How A Narrative Could Affect the Price of Watches Sold in Auction House

November 15, 2019
Ali Armansyah Rusmiputro

The auction house is very attached to the narrative. Without a narrative, auction houses couldn’t sell their items at a very high price. The examiner examines every artwork or watch sold in the auction house. They are the ones that would be giving the price for that specific item. They are not only looking for quality, but they are also looking for a story to tell to the audience so they could potentially put a higher price. People who are not into watches must be wondering how can the price be so high.

People would think, the most expensive wristwatch sold at the auction house should be the one with diamonds or gold or platinum, but that’s not the fact. The most expensive wristwatch ever sold is made from stainless steel, but why? Simple, it’s all because of the story.

People at auction house would look into the specification, year of the watch been made, and what brand, then they will look for the story behind it. The most expensive wristwatch ever sold at the auction house is not gold, diamond or platinum, it is just a stainless-steel.

A few days ago, the record was broken by the Stainless-steel Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime with a stunning $31 Million. People would think how on earth a watch could sell more than $30 million? It’s because there is a story behind it. The watch itself is already very expensive because it is the most complicated wristwatch ever made by Patek Philippe. But the story behind it is even better. This auction is held for a charity program to help people and do research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy symptoms. The founder of the auction has a son who is the victim of these symptoms, and he wants to hold a charity program by selling watches on the Only Watch Charity Auction. The fact that the sale was for charity helped boost the bidding prices, according to the auctioneers.

The second most expensive wristwatch ever sold in the auction is Rolex 6239 Paul Newman. There are a thousand of these watches, but the most expensive one is the one worn by Paul Newman itself. The Rolex Daytona that has been worn by Paul Newman is sold for $17.8 Million.

Models, references, and different colors could also differentiate the price. From all the Rolex Daytona, there is one that is coveted by watch collectors, which is the 6239 Paul Newman with “Exotic” dial. The standard watch itself is already sold for a hundred thousand dollars in the auction, and now with the help of the great name itself, the expensive watch becomes one of the most expensive.

Another example of how strong a narrative could affect the watch price is Rolex ref 5513/5517 called Milsub. It was based on the Rolex Submariner, research suggests that approximately 1200 units were delivered, from 1971 to 1979 and less than a few hundred survive today in original condition. These watches are a special request from the British Ministry of Defence, it needs some modification from the original watch for military purposes, and civilians could not buy these watches. Because the watch is rarely in great condition and a lot of it have broken and also missing, the watches that survived in excellent condition are the ones that auction house are searching. The price of the new Rolex Submariner is around $10,000. Yes, it is already an expensive watch, to begin with. But, the Rolex Milsub from the 1970s with an excellent condition is sold in the auction house for around $200,000. The watch itself looks similar, but because the British army wore it, every watch has its own stories that make each piece a treasure.

If watches sold in auction house have been polished to make them look flawless, they will get a much lower price. The buyer likes to own a watch as it is, battle-proven with a lot of stories behind it.

A good cause, a great actor, and original watches for the army. These are the narratives that define the price, and it is the job of the auction house to tell a great story. People like stories. And the auction house knows it.

So every time you find an expensive piece of work, look for stories behind it.


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