Auction prices soar for watches by living artists
Prices have also gone up. WatchBox, the pre-owned retailer, said it has sold around 1,800 of an estimated 15,000 pieces made by FP Journe since its inception in 1999. And, for example, over the past five years the retailer has seen Journe watches made with brass movements – which were produced in small quantities between 1999 and 2004, such as the Octa Réserve de Marche – increase in value to $175,000 from $25,000.
For the creators themselves, popularity brought wealth and notoriety, but also conflict. “I’m happy because what I do is recognized at its fair value,” said Mr. Journe last year in a rare interview, posted online by the online site All.IC “But at the same time, I don’t like speculation too much In our stores, we make sure that our watches are acquired by collectors and not by speculators.
But buyers’ motivations seem to vary. “For serious collectors, the main driver has always been a sense of patronage: promoting living art and artists crazy enough to give up secure employment with big brands to pursue their visions,” wrote Gary Getz, a collector based in California, in an email. “For other shoppers, it’s a desire to venture beyond mainstream brands or embrace the latest trend. And for some it has become a matter of financial speculation.
Others say the explanation is simpler. “It’s easier to buy watches from new watchmakers,” said Patrick Getreide, French collector and owner of The Oak Collection, which he plans to exhibit worldwide this year. “And it’s much more complicated to buy old pieces. For those, you have to rely on an expert. With Journe, who is only 20 years old, it’s easier to get information and buy.
Some observers felt that consumer resentment also played a role. “Many customers and connoisseurs are fed up with the anonymous and often poor service of big brands, telling them they’re not good enough to buy them a watch and then charging them dearly for their watch to be repaired.” Astrid Wendlandt, founder of Miss Tweed, a Paris-based fashion and luxury media company, wrote in an email.
James Marks, international manager of second-hand store Phillips Perpetual in London, attributed what he described as rising levels of watch “purses” as a factor in recent auction results, as well as collectors’ desire for own something not only rare but also technically and aesthetically innovative. “It takes the art off the wall,” he said. “It’s been happening for a while, but we’ve never tagged it.”