I suppose Christie’s international head of watches would want Swiss watchmakers to bid for their own vintage pieces at his auctions, wouldn’t he?
But John Reardon is not simply trying to talk up prices at his own auctions, he is encouraging watch brands to participate in the market for pre-owned watches and use them to draw people into their own showrooms.
Mr Reardon is uniquely qualified to advise the world’s top watchmakers, having spent nine years at Patek Philippe before shifting into the auction world first with Sotheby’s and now with Christie’s.
He believes that buying up vintage watches, not only for museums as is commonplace today, but to display at retail showrooms, will help customers understand the history and mechanics of fine watches.
“Imagine showing people how a 19th century timepiece works. It is bound to spark passion in people,” he says.
Mr Reardon, who is based at the New York headquarters of Christie’s, sees auctioneers as a relatively small but essential player in the global ecosystem for vintage and modern pre-owned watches. He thinks that the world-wide market could be worth up to $8 billion today, higher than the usual estimate of $5 billion that is widely quoted.
The big auction houses account for between $350 million and $400 million, he suggests, and that includes private sales, auction room sales and online sales.
The proliferation of sales via eBay, Chrono24 and their ilk is transforming the market, and taking sales away from established authorized dealers for new watches, Mr Reardon says. “The only solution to this that I see is for the brands to establish authorized pre-owned programs so that their retailers can compete,” he concludes.