Behind The Block
Brian Cheong | 09 Feb 2018 00:30
Perazzi in action at the Hong Kong Watch Auction in November last year

When he joined the Phillips’ offices in Hong Kong in November last year, Thomas Perazzi literally hit the ground running as the auction house established by Harry Phillips in London in 1796 was about to hold the Hong Kong Watch Auction: Five.

That auction, featuring 167 timepieces, took in nearly HK$110 mil (about RM55 mil), the highest sale total for any watch auction held in Asia last year. It attracted collectors from 44 countries across six continents, including over 300 online bidders.

The highest bid went to Patek Phillipe Ref. 2523, which sold for HK22.3 mil (RM11 mil), a new record for a wristwatch sold at an auction in Asia ever. (Last year in New York, Phillips also made headlines when it managed to acquire the Rolex Daytona that belonged to Paul Newman, and it sold for a record-breaking US$17.8 mil or RM69 mil, the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at an auction.)

Clearly, the appetite for collectible watches is great, and in Asia, it seems to be growing bigger. “The Asian market is due for another growth spurt,” Perazzi said in an email interview. “Buying in Asia now represents over a quarter of all the watch sales at Phillips.”

The former head of Christie’s European Watch Department in Geneva believes that the recent success of the Hong Kong auction is reflective of this optimism. “There has been a steady growth in spend from Asian buyers since our inaugural auction of watches in Hong Kong in 2015 (the same year that Phillips opened its Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.) We achieved the highest sale total for any watch auction in Asia for three consecutive years.”