While lunching with a clever friend, he let me in on a few secrets about buying watches at auction. We're not talking about eBay here, but at the likes of established auction houses.
Intrigued, we met with Sotheby's Australia's head of jewels Hamish Sharma and vintage watch collector Chris Hilton to understand more about buying second-hand watches at auction, and to find out what you need to know to ensure you're getting value for money and not getting ripped off.
A growing market
There is high demand for watches in the global market. Internationally, Sotheby's in Geneva, London, Hong Kong and New York all have sales dedicated to watches. There's continual demand for quality timepieces in Australia, and the market is growing.
Watches are highly sought after for their collectability, as well as for their aspirational and lifestyle design features.
Sotheby's Australia attracts a broad spectrum of buyers when it comes to watches; some collectors look for rarity and provenance, others seek a vintage or period watch for fashion and lifestyle reasons.
Aspirational buyers also come to auctions to purchase a trending watch in the secondary market at a reduced price - this is a great way to get your hands on something like a Rolex Daytona.
Benefits, risks of buying at auction
At auction, a buyer can touch and feel the watch and discuss it with on-staff specialists. There's no on-the-spot sell, giving you time to evaluate your potential purchase and how much you are prepared to spend.
With auctions you also have the benefit of the catalogue. Entries provide an estimate price, so you know roughly what it's likely to go for when the hammer goes down. Catalogue entries detail what the auction house knows about the watch, including technical specification and history.
Reputable auction houses such as Sotheby's have specialists inspect all the watches, taking into consideration factors including provenance, documentation and other forms of authentication. If you're still worried, you may bring along your own watch specialist to have a look.
It's good to remember that when you're buying from a reputable auction house all items are sold via a General Conditions of Business, something you're not going to get from eBay or Chrono24.
Avoiding the infamous Frankenwatch
With vintage watches there's a chance that some parts have been replaced or gone missing. Often due to lack of available parts, the piece has evolved into a 'Frankenwatch'. If an auction specialist believes a watch has been 'frankened', they will note this in the item description and the condition will be factored into the price estimate.
Hot brands and auctions
There will always be demand for aspirational brands such as Cartier and Rolex, which are known for their craftsmanship and quality.
Sharma tells us there is strong growth in demand for men's collectable watches, including those by Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Jaeger Le Coultre, Omega, Patek Philippe and Vacheron & Constantin.
In September 2012, Sotheby's sold a rare oversize IWC Schaffhausen wristwatch from the 1940s - also referred to as the Portuguese - for $24,000. More recently, it sold a Rolex Special Edition Royal Black for $39,040.
Tips for buying at auction
Avoid beginner's mistakes, like not speaking to a consultant or conducting sufficient research. You'll find most auction houses list results from past sales online, making it easy to look up and review past entries and results, and learn more about the item you are considering.
You can register to bid in person at the sale location before the auction begins. You can also bid as an absentee, or via phone or internet.
To bid you will need to establish an account with the auction house and provide government-issued proof of identity such as a driver's license or passport. A bank reference may also be required, or a deposit. No money, no watch.
Costs and fees
Obviously it does not cost to bid, but should you be successful and land that dream watch, you'll be looking at paying a 'buyer's premium' of 22 per cent (plus GST) on top of the final auction price.
Be aware that some items may have additional GST, but in the secondary market most items are sold without GST on the hammer price.
If you want to bust out the Black Amex to pay for your watch there will be the usual fees, however most auction houses accept direct funds transfer, bank cheques and cash without any extra sting.
Sharma tells us there's some great new Cartier watches coming up soon from a retailer who's no longer stocking the brand – this could be a great opportunity to try your hand at buying a watch at auction.
D'Marge is one of Australia's most popular men's style and fashion blogs.