SDC Weekly 25; More Auctions; Memory Dividends
Watch market woes, Remy not so Cools, Lange client rants, Noise, the Overton Window, and Bats!
“The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.”
Hello 👋 and welcome back to the SDC Weekly. You’ll find the older editions of SDC Weekly here. Check out last week’s edition on Dubai Watch Week if you missed it. Thanks to those who shared it, and welcome to all the new subscribers!
More auctions to review… joy. I would appreciate a comment on this particular point - do you even care to read about auction results?
Have you ever wondered why bats seem to deliver so many new diseases, but they never die from these diseases? Why? Find out below.
Ok, let’s begin.
ScrewDownCrown is a reader-supported guide to the world of watch collecting, behavioural psychology, & other first world problems. Both free and paid subscriptions are available.
🔨 Auctions again
Another couple of auctions took place over the weekend… Important Watches, The OAK Collection, The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVII and The Philippe & Elisabeth Dufour Foundation Charity Auction.
The auction closed with a total of HKD 51,810,570 (£5.26m) but the estimates prior to the auction ranged from £7.3m to £14.6m - so yeah, might seem like a poor outcome, but that was due, in part, to the fact that about 25% of the lots didn’t sell; including a few of the most valuable pieces like the AP 5516, the Patek 130 and the purportedly unique Patek 1436 Split Chrono. Those three alone, at their low estimate, would be worth £1.2m. So I’d say, a pretty decent haul for Paddy G. This isn’t endemic to watches either… even as early as May, art auctions were down by a striking 42% year-on-year, and as recently as a month ago, an art auction fared similarly to this one.
That said, I counted 7 pieces from Kari Voutilainen in the OAK sale which all sold above £100k - including this OnlyWatch piece from 2015 which fetched £350k.
This reminded me of something… Whilst at Dubai Watch Week, I was invited to the home of an apparent billionaire, whose collection is… vast to say the least. He happened to be wearing a unique Kari piece with a case covered in black diamonds.
This bloke owns so many ‘grails’ and not a single one has ever appeared on social media. This moment was a stark reminder of the sample-bias in social-media influenced thinking. Rarity as a virtue is understandably peddled quite loosely by auction houses, and if your exposure to the watch world is primarily through the lens of social media, this can create a warped view of the watch world.
Kari makes watches for anyone2… customised to their hearts’ content. He even makes cases and dials for everyone and their dog through his various business interests3. He does all this while managing to not dilute the perceived rarity his own creations under his own name. Pure genius. That said, the rarity in this case really should not drive desirability at all - if you see something you like, you can simply ask for it and if you pay him enough money, Kari will make one for you… Probably for less money than you would spend at auction on something commissioned by someone else!
Hell, I even heard he is even the one making Remy Cools’ watches. To be clear, I actually heard from three different sources that Simon Brette helped Remy with the original design, Luc Monnet built the first prototype for Remy, and then Kari got the deal to make the rest of the watches. I asked Simon Brette directly about his involvement, and he didn’t deny it - he just ignored my messages, possibly due to some NDA restrictions.
Either way, I do not see any problem with this approach per se; except for the lack of transparency. It seems MB&F does this sort of crowdsourcing openly under the “made with friends” ethos, and many others do it secretly while taking credit for being individual ‘geniuses.’ Caveat emptor, I suppose.
Anyway, I digress…
Moving on from the OAK collection specifically; These three went for ~ £1 million, ~ £538,500 and ~ £487,200 respectively… which is strong, given this AK-06 sold for ~ £435,850 earlier this year and the market has seemingly declined since then… but the result still had some folks suggesting this is 'low’ given some of the previous RRCC results which were higher4. In this market, I am sure the brands will be pleased with the outcome - no doubt old Paddy will not be amused, given Forbes was talking about the AK hitting a million dollars last week.
Although the above blue Simplicity was a piece unique, this regular one went for £387k, this one went unsold, and here’s another regular simplicity going under the hammer next weekend - one to watch, if you’re so inclined. Amusing to note that these Simplicities have officially dipped to below retail lol.
There were a few Journes which seemed to be in line with the weaker market we’re in… a CB for £63k, CS for £38k, Octa Lune for £50k an aluminum CTS for £100k5, a 5711 for £82k. All this stuff seemed normal for this market, but there were some epic deals too…
This 2019 OnlyWatch Moser sold for £16k, a 2013 OnlyWatch Vacheron Worldtime sold for £33k, a vanilla Moser Perpetual for £16k, Lange Datograph Perpetual for £57k, and a Cartier CPCP Perpetual for £20k. These seemed super low given, for example, there was a normal Datograph (not perpetual calendar) in the other auction which sold for £70k and another which sold for £57k.
