Over the previous three many years, the 48-year-old Aurel Bacs has labored in or consulted for the watch departments of the world’s largest public sale homes. And although the Zurich native gained’t take credit score for the market’s meteoric rise throughout that point, he stays an essential witness to its radical progress.
Since 2013, Bacs and Livia Russo, the equally formidable auctioneer who occurs to be his spouse, have led Bacs & Russo, an unbiased consultancy that curates auctions for Phillips. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, which took the report for the costliest wristwatch ever bought when it went for near $18 million in 2017, is simply one of many tons within the many gross sales they’ve labored on collectively.
However regardless of having a hand in constructing a number of the world’s most necessary collections, and proudly owning extra watches than he is aware of what to do with, Bacs doesn’t think about himself a collector. As an alternative, he refers to his hunt for the right watch as extra of an habit — one he hopes he by no means really satisfies.
This interview has been edited and condensed for area and readability.
Q:Let’s begin with one thing slightly philosophical. How do you outline being a watch collector? And do you think about your self one?
A:I’m delighted that you simply requested me this, as a result of in case you hadn’t I might have thrown in a rhetorical query and stated, “Who says that I’m a watch collector?”
Let’s throw out some definitions. Is a watch assortment outlined by its measurement? No, as a result of I do know individuals who have 100 watches, and it’s accomplished with out mental and emotional involvement. It’s merely someone who has a excessive credit score restrict on his Black or Platinum card, and he simply goes out shopping for randomly. He’s not a collector. However any person with ten items is usually a collector. It may well function all these parts I discussed, the emotional and mental facet.[To describe someone like me]I feel “addict” might be extra applicable. He can by no means get sufficient, each privately and professionally. He stays on the hunt. It’s the hunt that’s the massive portion of the enjoyable and the stimulation and the satisfaction.
The reverse of Paul Newman’s Roles Daytona that bought for $17.eight million in Oct. 2018
Q:I’m glad you introduced up a quantitative consideration, as a result of I’m serious about what number of watches are in your private assortment proper now.
A:I urge you and your readers to not decide me once I present you my reply. That is honest: I don’t know. I’ve by no means taken the difficulty to rely them. One truthful reply is: greater than I want, from a sensible facet. And a set, by the best way, is just not one thing frozen, static. A set is sort of a backyard, it’s dynamic, it evolves, it modifications as a result of your style, your pursuits, your focus also can evolve and alter.
Q:What would you say, then, are the hero watches amongst your private assortment? Those you’d by no means half with?
A:I feel for positive I might not wish to affiliate a price ticket as a criterion to what makes a watch a hero watch.
Q:That’s comprehensible. Which of them do you’re keen on probably the most?
A:With out hesitation, my reply is the items which have a private story. They’re rather more necessary and significant to me than items that could be extra helpful however that a good cheque might substitute subsequent week.
One of many least invaluable watches that I personal is among the most related to me. That was a watch that this final Christmas I used to be provided by my twelve-year-old daughter. It’s a Tissot Visodate Seastar PR516. It’s the very [same] mannequin as the primary mechanical watch that I purchased with my very own financial savings once I was in all probability twelve or 13 years previous.
Q:How did she discover it?
A:She determined that she needed to supply her dad for Christmas a watch so as to add to his assortment. Perhaps every week or so earlier than the vacations, I used to be in a watch store with my spouse and noticed that watch and stated, “Wow, that is the very watch that I had.” I haven’t seen a pleasant one since then, and I all the time needed to reacquire that mannequin.
I requested if it was on the market, and the store proprietor stated no. I couldn’t perceive why. And I didn’t understand that my spouse in a short time gave him a kick beneath the desk influencing him to say that. A bit afterward, I needed to take a telephone name. They related with our daughter by way of FaceTime, and the three of them conspired that that watch would ultimately turn into my Christmas present.
At the moment, that is certainly one of my most prized possessions. It wouldn’t qualify to enter an public sale catalog, however to me it’s an important watch.
Q:As you scour the globe curating an public sale, and even simply speaking with collectors, does seeing nice watches encourage your urge for food for purchasing one thing new?
A:Accumulating is a really social exercise. I feel the saddest collector on the earth might be the one who can’t share his journey with different like-minded fellow collectors. Being surrounded by tons of of collectors, sellers and fellow auction-house specialists, I’m uncovered to superb, fascinating, lovely items.
Now, there are limits to what I can do myself. There are limits when it comes to my pockets, as a result of I can’t go and spend all our cash on watches. Second, we — and I feel most if not all public sale homes — have strict guidelines when and the place a specialist should purchase a bit. We will solely purchase watches which might be accessible to the general public, the place we wouldn’t have any benefit over anybody else within the public who might additionally look in that store window or go on eBay.
