“Today, keywords in auction houses are volume, growth and online,” he said. “When you delegate your transactions to a computer, the collector who is looking to spend $50,000 or more will not buy. My ultimate satisfaction comes from doing things personally, meeting with clients and collectors face to face, touching and examining watches myself.”
In May, Phillips pulled all the stops to make its return to watch auctions nothing short of spectacular. Its watch department had closed in 2003 when Mr. Bacs, then its head of watches, left with Ms. Russo to join Christie’s. It began by selecting 60 vintage watches for a dedicated Rolex “Day-Date” sale, which reached $6.6 million. The next evening, 165 lots of varying brands sold for $25.1 million — for a total of $31.7 million.
In their May sales, Christie’s auctioned 293 lots, earning $16.4 million; Sotheby’s, 338 lots, $9.7 million, and Antiquorum, 504 lots, $6.7 million. The combined total was $32.8 million, just one million more than Phillips, which had sold the fewest watches.