Worth noting the funds from the Dufour auction are going to the Philippe & Elisabeth Dufour Foundation. Unsurprisingly, you will observe OnlyWatch-levels of transparency on their website… but you can read more about it here6. As for the other auctions, you will have seen reports online of the initial lots closing as unsold and then later showing those as being sold… and in case you missed it, @perezcope revealed some of the watches in the OAK Collection were not entirely kosher.
On the topic of ‘unsold lots which were later sold.’, worth remembering auctions houses can reopen lots at the end of the auction - does not happen too often, but not as shifty as the previous Christie’s debacle a few weeks ago.
What’s the takeaway for watch-loving degenerates? The era of bargains is fast approaching, and you can now make hay as the sun shines… just do your research before buying at auctions, because you’re pretty much buying voetstoots7.
One thing to note is the stupidity of many brands’ retail pricing strategy is now entering the limelight. In particular, Richemont brands… JLC, Lange, Vacheron hiked prices in the last 6 months (in the UK at least), and this was at a point when market prices were already softening. Now, with even further market declines, they are faced with an obvious conundrum: offer discounts to customers, reduce the MSRP, or sell the inventory to the grey market at wholesale prices? It will be fun to watch that unfold. On this point, note the epic rant in the links below, from a German ex-Lange collector.
🧠 Memory Dividends
Following the reflections from Dubai Watch Week, I thought this was a fun topic. Bill Perkins is a hedge fund manager… but he is also the author of the book Die with Zero, in which he advocates for maximising net fulfillment, over net worth. I won’t get into the entire book, but there is one concept which is worth considering for watch collectors: “memory dividends.” Let me explain.
In 1957, Nobel Prize Winner, Franco Modigliani, developed the Life-cycle Hypothesis showing the most optimal way of utilizing your wealth is to end with zero. This book shows you how.
Whenever you have an awesome experience (like a holiday with friends or family), you obviously derive joy from that experience… but that isn’t all you derive, is it? You continue to get joy after the fact in the form of memories, and photographs, and discussions with the people who accompanied you, or even just telling these stories to others.
That joy after the fact is what memory dividends are. In other words, an ongoing benefit from a particular experience, long after it has ended. Of course, earning them is as straightforward as investing in experiences which are likely to be memorable.
Now, buying a watch may not necessarily be a memorable experience, but you could turn it into one. I recently went with my friend Paddy to collect his F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante - I even have a video of this event on my phone, capturing his face as he opened the box, and as he picked it up… along with a nice photo of his gleaming face next to a mug which said “UNT” on it, with the mug handle making up the missing letter “C”. We had a good time, and I think it’ll be more memorable than an average collection.
That was perhaps a random story, but the purpose of bringing this up was to recommend something which I found helpful. Open up MS Excel or a notebook, and make three columns. Now, try this:
In the first column, capture 25 things you would like to have done in your lifetime - this can be anything; places you want to visit, experiences you want to try such as skydiving or bungee jumping, languages you’d like to learn, charity work you want to complete, things you want to do with your kids and anything else you think you might regret never doing.
In the second column, write down the age at which you will no longer be able to do those things. For example, I have done bungee jumping, but had I not done it, I would probably not be keen to risk injury after I hit 50. Perhaps you want to take your parents on a holiday… at some point they probably will not be keen to get on a long-haul flight, so this has its own restrictions too.
In the third column - and this part is crucial - write down the exact month and year you will aim to complete each thing. It’s merely a realistic plan, you aren’t booking flights yet… so do it honestly. You might have limitations with work, kids’ holidays etc. So plan it out. You will surprise yourself.
Memory dividends are about more than the experiences themselves… it is about the people you share the experiences with, and memories made earlier in your life will ‘pay dividends’ for longer. This is something I accidentally discovered, due to an old friend of mine in Cape Town who got me started on this 'experiential’ journey long before I knew why it would be important. Shout out to Ish ✌️.
“Yes, you need money to survive in retirement, but the main thing you’ll be retiring on will be your memories—so make sure you invest enough in those.”
