Time to sell that vintage watch? Demand for classic timepieces stuns at auction

Posted on 20/05/2020 in Press Coverage

If time in lockdown has uncovered a vintage watch gathering dust you could have reason to smile - it just might earn you hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Watches have been big news in the auction world in recent years but their allure never diminishes. In fact, it grows ever stronger with the passage of time.

We were reminded of that with a bang worthy of Big Ben when our online-only Silver, Jewellery and Watches Auction raced to success in May. Despite lockdown, despite worldwide recession fears, bidders were out in force and nearly every object sold.

And the glittering stars of the show were vintage watches from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even 2005. They dominated our best sellers’ list on the day, occupying five places in the auction Top 10 prices achieved, including the number one and two spots.

At number one was lot 175, an exceptionally rare, circa 2005, gents self-winding 18ct gold Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow watch which reached £12,500. Its guide price was £5,000-£8,000 so it smashed its top estimate by a hefty £4,500.

Lot 178 and Lot 175

In the number two spot was lot 178, a circa 1992 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date GMT - Master II stainless steel and yellow metal man's bracelet watch which made £5,600 from a guide price of £4,000.

Then there was lot 189, a ladies’ 18ct gold Rolex Oyster-Perpetual Superlative Chronometer watch which sailed to £3,000 and was snapped up an international buyer. Its estimate was £1,500-£2,000.

Another hit with an international buyer was lot 184, a gentleman’s bi-metal Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust wristwatch which made £2,800, comfortably above its £1,500-£2,000 estimate.

And never imagine a family heirloom from decades ago is worthless. Lot 164, a 1960s gentleman’s International Watch Company Schaffhausen Ingenieur automatic watch, with leather strap and some inevitable wear and tear, sold for £2,600 from a low estimate of £800.

These impressive results demonstrate yet again that watches are highly desirable and, thanks to a number of factors, there may never be a better time to sell.

Lot 184 and Lot 189

Buyers from America, Europe and across the UK flocked to bid on our latest collection of vintage watches – and that came as no surprise.

As well as being sought-after collectors’ items, when the pound plunged against the dollar and Euro after the Brexit vote, UK auctions became attractive hunting grounds for international buyers thanks to favourable exchange rates.Some overseas buyers were immediately paying around 20% less when buying from the UK and little has changed since.

Consequently, we have long witnessed particularly strong demand from America. As well as gaining value for money, clients like the security of buying from an auction house as the object has been checked, authenticated and, in Hansons case, can be supplied globally through our in-house postage department.

But there are other factors, too. The fast-growing pre-owned luxury watch market is part of a global surge in popularity in all kinds of pre-loved objects.

This increase has been spurred by younger, eco-conscious buyers who are opting to source pre-loved, sustainable items rather than buying new.

Plus, interest in luxury goods is as strong as ever and the aspirational goal to own a timepiece such as a Rolex is made possible by sourcing them at auction. It provides an affordable way to start a collection at entry-level prices. Keen collectors also look to auctions to find rare watches.

Rolex accounts for 80-90% of the pre-owned market. It’s synonymous with luxury and craftsmanship and is the world’s most recognisable watsch brand.

Lot 164

There were eight Rolex watches in our May sale, both vintage and more contemporary models. A vintage example was lot 193, a gents’ 1950s Rolex Royal which made £580 from a low estimate of £400.

Moving on to the 1960s, the IWC gents 1960s Schaffhausen Ingenieur automatic watch in our Top 10, which swept to £2,600, was a charming example of timeless sophistication.

Watches are not simply an instrument to tell the time. They also reflect the wearer’s personality and often demonstrate the latest innovation in technology, especially models from the 1970s, a period rich in technical advancement such as LED and LCD screens.

Lot 182 and Lot 193

For example, lot 182, an Omega Constellation Chronometer Megasonic 720Hz which employs a strange asymmetric tuning fork, made £300 and lot 181, a 1970s Omega Speedmaster 125 divers watch which used a version of Omega’s fist automatic chronograph calibre movement, made £1,450.This limited-edition model has increased in value since its initial release.

A hammer highlight from 2018 was a Tudor Rolex steel Oysterdate wristwatch which had an estimate of £3,000-£5,000 but soared to £51,100. It was bought for about £300 in the early 1970s.

In a digital age, it’s wonderful to see vintage watches become so sought after. An object that is understated, stylish and built to last will never go out of fashion.

Have a watch to sell?

If you have a vintage or designer watch and would like a free valuation, please email: [email protected].