How to Prepare a Luxury Watch for Auction

Watch for Auction - Rolex
Image supplied, courtesy of Rolex.

We’ve already taken a quick look at what watch buyers should look out for at auction, but what about the sellers? Are there any tips for those preparing a luxury watch for auction that could help secure a higher price when the hammer falls? Read on to find out…

Be Original

I’m not talking about your blurb in the auction catalogue. This has nothing to do with you or your personal stories about the watch unless it was owned by someone famous, or has some unusual feature like a misprinted dial or a prototype crown or so forth. What I mean is, keep your watches as true to the day you bought them as you can.

Despite the majority of the costs expended when creating a high-end timepiece being down to the quality and complexity of the calibre within, classic watches are more often defined by their outward appearance than their inner beauty.

Scars are Cool

That means you need your watch to be in good shape, but not artificially so! Dints, dings, scratches – these might seem like terrible things destined to put off any buyer, but stop and think before you remove them! Over polishing is probably the quickest way to devalue your watch. Once you’ve lost the shape, you’ve lost everything. What would a Gerard Genta-designed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak bezel be without its angles, contours, or contrasting finishes? It would be a buttery piece of metal, that’s what. No one wants to pay serious money for worn out junk.

Watch for Auction - NOMOS
Image supplied, courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte

Worse still in some cases than destroying the case, would be to destroy the dial. Dial restorers can work their magic on some of the most dreadfully sun-scorched faces, but dial restoration on a grand scale is an invasive reconstruction that leaves you with something that should mostly be regarded as new. Changing the hands should be avoided unless they are so corroded they no longer indicate the time. Remember, a purchaser can do anything you can have done to a watch pre-auction after the fact, if they do so desire.

Clean as You Like

None of the above applies to recently purchased watches that have little in the way of provenance or historical relevance. If you bought an Omega Speedmaster in the last ten years and you want to sell, by all means have it brought back to pristine condition to prepare the watch for auction. In this instance no one will accuse you of wiping away character, rather they will identify that you have presented an excellent example of an extant model for a price considerably below the retail value.

All you should do with your vintage gold mine is keep it clean (at least superficially). Stay away from ultrasonic baths for bracelets (they can wiggle loose worn pins held in place by years of useful gunk). Clean links with an old toothbrush with a little soapy water. Wipe the case with a dry cloth. If you’ve got a Perspex crystal that hasn’t been to Space, or shredded by a wall while attached to the wrist of Marlon Brando during a fistfight, use non-abrasive toothpaste and a polishing cloth to rub out some of the fine lines that hinder telling the time. But don’t go too far. This isn’t the same as renovating a house. You’re not creating a beautiful, clean, modern space in which to live; you’re a custodian of history. And history doesn’t like being rewritten.

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.

Related Blogs:
Top Five Watch Auction Tips for Beginners
The Tantalising Appeal of Pre-Owned Watches
The Importance of Keeping the Box and Papers for a Watch

About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.