Phillips’ Head of Watches Hong Kong on the latest global developments

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Sam Hines, International Head of Watches at Philips on the latest developments of the sector

What is your view of the slow down in China on the overall 2015 performance of the luxury watches sector?

We no longer see the mass buying that we did in 2010 to 2013 in 2015 from the mainland for all watches of any type and price, however due to the increased knowledge with collectors, the taste has become much more refined and selective when it comes to buying luxury watches. The passion for vintage watches is also increasing with this spread of knowledge with sports Rolex watches leading this new appetite. Collectors from the mainland now have similar criteria when selecting what watches to buy as others do in different parts of the world. They look at rarity of production, complications, brand philosophies and lasting value. The mainland market has matured very quickly indeed.

Do you see any impact on the collectors’ market too?

The collectors market has not been affected. If anything, due to the volatility in the financial markets collectors are more inclined to invest in tangible objects, which can be worn and enjoyed while hopefully increasing in value.

What is the criteria for a particular watch brand to enjoy a following by collectors / investors? 

The criterion that is at the top of the list is rarity and limited production. Brands making fewer pieces that are not easy to obtain still enjoy lasting success. The philosophy of the brand is also very important. Making endless numbers of watches for profit only fall short with the market whereas brands with a love of watchmaking, attention to exceptional hand finishing and those following market trends and the styles collectors are looking for are still very much in demand.

Which are the top 5 luxury watches with the best return on investment? (Collectors’ pieces) 

I believe independent or family owned brands could provide the best return on investment. These brands monitor the secondary market and discounts are very hard to come by. The key to a brands lasting value is how much of a discount you can get at the point of sale. If big discounts are available, one should consider that the market price is much less. However, you cannot buy simply for investment. My advice to collectors is to buy what you like and by the best quality your budget can afford. Brands such as Philippe Dufour, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Laurent Ferrier and MB&F are pushing the boundaries of watchmaking and hold their value very much. Watches manufactured by George Daniels are extremely hard to come by and trade several times above their original retail price.

What is the significance of setting up a Phillips office in Hong Kong, especially given the current context?

At Phillips we want to look at the watch auction market with a new pair of eyes and a very fresh approach. Hong Kong is an externally mature and important market. Many of the world’s biggest collectors of both modern and vintage watches reside here. Hong Kong is also the gateway to Mainland China and provides a great centre for Asia due to its proximity to Japan and South East Asia. With the opening of our office in Hong Kong we want to confirm our commitment to the region and grow our business in Asia significantly.

Which are the key initiatives you will undertake this year and what are your mid-term plans? (i.e. watches) 

We will hold sales in Geneva and Hong Kong this season. We will also stage the hugely popular Only Watch auction in Geneva on November 7th.  Our main initiative is to develop the market for collectors’ watches all over the world. The majority of our team are collectors themselves so our philosophy is collectors curating sales for collectors. We will tour highlights of our sales throughout Asia, Europe and the US to allow collectors to view the watches first hand for themselves but also so that we can meet with our collectors on a one to one basis.

What is the difference between organizing an auction in Geneva versus Hong Kong? Is there a proximity factor?

The markets are slightly different however the demands by collectors are still the same. To offer the best in terms of quality, condition and rarity. In Geneva one will find the majority of lots we offer are vintage however in Hong Kong we offer vintage watches, pocket watches and contemporary complicated watches as well as jewelled lady’s watches. I think this shows the breadth of the market in Asia and the very different tastes with collectors.

 Tell us about your intentions in terms of market communications. What is your view on the efficiency of digital when it comes to such a niche sector?

Digital or social media is advancing all the time in terms of watch collecting and plays a very significant part of our business today. Dealers via Instagram or Facebook sell many watches and many auction houses are selling watches on line. It is not our intention to sell watches on line however we are maximising our efforts to promote knowledge of the market, collecting and the watches we offer at auction through social media channels.

Which do you consider the top five best performing watch brands when it comes to auctions? 

Rolex, Patek Philippe, Philippe Dufour, vintage Audemars Piguet and George Daniels.