PARIS — The lifestyle approach to selling luxury goods has swept the industry — and now it’s reaching the auction houses. Watch auctioneer Phillips has teamed with Mr Porter and The Rake for a watch auction in New York on Dec. 5.
“We want to broaden the dialogue amongst the three groups, mix them, because we believe that it is also our mission to spread the word of what we do beyond our confined group of existing followers,” said Aurel Bacs, senior consultant for Phillips.
The threesome is staging 120 vintage timepieces up for sale with fashion looks suitable for specific settings — a type of place the typical owner of a fine wristwatch might find himself, such as the Goodwood historic motor racing festival in England, the Hamptons on vacation, or even a gathering of watch connoisseurs.
Looks curated by Mr Porter and The Rake will feature clothing and accessories sold on their sites and appear in the auction catalogue of the watches, which are estimated to value from $4,000 to more than $300,000.
“Not many watch retailers present the context of style and that’s really one of the things that Mr Porter is trying to do,” said Toby Bateman, managing director of Mr Porter.
The partnership comes as dealers in high-end goods have had to rethink their approach to interacting with consumers — the rise of the digital domain has upended traditional boundaries and given rise to new ways of courting clients.
For Mr Porter, which added a luxury watch guide section to its web site earlier this year, the process for watch sales is different from for apparel, explained Bateman. Clients might take weeks or even months to consider buying a watch while similarly priced clothing, say a suede jacket costing several thousand pounds, would be sold more quickly, according to the executive.
“We’ve come to learn it’s a very different process and therefore you need to treat the customer differently, you need to treat the product differently and you need to treat the content differently,” he said.
The auction preview tour kicks off in London on Oct. 26, before heading to Geneva, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and landing in New York at the end of November. The 12 different settings — a symbolic number for its link to time, the number of hours in a day and months of the year — will appear in the auction catalogue and spring to life on mannequins in Phillip’s New York gallery at 450 Park Avenue.
“There are occasions in a man’s life…so if you wear different clothes, to match and as a tribute of respect to the occasion, don’t we do the same with watches?” said Bacs, a watch industry veteran known for presiding over the $17.8 million sale of Paul Newman’s Daytona at Phillips last year.
While a suit in beige linen fits the Amalfi coast, when it comes to London City, it would be more appropriate in “gray, pinstriped, checkered, dark blue and anthracite,” he added.
Bacs described the effort as reflecting a longer-term approach.
“These are long, long-term initiatives, sometimes they carry through to five years later,” he said, rattling off possible outcomes of the auction.
“Thousands of clients will react, inquire, check out, participate, bid, under bid and it will be a wonderful, clean, classic Phillips watch auction,” he suggested. Bacs added he would be happy for a reader of The Rake or client follower of Mr Porter to notice a technical footnote in a Phillips catalogue.
Besides, he added, if someone falls in love with a shirt and a watch, buying one doesn’t exclude buying the other one day.
“Once you have set your eyes on that watch or that shirt, sooner or later, you want to pursue both.”