Patrick Getreide on auctioning his watch collection in Hong Kong

    Why Hong Kong is attracting the world’s biggest watch collectors, and how this single-owner mega collection auction at Christie’s caused a global stir.
    Shilpa DhamijaAuthor
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    When French businessman Patrick Getreide, chose to auction his carefully compiled one-of-a-kind (OAK) watch collection, valued between $100 million and $300 million, he chose not Geneva, or New York, but Hong Kong for the sale.

    Asia has built a rich culture of collectors with its economic dynamism and substantial financial resources. For Getreide, Hong Kong was an obvious choice to connect with these collectors.

    “It is the gateway to reach collectors from not just Hong Kong, but also Japan, Singapore and China,” he told Jing Daily ahead of the auction.

    Historically, Geneva and New York have reigned as the top destinations for the most popular and record-breaking watch auctions, including Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, which sold for about $17.8 million, and the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime (6300A) that sold for approx $31 million in New York and Geneva, respectively.

    Patrick Getreide and his OAK collection. Image: Patrick Getreide and Christie's Hong Kong
    Patrick Getreide and his OAK collection. Image: Patrick Getreide and Christie's Hong Kong

    But now, the Asia-Pacific is taking over as the top spot in the watch auction market. With the completion of its recently concluded fall sale of important watches along with the sale of the first trance of the OAK collection on November 26, Christie's Asia Watches department has achieved its highest ever annual sales volume of $88 million, more than double its pre-pandemic level.

    In the first half of 2023, the Asia-Pacific alone contributed close to 50% of Christie's global watches sales, according to Alexandre Bigler, Senior Vice President and Head of Watches, Christie’s Asia-Pacific.

    Sales led by independent brands#

    Compiled over a period of nearly 40 years, Patrick Getreide’s OAK collection comprises more than 500 timepieces, including museum-quality rare watches from every prestigious watch brand an horology enthusiast can think of.

    The first part of the auction saw 139 go under the hammer in Hong Kong, achieving a total of $6,677,662 (HKD 51,810,570).

    Interestingly, watches from much younger independent brands stole the show in this auction, unlike most other popular auctions where predictable names such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet resonate the most with collectors.

    Evolution of watch collectors#

    The initial tranche of the collection included some rare timepieces from Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, but the three best-performing watches in the auction were from Akrivia, an independent brand started by a watchmaker Rexhep Rexhepi in 2012, and Voutilainen, another independent brand started by a Finnish watchmaker in 2002.

    The highest price realised was by an Akrivia stainless steel wrist watch from 2022, at $679,223 (HK$5.3 million). The third highest hammer price of $452,815 (HK$3.5 million), was achieved by a Voutilainen watch, crossing its high-estimate of $410,717 (HK$3.2 million).

    What makes these independent brands desirable to watch collectors?

    “Very few Akrivia watches are on the market,” Bigler told Jing Daily, adding that the auction represented the only opportunity for collectors to acquire exceptional pieces signed by the young prodigy, who is only 36 years old, and whose confidential annual production makes it virtually impossible to buy his pieces.

    “Even more, these are unique pieces. They are like a Rothko painting in the art world,” he says.

    Collector’s market#

    For years, Getreide stored his collection in Singapore in a private mini museum. It was only in 2021 that he decided to unveil 160 carefully selected timepieces from his large collection in a first ever display of a private watch collection by a single owner at the London Design Museum. He was also deemed as “the third most important private collector of watches ever” by Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe.

    Earlier this year, Getreide announced a staggered auction of his entire collection as he believed that now was the right time to part with some of his prized possessions seeing that the watch market had normalized after the pandemic induced slowdown.

    “For more than three decades, the world of watchmaking was relatively confidential, attracting mainly enthusiasts like myself, forming a small, dedicated community,” he says. “But in the past decade the watch collector’s market has opened up and become more democratized.”

    Will Gertirde continue to collect watches after the sale of the entire OAK lot?

    “I’m convinced that you don’t decide to stop a passion,” he says. “Even if the watches I buy are not part of the OAK collection, I will continue to acquire them.”

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