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Aventi a15 wraith saphite paraiba white

Latest Auction Trends Reveal Historic Demand for Alternative Watchmakers

In Partnership with Aventi

The latest end-of-the-year watch auction by the prestigious auction house Sotheby’s revealed a healthy demand for premium wristwear from classic Maisons. In fact, over 150 lots of high-end watches fetched a valuation above the minimum asking price. This might seem like great news across the board, but a deeper analysis shows that there was more to the auction than first meets the eye. Even more robust than the interest in high-end horology is a growing demand for innovative pieces from global watchmakers and not just the usual suspects. Let’s take a closer look.

What the Sotheby’s Auction Actually Reveals

As one might expect, Sotheby’s put a variety of beautiful timepieces up on the auction block. However, a closer look reveals that the more traditional fare either barely topped their maximum valuations or stopped short of that valuation altogether. We’re not here to take away anyone’s thunder, but one example would be the Rolex GMT Master II Root Beer in steel and gold, a legendary piece from a legendary brand. Valued at US$10,000 to US$20,000, it closed just above US$12,500.

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Aventi A15 Wraith Saphite Paraiba | Image : Aventi

Along similar lines, a rare Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800/1 valued at US$30,000 to US$50,000 closed just above the maximum valuation threshold. Then there was the Richard Mille RM27-03 CA-FQ Rafael Nadal, which came with a maximum valuation of US$1.4 million and ultimately climbed to US$1.2 million, stopping a few hundred thousand dollars short of the highest estimate. These are undoubtedly impressive numbers, but they didn’t exceed expectations the way that certain counterparts did during the same auction.

The Soaring Demand for Innovative Watches

Whereas classic and beautiful timepieces from major brands tended to fall within their respective valuation zones at the recent Sotheby’s auction, watches from alternative Maisons told a much different story. To put it as simply as possible: now is definitely a great time to be collecting outside-the-box wristwear, the kind that employs uncommon materials and radical designs alike.

Aventi a15 wraith saphite paraiba

Aventi A15 Wraith Saphite Paraiba | Image : Aventi

For a prime example, look no further than watchmaker Aventi and their A15 Wraith Saphite Paraiba, which packs a Swiss tourbillon movement within a case of proprietary Saphite™. Even more transparent than sapphire crystal, Saphite imparts a delicate light blue Paraiba tourmaline colour of impeccable distinction. When this innovative watch hit the auction block, it started with a base valuation of US$25,000 and a maximum valuation of US$50,000. The bidding went as high as US$70,000, representing a significant increase over the most optimistic estimates.

A piece that fared even better was IWC’s Khanjar diamond-set bracelet watch in yellow gold with a malachite dial. Equal parts minimalist, avant-garde, eye-popping, and luxurious, it surpassed the maximum valuation of US$12,000 to fetch a hammer price of nearly US$36,000. That’s nearly three times as much as the proposed maximum valuation. No one saw this coming, not even Sotheby’s—and yet the results are under our eyes.

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Aventi A15 Wraith Saphite Paraiba | Image : Aventi

If these were isolated cases, we could dismiss them as exceptions to the rule. But as we’ve seen, that’s not what this trend is about. Appraisals of innovative and lesser-known watches—many produced by independent boutiques—are clearly starting to excite the public at large. Call it a snowball effect prompted by the global expansion of watchmaking, as premium craftsmanship goes beyond the borders of Switzerland to touch down in various regions around the world. In turn, unique and original designs are emerging from unlikely places to the delight of savvy collectors.

Power to the Consumer

As the global watch industry changes, one will see more and more watchmakers breaking away from traditional sales models and traditional design languages alike. Consumers are following suit by seeking alternative sources to the rigid sales structures organised by familiar Maisons, authorised dealers, and certified service centers.

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Aventi A15 Wraith Saphite Paraiba | Image : Aventi

The prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève seems to have taken notice, in that they’ve started to award a much more diverse set of watchmakers over the last few years. For example, the Chinese company CIGA Design recently took home a top category prize for the 2021 edition of their stunning Blue Planet watch. As the industry itself spreads its wings, watchmakers from all corners of the world are starting the reap the benefits and so are their customers.

With the power of worldwide consumers becoming more significant, we can expect to see even more innovative companies and designs entering the fold. This is already underway, as evidenced by disruptors such as MING, Aventi, FP Journe, and several others, all of whom are redefining the boundaries contemporary of watchmaking. A paradigm shift is unfolding and it’s blazing a very different path for the future of horology. Keep your eyes peeled and your wrists ready and you just might score the next big thing.

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Jacob Osborn
Staff Writer

Jacob Osborn

Jacob Osborn is an accomplished author and journalist with over 10 years of experience in the media industry. He holds a Bachelor's degree in English and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin--Madison and co-authored a Young Adult novel through Simon & Schuster. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Jacob specialises in entertainment, technology and alcohol reporting. You might find him crate-digging at the nearest record store or sampling whisky at the nearest bar. He daydreams of travelling around the world, but for now, the world will have to come to him by way of lifestyle products, gear, gadgetry, and entertainment. Let's call it a happy compromise while he saves up for the next big trip.