For those new to watch collecting, the first time attending an auction can be overwhelming.

Mechanical watches, fashion pieces and complication watches can make for a confusing encounter. Where to start? What to look out for? Romain Réa, watch expert and CEO of Antiquorum auction house, shares his secrets.

How to pick a watch at auction

“It’s important to choose with your eyes.” The design of the watch face, as well as its complications (any function other than the display of time), should be what influence your choice.

You must also decide whether it is a collection or an investment piece you wish to buy. “Investing means considering what the future market will look like. Will the piece still be fashionable in a few years’ time?”

Speak to specialists. Watch experts will be able to advise you on the condition of the watch, as well as the price you should be paying for it. Does the watch come with its original case? Is it still under warranty? Does the seller still have the original paperwork? These are all points to consider before placing your bid.

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You could raise the price to 10,000 straight away

How to participate in an auction

There are three different ways to take part in an auction. Provided it is safe to do so, potential buyers can bid in person in the auction house. They may also bid online, so long as they register in advance. There is also the option to participate over the phone. “Call me during the sale! I love it when people bid by phone.” Smiling, Romain Réa describes how this “is part of the auction’s charm.”

How to bid

Rule number 1: decide on a price in advance. Once the starting price has been agreed, the buyer can raise the bidding by as much or as little as they like. “Let’s say the sale starts at 5,000. When the bidding begins, if you really wanted to, you could raise the price to 10,000 straight away,” explains Romain Réa. As a general rule though, for this type of sale, bids are usually raised by 500 euros at a time.

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Auctions “are a chance to have fun,” he adds. “Most of the time when buyers miss out on a lot, they wish they had placed a higher bid and just gone for it.” Although he recommends “setting a limit” on how much you are willing to spend, it is completely normal to sometimes go over budget. However, bear in mind that after making a purchase, a 30% vendor’s commission will be added on.

Which brands are in fashion?

In much the same way as clothing, watches tend to go in and out of fashion. Cartier is one example of a brand that has recently seen a renewed rise in popularity on the market. “After going out of fashion around 20 years ago, Cartier has once again become a popular choice among watch collectors.”

Amongst the new favourites are Tudor (the sister company of the iconic watch maker Rolex) and Breguet. “For years Tudor watches never really sold for much, but now they can go for two or three times the price of a Rolex.” Swiss watch maker Gérald Genta is another name experiencing renewed success. Models such as the Royal Oak or the Nautilius are “always highly sought after in auctions.”

According to Romain Réa, another Swiss manufacturer, F.P.Journe is also currently “all the rage.” The contemporary watch maker’s popularity has been noticed by Chanel too, who have recently acquired a 20% share in the company.

On 24 January 2021, auction house Antiquorum will send 300 lots under the hammer. One of the pieces to be auctioned at the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco is the world’s most complicated wristwatch.