Thursday 26 May 2022

Watch Collecting - a beginner's guide

Watch Collecting - a beginner's guide

 Watch collecting can be one of the most complex of all pastimes.

Horologists study for years to learn the workings of these miniature marvels, but our guide will give you the essential info you need to know in just a few minutes.

Watch types

Omega Seamaster
The Omega Seamaster - one of the most recognisable diver's watches

Sport watches - These watches cater for the individual on the go, with special functions to meet their intended purpose. Pilot watches perform vital flight plan tasks, while diver's watches are waterproof to impressive depths and time the oxygen you have left to breathe.

Chronographs - Like sport watches, the chronograph is designed for functionality, incorporating a stopwatch function. Often there is more than one dial, recording second, minutes and hours.

Quartz watches - Quartz watches achieve the greatest accuracy, using tiny crystals that vibrate at a specific frequency. Almost all other forms of watches will lose their accuracy over time, and many cannot easily be fixed.

Mechanical watches - Mechanical watches are best loved by collectors - prized for their design, beauty and engineering. Most luxury watches, or haute horlogerie, are mechanical and the best examples feature a number of "complications": the name given to any feature of a watch that is not telling the time.

Digital watches - A modern advancement usually frowned upon by collectors, the digital watch relies on electronic drives. The first digital watch was the Pulsar from the Hamilton Watch Company, which was made in 1970 after the company designed a prototype for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Watch movement
A modern watch movement

The "movement" of a watch, also known as its calibre, is its internal mechanism, and this fascinates some collectors. Some collect purely based on the movement contained within the watch, and a collection can comprise several different watches, all with the same mechanism inside.

There are two main types of watch movement: manual and automatic. Manual requires the user to turn the crown in order to wind the mainspring for energy, while the motions of the wearer's wrist wind an automatic while it is worn. That said, there are thousands of mind-boggling variations - get researching!


For many collectors, complications - or simply, the features of a watch - make the hobby worthwhile. Watches can have hundreds of different functions, including:

·         Moon phases - a display with the current phase of the Moon

·         Sidereal time - a time scale based on the Earth's rotation relative to the stars

·         Time zones - found on world traveller watches

·         Solar time - the time based on the Sun's position in the sky

·         Equation of time - shows the difference between standard time and solar time

·         Leap year cycle

·         Zodiac signs

·         Perpetual calendar - a calendar that spans many years, providing the day of the week for future dates

·         Star charts

The tourbillon

A complete tourbillon before it is placed inside the watch case

No collector can call himself a true enthusiast without knowing the function of a tourbillon.

In short, the effects of gravity are particularly felt by the tiny mechanical parts inside a watch, and this can affect accuracy. To counter this problem, the master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet developed the tourbillon in 1795, creating a rotating cage in which the escapement and balance wheel are set.

However, a tourbillon is mainly included in modern watches as a display of the watchmaker's skill, and debate remains as to whether they ever improved accuracy.

The lingo

As with holey cheese and chocolate, the Swiss are world renowned for their watch making. As such, many horologists use original French terms when talking about their collections. Here's a few French phrases to ensure you can talk the talk:

Ebauche - the term given to an incomplete movement blank, or the individual parts of a movement that has yet to be assembled. This term frequently appears when buying spares. The timing system, mainspring and escapement are not part of an ebauche.

Etablisseur - a watch factory that produces watches by assembling pre-fabricated parts

Chablon - the collective term for a watch movement, encompassing all its individual parts

Termineur - a watchmaker who assembles watches for an etablisseur, also known as an "atelier de terminage"

The most valuable watch ever sold at auction

Patek Philippe is known for producing some of the finest, and most valuable, watches in the world. It makes sense then that the most valuable watch ever sold at auction was a one-off piece created for one of the world's wealthiest watch collectors.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication is a one-of-a-kind gold pocket watch created for the American banker Henry Graves Jr. At the time it was built in 1933, it boasted the most complications of any watch. It sold for $11m at a Sotheby's auction in 1999.

Today, it is housed in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, a mecca for dedicated watch collectors.


Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Rolex Daytona, one of the most collectible watches, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013

Many beginner collectors are drawn to the hobby by the allure of investing. Here are a few buying tips that will improve your chances of making a profit:

Buy quality - Buy the best you can afford, as only the top pieces demonstrate investment potential. Also, with a superior quality watch, you won't be disappointed even if you lose a few dollars. Stick to the best known brands, such as Patek Philippe, Rolex and Breguet, as their reputation is unlikely to fade in the minds of fellow collectors.

Buy rarity - Rarity drives the market: a watch collector will pay more for a watch that they haven't seen before, or have been unable to find.

Buy provenance - A watch can be worth thousands, but if its ownership history is uncertain, collectors are likely to steer clear. Buy boxed watches that have full documentation, and if you can find a watch worn by a famous name, you could be on to a winner.

Buy iconic - Certain watch lines will never go out of fashion, and are likely to hold their value long into the future. Think James Bond watchesRolex DaytonaCartier's TankOmega's Seamaster or the Tag-Heuer Monaco.


Below are a few useful websites to get you started, but when it comes to watch collecting, you really can't discount the value of a book. There are thousands of books on specialised subjects available, which can even form the basis of a collection on their own.

Chrono24 - Internat

Tuesday 17 May 2022

10 Most Valuable Antiques and Collectibles of All Time


10 Most Valuable Antiques and Collectibles of All Time

From a single Chinese dish worth more than $37 million to rare hunting decoys selling in excess of two-hundred thousand each, read about some of the most valuable, record-breaking antiques and collectibles ever to sell at auction. 