Elvis’s Tiffany-signed Omega, gifted to him by RCA Victor.
Q:That was truly my subsequent query: have you ever ever scooped a home on one thing that would have gone to public sale? However that rule makes nice sense.
A:In fact, I’ve seen many, many issues that I actually desired. But when I can’t have it myself due to these restrictions I’ve simply talked about, I can nonetheless have it by bringing it to Philips, doing an attractive presentation within the catalog, touring with the piece for months, all over the world, presenting it to potential bidders and attaining the absolute best outcomes at public sale for that piece. That affiliation for a number of months provides us a lot pleasure and satisfaction that always I overcome any frustration that the piece can’t be mine.
Q:However you think about it nonetheless, in a method, part of your assortment?
A:I’ll offer you an instance. In 2016, Phillips bought a Patek Philippe chrome steel 1518 for $11 million. That is still the very best worth ever paid for a Patek Philippe wristwatch. If I had limitless means, if I used to be blessed with tons of of hundreds of thousands and billions of dollars, sure, I might have provided myself that watch.
However what’s actually flattering is when at this time individuals speak concerning the chrome steel 1518, and anyone says, “Which one?” it’s, “Nicely, you recognize, Aurel’s metal 1518.” They discuss with it both because the Phillips metal 1518, or Aurel’s 1518 in metal. As a result of it was, for a time period, quote-unquote, “ours.”
Q:What’s the watch that’s really been yours the longest?
A:A watch that my father — at one level he stated, “Now, it’s your …” Nicely, I don’t know what it’s, the phrase in English. It’s not the First Communion, it’s what comes afterwards.
A:Affirmation, sure. He stated, “Son, it’s actually time you’ve got a correct watch.” That watch is a mechanical IWC in chrome steel, and that watch continues to be with me. It’s very, very significant, as a result of it gave me that sensation of heirloom, custom, a human affiliation. There’s completely no sum of money that might make me ever need to half with it.
Q:What’s your most up-to-date private acquisition?
A:I fell in love with a brand new launch at the newest SIHH — the Salon Worldwide de la Haute Horlogerie — made by François-Paul Journe. It radically ruptures with all or many issues that folks broadly affiliate with him. It’s probably the least pricey watch of his complete manufacturing line. It isn’t a sophisticated watch. It’s referred to as Élégante. It has a humorous cushion form. I simply couldn’t resist. Let’s put it this manner: I used to be simply seduced on the spot.
The dial of Paul Newman’s private Daytona ref. 6239
Q:What attracted you to it?
A:I’ve nothing comparable. Nothing comparable when it comes to form, when it comes to the functioning, the design. It has a rubber strap — how provocative is that?
You recognize, I’ve by no means come throughout the right watch. That makes me a really determined hunter for perfection, and I hope I’ll by no means discover it. As a result of the day I discover it, the search, the journey, is over. The journey is over.
Q:Why does that fear you?
A:I do know individuals who learn books who’re fearful of the final web page. Individuals who watch Gray’s Anatomy and are scared that the final season, or final episode is behind them. I might in all probability fall into some horrible vacancy. In fact I’ve different issues in my life, I’ve a household, I’ve pals. I don’t eat and breathe watches. I eat meals and breathe air. However what would I do if watches have been not part of my life that might make me rise up within the morning?
Q:Do you give your self any credit score for a way this market has grown and altered up to now three many years?
A:[A long silence] I’ll attempt to be as frank and honest as I probably can.
The sector has certainly seen unprecedented progress within the final twenty, thirty years. Have public sale homes performed a task? Truthful sufficient, sure, they did. As a result of when you have a stainless-steel Rolex Daytona previously worn by Paul Newman, that dominates the headlines and TV stations all over the world.
The truth that I used to be within the extremely privileged state of affairs to be the auctioneer and to have dealt with that watch is fantastic. However did it make $17 million due to me? I don’t assume so. I feel I used to be fortunate to be a part of this historical past, and I really feel fantastic that a few of the most memorable moments occurred very near me. Perhaps I used to be simply fortunate to be in the fitting place on the proper time.
However you can’t simply be fortunate for twenty-five years. Properly, there are some footballers in Europe who simply stand in entrance of the aim on the proper second. The goalkeeper’s within the flawed nook, the ball’s in entrance of you and also you simply have to attain. Then you’ll be able to say, “Why are some soccer gamers all the time in the best place on the proper time?” Properly … very philosophical query.