As we cross the halfway point of 2016, the Swiss watch industry is stewing over a global downturn in exports. But there was room still for some exciting watch releases, and while the first-hand market squirms, vintage and pre-owned watches continue to hit records at auctions. This month we saw a frenzy of interest for antique English watches and an Artcurial sale including a 1973 Rolex Daytona made specially for the United Arab Emirates and a 1997 Panerai that sold for €96,000.
FH Mid-Year Watch Exports Figures Reveal Steep Downturn
As was predicted by many key figures in the watch industry, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH’s mid-year report has indicated a torrid six months of Swiss watch exports.
Over the past year, a handful of critical factors have come into play, including Google and Apple upping their Smartwatch game, the uncapping of the Swiss Franc in January, and the downturn of Chinese tourism to Europe and Hong Kong.
The impact has been felt by most leading names, with Richemont (parent of Cartier and others) seeing no relief despite cutting 350 jobs in February and the Swatch Group (Omega and more) suggesting first-half profits dropping over 50%.
Many leading industry figures expect to ride out the storm. Others such as TAG Heuer front man Jean-Claud Biver are looking on the downturn as an opportunity to develop smart technology.
Swiss watch industry troubles have had no effects on vintage, pre-owned and antique watch sales. After the hugely successful May Geneva Watch Auctions, this month saw two eventful sales in the name of the Sotheby’s English Watch Auction and the Artcurial Sale.
Sotheby’s English Watch Auction
On the 7th July, Sotheby’s held the second round in the pour-part auction, “The Celebration of the English Watch”. During the 18th century, when watchmaking was the forefront of technology, England led the field through names such as John Arnold, Thomas Mudge and Thomas Earnshaw.
John Arnold silver pocket watch from 1781.
The auction attracted global attention and hit some impressive sales figures. The two top lots were a John Arnold watch from 1781, a pocket chronometer in a silver case and white enamel dial, the only known example to have never been restored, which sold for £557,000, and a Thomas Earnshaw and Thomas Write gold pair cased pocket watch with a balance cock inscribed “Wright Watch Maker to the King”, which sold for £305,000.
Thomas Wright and Thomas Earnshaw Gold Pair Pocket Watch.
Rolex Pre-Daytona Ref. 6238 used by George Lazenby in the 1969 James Bond film, On her Majesty's Secret Service.
This year was no disappointment as amongst the headline lots was a Pre-Daytona, ref. 6238 Rolex Chronograph, which was the watch used by George Lazenby for the 1969 James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the watch failed to meet its reserve price other top watches exceeded theirs, including a Rolex Eagle Al Makhtoum Daytona, c1973. This iconic Rolex in immaculate shape was commissioned by the United Arab Emirates and shows their emblem, the Golden Hawk or Eagle as its known to Rolex collectors. It sold for €168,520. Other sale highlights included a 1997 Platinum Panerai Radiomir that went for nearly €100,000.
Rolex Eagle Al Makhtoum Daytona c1973.
For the complete list of sale lots, click here.
The Longines Heritage 1969
Longines have released a charming vintage-inspired cushion-cased watch based on a late-sixties piece. The Heritage 1969 has a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, a sunray silver dial, rose applied hour markers and a black alligator leather buckle.
It measures 36mm x 36 mm and it’s available in steel, yellow gold-plated steel and yellow gold. Prices start at around £1,560.
More info here.
The Piaget Polo S
The new Piaget Polo S (The “S” stands for stainless steel ) is based on Piaget’s iconic Polo model from 1979. It now comes with an in-house movement and has an air of Patek Philippe Nautlius about it. To promote their stylish new piece they have hired the trendy and popular Ryan Reynolds as a brand ambassador.
The watch comes in two different versions: the standard model, which is 9.4 mm thick and has a date window at 6 o’clock, retails at around £7,100; the chronograph, which also has a date at 6 o’clock, goes for around £9,400. More info here.
That's it for watch industry news for July, follow our magazine for more watch reviews, stories and features.