  • 01of 10

    Ru Guanyao Brush Washer Bowl

    Ru Guanyao Brush Washer

    A little dish like this used for washing small brushes might not look like much, but it set a world record for Chinese porcelain in 2017. From the Northern Song Dynasty, this 900 year-old dish measuring just 5.125 inches was listed as "highly important and extremely rare" in the auction catalog. 

    "Such 'Ru guanyao' wares–known for their intense blue-green glaze and “ice-crackle” pattern–are extremely rare because the kiln in China’s central Henan province had a brief production run of only around two decades," stated a Reuters report on the sale.

    After a 20 minute bidding battle, the small vessel brought the equivalent of $37.68 million in a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong. This broke the previous record held by the famed "chicken" cup set in 2014.

  • 02of 10

    Record-Breaking Persian Rug

    William Andrews Clark’s Sickle-leaf, Vine Scroll and Palmette ‘Vase’-technique carpet

    With a pre-auction estimate of $5 to $7 million, this antique rug far exceeded sale expectations. This was one of the important carpets from the William Andrews Clark estate sold at auction in 2013. The final hammer-down price, including buyer's premium, was the amazing sum of $33.76 million. 

    The rug was described by Sotheby's as follows: a Sickle-Leaf, vine scroll and palmette 'Vase'-technique carpet, probably Kirman, Southeast Persia. Condition and rarity played a part in bringing this record-breaking sum.

  • 03of 10

    Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch

    Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch
     Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

    This rare pocket watch made by Patek Philippe in 1932 broke its own world record. Known as the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication, it is named after "a New York banker who competed with the car manufacturer James Ward Packard to commission the most elaborate watch possible in the early 20th century," according to the Wall Street Journal.

    The pocket watch sold for $24 million at auction in 2014, breaking its previous record of $11 million set in 1999 as the most valuable timepiece in auction history. 

  • 04of 10

    Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina Pearl Necklace by Cartier

    La Peregrina pearl necklace

    This extravagant necklace is special for a number of reasons. First, it was made by Cartier, a name known for producing some of the world's finest and most coveted jewelry. Then you have the provenance, since it was designed for actress Elizabeth Taylor to hold a very special bauble: the amazing 16th century La Peregrina Pearl purchased for her by Richard Burton in 1969. 

    Given all that this grand piece of jewelry has going for it, it's no surprise that Christie's reported that it set two auction records: one for a historic pearl and another for a pearl jewel–bringing $11,842,500 at auction.

  • 05of 10

    Robby the Robot Movie Prop

    Robby the Robot Movie Prop

    Measuring 7 feet tall, this remarkable movie prop (sold along with its futuristic Jeep) broke a world record as the most expensive ever sold at auction in late 2017. 

    Robby the Robot, from the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet released in 1956, sold for $5.375 million through Bonhams in New York. This shattered the previous record for a non-automotive movie prop formerly held by the Maltese Falcon that sold for $4 million in 2013, also by Bonhams.

  • 06of 10

    Honus Wagner Baseball Card

    Honus Wagner Graded Baseball Card
     Goldin Auctions

    The most valuable baseball card of all time dates to the early 1900s. With only nine known to exist, Honus Wagner examples in excellent condition like this one are extremely rare and valuable. 

    This example sold for $3.12 million in 2016, breaking the previous record of $2.8 million set with a different Wagner card in 2007. Note that there are many reproductions on the market due to the high value. 

  • 07of 10

    Dracula Record-Setting Movie Poster

    Dracula 1931 Movie Poster
     Heritage Auctions

    This Dracula movie poster from 1931 broke the world record for the most expensive ever sold at auction. Heritage Auctions sold the poster in 2017 for $525,800. It is one of two of the only known surviving examples. 

    "The poster surpassed the previous auction record of $478,000, which was also set (twice) by Heritage Auctions. Heritage had just sold the only known surviving Italian issue movie poster from 1946 for Casablanca in July 2017, which matched their own previous world record from November 2014 for an only-known 1927 copy of the poster for London After Midnight," according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

  • 08of 10

    Chippendale-Style Kentucky Desk

    Broken Pediment from Record Breaking Antique Kentucky Desk
     Cowan Auctions

    Most often when antique furniture records are broken, the origin of the piece is Rhode Island, New York, or perhaps Pennsylvania. But in late 2017, an antique desk made in Kentucky took the auction spotlight.

    The elaborately-carved Chippendale-style desk made of walnut was built for Capt. John Cowan by an unknown maker. It sold for $498,750–the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of Kentucky furniture and second-highest for a piece of Southern furniture, according to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

  • 09of 10

    World Record Antique Doll

    Record-setting antique French doll by Rochard
     Theriault's Auction House

    In January of 2018, Theriault's Auction House broke a world record, selling a notable French doll. The record-setting antique doll was created by Antoine Edmund Rochard. It sold for $333,500, and will reside in the Barry Art Museum of Norfolk, Virginia.

    According to Theriault's, a leader in doll auction sales, this Rochard example "symbolizes the golden age of French dolls." It also appeals to scholars of photography and French culture and history since the breastplate of the doll was decorated with an elaborately painted necklace. Hidden inside 24 of the tiny jewels are micro-photographs depicting historic scenes in France, such as Fontainebleau, the Louvre, and the Hotel de Ville of Paris, among others. When held closely to the eye, each image is magnified 160 times.

  • 10of 10

    Carved Decoys by Important Makers

    Thomas Chambers (1860-1948), Wood Duck Drake, c. 1900
     Copley Fine Art Auctions LLC

    As part of the most successful auction of decoys ever held, the example shown here broke a record not only for this particular carver, but for any Canadian decoy maker. This Thomas Carver creation sold by Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC for $270,000.

    In the same sale, a number of other decoys broke records for their makers, 19 in all, including a John English pintail drake and Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler Canada goose, selling for $246,000 and $198,000 respectively.

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