If you want to dive deeper, here’s Peter Attia’s podcast with Bill Perkins... They dig into most of the key parts in the book:
📌 Links of interest
⭐ Check out this epic rant from a German guy who owns 43 watches from A. Lange & Sohne; he has been collecting their watches since 2005. It is all in German, but a browser translation should suffice. Long story short: he was a huge customer, having been invited to Walter Lange’s private residence twice, and even watched the World Cup with him at 3am. So, despite being so close to the brand, they jerked him around by promising to deliver watches, not doing so, hiking prices, and then making certain models ‘boutique only’ to circumvent the AD. Typical Richemont BS, but the funniest part s he ends off noting he is switching to Patek- as if this will be different! 💀 (Thanks to @suissemate for the link)
📧 Why everyone should be using Apple’s “hide my email” feature to avoid spam mail and hackers.
📖 How to show your kids you value them.
🔎 David Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna has been caught on camera for the first time.
🍇 Grape expectations: Your red wine headache may not be about quality or volume.
🛍️ Buy less stuff: How and why to stop shopping for more than you need, or even want.
🛠️ The Periodic Table of Tools.
🗺️ Here’s a fun game to guess which city is more north.
In case you missed it… I shared a post about a book yesterday:
Here’s the gist of it: “Wherever there is judgement, there is noise—and more of it than we think” - the point of this book is to be mindful of how noise will impact your judgement and make changes to minimise any negative effects.
In addition to the auctions above, there’s also this Antiquorum auction still ongoing… they seem to have a few cool pieces like this Rolex Oysterquartz and a Cartier desk clock. You can also try and get a wooden Journe box, complete with leather strap and deployant clasp if you’re feeling lucky.
Reflecting on the Remy Cools ‘intel’ from above, consider this Overton Window named after an American policy analyst Joseph Overton10. Since this idea was conceived in the 90’s, it has expanded beyond government policy, and is now used to describe how ideas enter mainstream conversations where they influence public opinion, societal norms, and institutional practices. In the world of watches, this applies too. MB&F using the transparent with friends model was, in hindsight, rather inspired… particularly after Jean-Claude Biver popularised the “in-house” model as being more valuable - this idea is of course misguided, but he is a marketing guy after all. The value of the in-house narrative today, is merely to justify higher prices and signify more value (often unjustified). If one company is doing everything, they will have higher unit costs, and R&D costs, and so on… making it worthy of a higher price tag.
This draws on other psychological tricks like price anchoring. In a world where you can buy mass-produced GMT Masters at under £10k, and have them re-sell for 50% more… paying €159k for a tourbillon designed and produced solely by one supposedly genius young watchmaker seems like a relative bargain… nobody is questioning these young geniuses or even considering the possibility that they were helped along the way. This lies in the unthinkable section of the Overton window, and this must change.
Seeking help is completely acceptable, and producing epic watches which have contributions from many geniuses should surely be celebrated instead of frowned upon. Perhaps all up-and-coming geniuses should simply append their brand names with “&F” - everyone in the watch world definitely understands this as well as they understand the mark: ™️ !!
Until next time!
🦇 Bonus: Bats
Bats get a bad rap in all forms of media — and it’s not entirely unwarranted. Whenever you hear about bats in the news, it’s usually linked to some deadly virus they’ve somehow delivered to humans… from Ebola to Hendra virus to Nipah virus to various coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS, and even Covid-19. They seem to be legendary hosts for deadly diseases - and they also seem to tolerate them very well. Exactly how they do this has been a mystery, but researchers think it may have something to do with bats being the only mammals which can fly.
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Unsurprising, perhaps, for a man who got his first taste of serious money from betting on horse racing? lol
I mean from a ‘serious collector’ standpoint - if you’re ready to drop six figures at auction on a Kari piece, you can probably find a mate in the collector community who would arrange an introduction to Kari for you.
I love this CTS… I once almost bought one for £38k - deal was ‘done’ but the seller pulled out after the fact, because they saw one sell at auction for a lot more, and just reneged. Was not meant to be!
Not much to see; mostly a puff piece, but some funny photos of Dufour in his pink suit.
TL;DR: Men rated as less attractive earned 9% less than those with average looks; men who were rated as handsome earned 5% more than those considered to be average. For women, those rated as less attractive earned 5% less than women with average looks; women rated as attractive earned 4% more than average-looking women. (Source)
Lifehack: Copy the title of any FT article and Google it - then click the link in the Google search results to read it without a paywall.
Overton’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy defines the Overton Window as:
“a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.”