There’s a reason that when Remy Julia talks about watches, people listen. Christie’s watch specialist since 2014, and associated for nearly a decade with Vacheron Constantin in brand management and business development roles, Julia knows everything there is to know about timepieces. He has, after all, sold an Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie by Patek Philippe ref 2497 for US $2.9 million, his most expensive sale yet. We caught up with the head of watches, Middle East, India, and Africa-Russia, Christie’s,at the second edition of the Luxury Lifestyle Weekend taking place in Mumbai, where he conducted a masterclass on collecting watches, auctioneering, and the basics of buying a timepiece.
What advice would you give to aspiring watch collectors? Where could they begin and are there the best brands worth investing in?
I think it is important follow the market closely, especially public auctions where the market is transparent and final selling prices established by the collectors. Invest your time in collecting knowledge, buying books, and studying the different models and references. Also, build a group of friends – collectors – to exchange knowledge, ideas and to enhance the concentration of information about the market of collectible watches and discuss potential watches as investment. And touch as many watches as possible to educate your eye
At the beginning you should collect without the investment idea as the main driving force. Buy what you like and with each purchase you will learn and advance in knowing what you would like to possess.
What are the mistakes people typically make while collecting watches?
First, it is buying in a rush, without leaving enough time for research and comparison – they believe one can be stronger than the market. To be on the smart side in this field, means one has to be in possession of market information, acting with a certain speed, and dealing with trusted actors to protect your asset. At the top end of collectible watches & watches as an asset, one cannot afford to make mistakes in the research of the object or in its authenticity. Therefore, we recommend to build a collection step by step and to consult with one or more watch specialists.
Which has been the all-time favourite watch you have come across in an auction?
It might be either a Stelline ref 6062 or a Patek Philippe ref 2499 first series.
The Stelline which is Italian for ‘starlets’, got its name from the stars on the dial. What makes this automatic triple calendar Rolex Ref. 6062 so special are its design and the fact that the production for the reference was limited to a few hundred watches – scholars estimate the number to be around 350 – over 10 years. Introduced at the Basel Fair in 1950, the reference 6062 is one of only two Rolex models from the period to feature a triple calendar complication.
Obviously, Patek Philippe and reference 2499 is another watch icon. As the reference 1518 started to wind down in 1951, the reference 2499 was started up alongside it, but whereas the 1518 only lasted 13 years (from 1941 to 1954), the 2499 would last a remarkable 35 years in the Patek Philippe line-up, becoming the company’s benchmark grand complication. The first series of the newer reference 2499 shared some common features with the 1518: the square pushers, the hands, the dial and the applied Arabic numerals. The case design, however, was altered to a more avant-garde form — augmented dimensions giving the reference 2499 a more modern aesthetic and greater presence on the wrist.
What is your view of the Asian market especially India, in terms of appreciation for watches?
Over the past two years, participation from Indian collectors has increased by 30 percent and I am committed to this market. Christie’s will continue the good work our representative office has done over the past 25 years in the country.
Tell us about your journey with Christie and its most notable moments.
In my still short career at Christie’s – some of my colleagues have been with the company 30-40 even 50 years – I had the luck to experience the ever-first watch sale in our 250-year-long history to sell 100 percent. The shift of collecting patters in the UAE and wider region took place under my tenure at Christie’s. Today vintage watches are in high demand and collectors look out for opportunities to buy these through us. Furthermore, the upcoming Dubai watch auction will present the first watch with a high estimate of $1 million, a watch which would have been sold three years ago in Geneva, the epicentre of watches.
What did you learn about the Indian audience / market through your masterclass?
Good questions, informed audience and many follow-one discussions. I hope to have inspired one or two to have a closer look at watches going forward.
The top three watches you sold
King Farouk’s Patek Philippe reference 1518. King Farouk of Egypt was a renowned collector and the piece in question was engraved on the back with an F and a crown. Specially-commissioned Rolex GMT-Master featuring the name of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai on its customised dial. The skeletonized manual wind Breguet with custom made buckle to the emblem of King Hassan II of Morocco, retailed by Chaumet.
Do you have your own watch collection?
How could I not have a small collection – watches are my “around the clock” passion, and I lost my heart to pocket watches, an area which is not over-populated by collectors and great discoveries can still be made.
What has your association with LLW been like?
2019 has been our second year of participation and we are again very impressed with the level of exposure, the overall organisation, and the high quality of visitors and collector circles that came.
All Images from Remy Julia’s Masterclass from the Luxury Lifestyle Weekend 2019.