerns you may have before placing your bid.

watch auction

Tips for selling luxury watches at auction

In this section, we will focus on tips for selling luxury watches at auction. Selling your luxury watch at auction can be a great way to connect with interested buyers and achieve a successful sale.

Know all the fees

When selling luxury watches at auction, it’s important to be aware of all the associated fees. These may include seller’s fees, which can exceed $100, as well as shipping costs and other expenses.

Reserve or Non-Reserve Auction

As a seller, it’s important to understand the difference between reserve and non-reserve auctions. In a reserve auction, you will set a minimum price that must be met in order for your luxury watch to be sold. If the bidding does not reach this minimum price, the item will not be sold. 

On the other hand, in a non-reserve auction, there is no minimum price set by you, and the highest bidder wins the item regardless of the final price. While non-reserve auctions can be riskier for sellers, as the item could potentially sell for less than its true value, they can also be attractive to buyers who may be able to purchase items at a lower price than they would in a reserve auction. It’s important to carefully consider your options and set a realistic reserve price if you decide to go with a reserve auction.

Pictures and Description

When using certain luxury watch auction services, it’s the seller’s responsibility to provide high-quality pictures and a detailed description of the watch being sold. It’s essential to provide clear pictures and a thorough description that answers any questions potential buyers may have about the watch, including information about its history, condition, and authenticity.

Choose a reputable watch auction house

Choosing the right luxury watch auction platform is crucial, as selecting the wrong one can significantly affect your chances of a successful sale. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the most well-known luxury watch auctions in the world.

Top auction websites for luxury watches

  • Timepeaks is a luxury watch auction website based in Japan. It was founded in 2014 by two watch enthusiasts, and it has since become one of the leading online auction platforms for luxury watches.
    • Monthly website traffic:50,877/month
    • Sellers Fees:3.49% (Paypal Receiving Fee)
    • Buyers Premium: Fees: 5%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Invaluable is an online auction marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of fine art, antiques, jewelry, and collectibles. Founded in 1998, Invaluable works with over 700 auction houses in 60 countries to offer its users a wide variety of items to choose from.
    • Monthly website traffic: 973,754/month
    • Sellers Fees: Auctioneer Plan (live and timed): $795 listing fee per sale, 5% commission, and a 1,250 item max.
    • Buyers Premium: ~ 10%
    • Authentication: ARTMYN-powered 5D artwork scanning and authenticating services 
  • LiveAuctioneers is an online auction company that specializes in selling fine and decorative arts, antiques, jewelry, and collectibles. Founded in 2002, LiveAuctioneers works with over 1,000 auction houses in the United States and around the world to offer its users a wide variety of items to choose from.
    • Monthly website traffic: 291,946/month
    • Sellers Fees: 1-5%
    • Buyers Premium: Fees: 5%
    • Authentication: No
  • eBay is an online auction and shopping website where millions of users buy and sell goods and services worldwide. Founded in 1995, eBay is one of the world’s largest online marketplaces.
    • Monthly website traffic:105,848,132/month
    • Sellers Fees: ~8%
    • Buyers Premium Fees: No
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Christie’s is a global auction house founded in 1766. It is one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world, and it sells a wide variety of items, including watches.
    • Monthly website traffic:658,077/month
    • Sellers Fees: 10%
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 26%-15%
    • Authentication: No
  • Watchcollecting is a 24/7 online auction platform devoted to pre-owned luxury watches of all eras. The platform offers a wide variety of watches from top brands, including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier.
    • Monthly website traffic: 9,365/month
    • Sellers Fees: 0%
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 6%, but the minimum is $500
    • Authentication: N/A
  • Sotheby’s is another global auction house founded in 1744. It is also one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world, and it sells a wide variety of items, including watches.
    • Monthly website traffic:1,407,876/month
    • Sellers Fees: 10%
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 26%-13.9%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Phillips is a global auction house founded in 1793. It specializes in selling watches, jewelry, and wine.
    • Monthly website traffic:76,994/month
    • Sellers Fees: ?
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 27%-14.5%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Antiquorum is a Swiss auction house founded in 1974. It specializes in selling watches, jewelry, and fine art.
    • Monthly website traffic:2,988/month
    • Sellers Fees:15%-10% ?
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 25%-12%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Grailzee is a new online auction platform for luxury watches. It was founded in 2022, and it is based in the United States
    • Monthly website traffic:to new to more accurate numbers
    • Sellers Fees: $99 with Reserve,$49 without Reserve (Classic Package)
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 5%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Phillips is a global auction house founded in 1793. It specializes in selling watches, jewelry, and wine.
    • Monthly website traffic:76,994/month
    • Sellers Fees:?
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 27%-14.5%
    • Authentication: Yes
  • Catawiki is a Dutch online auction house founded in 2008. It sells a wide variety of items, including watches.
    • Monthly website traffic:1,193,160/month
    • Sellers Fees:12.5% 
    • Buyers Premium Fees: 9%
    • Authentication: No

Our team of watch experts carefully selected each platform based on a thorough review of their rules and fees. We also used SEMRUSH to estimate the monthly traffic to each platform (note that this number can vary). By conducting this research, we aimed to provide an accurate and comprehensive list of some of the most well-known luxury watch auctions in the world.

In conclusion

Luxury watch auctions provide a unique opportunity for enthusiasts and collectors to acquire rare and valuable timepieces that may be difficult to find elsewhere. By choosing a reputable auction house, setting a realistic reserve price, providing detailed information, and using high-quality pictures, sellers can increase their chances of a successful sale. When buying at auction, it’s important to research the market, set a budget, and participate in auctions effectively. By following these tips, buyers and sellers alike can navigate the complex world of luxury watch auctions and achieve their desired outcomes.


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