On April 23 and 24 the Monaco Legend Group offered a total of 273 lots at the pristine Hotel Meridien in Monaco. It's been a major success as the Group sold over 90% of their timepieces for a total revenue of 20,070,570 Euro. But let's not only talk about the high-key timepieces. For me the question arises: What can we learn from the success of all sold pieces? Beside excellent consignments of the house, which timepieces fueled this sale? What's been the story behind the lots that didn't go for six-figure money and what can we expect to see in the future?
May 10, 2022
Stella(r) Success at the Monaco Legend Group Auction
Marcus Siems @siemswatches
Collector, Author, Data Analyst
On April 23 and 24 the Monaco Legend Group offered a total of 273 lots at the pristine Hotel Meridien in Monaco [catalogue]. It's been one of the first major auction of this Spring cycle and the first on the European continent. And by all means this has ben a record breaking success for the house.
Over the course of the three sessions the Group sold over 90% of their timepieces for a total revenue of 20,070,570 Euro. No other watch auction of the house came even close to that number. Now the question arises: What can we learn from this success story? Beside excellent consignments of the house which pieces fueled this sale? And what trends we see emerging outside the six-figure lots?
Not your typical high-key, high-attention Rolex lot at auction, yet this 1944 Bubbleback Ref. 3372 hauled in a price at over 3x its low estimate. Photo Lot 135
To define the success of a single watch sold at auction is not trivial. The overall value is one variable, yes. But there are just a handful million-dollar-watches out there. They grab the media attention but you can't only offer the toppest of notch. Additionally, the facet you might be missing with these lots is the gamble people take with watches getting more valuable over time.
Hence, the average collector is also interested in watches exceeding the expectations. We are only looking at a cross-section of the auction market right now so the best approximation of "exceeded expectations" is the ratio between the realized price* and the (low) estimate**.
Figure 1. Price-to-Estimate ratio for the Monaco Legend Group April 2022 auction as a quantification of exceeded expectations per lot**. Colored dashed lines indicate the mean per session.
Taking all three sessions together the mean price-to-estimate ratio is around 1.62. This means that the average hammer price is about 62% above the low estimate. Looking at the three sessions individually that is somewhat equal for the first two sessions - 1.52 and 1.49 for session 1 & 2 respectively - and increases in the final session to 1.88.
From the distribution it becomes quite clear that particularly the "Stella" Rolex Day-Dates (lots 264-272) have been a major success. These enamel-dialed precious metal Rolex gems of the 80s went for 2.3x to 6.6x their low estimate.
Rolex had a very successful run at Monaco, 22% of their pieces went for 2x their low estimate - most of them in precious metals. Photo Lot 271, Rolex 18038 blue "Stella" dial Day-Date in yellow gold exceeding it's low estimate by almost 6x.
Rolex is a hot brand but this turnout is far from trivial. Everybody knows about the grey-market success of the classic Rolex steel-sport models but for these yellow golden and platinum dress casual watches to perform so well is a new development, a novel appreciation for the Day-Date.
And this holds for other Rolex models in the auction as well: precious metal Rolex watches sold for 60% and steel Rolex pieces for 47% above their respective estimates. As such the prices for steel Rolex pieces appear to be quite well established, which is not so much the case for the precious metal ones.
Distribution of Over-Performer Lots at the MLG Spring 2022 auction by brand. An over-performer lot is defined as being hammered for 2x or more of the low estimate. Photo MLG Lot 139, a gorgeous Vacheron Constantin chronograph Ref. 4178 from the 1940s, a recurrent design archetype for the brand.
But there are still results to discuss beyond Rolex: In total 50 out of the 273 lots went beyond 2x their low estimate, and 27 of those from brands not called Rolex. The best of the rest here is Vacheron Constantin - 8 (out of 17) lots offered crushed their estimate. These 47% is a far higher rate than compared to Rolex with 22%.
I'd argue it's fair to say Vacheron Constantin is a definitely a winner of this auction as well. Their overall revenue might have only summed up to a little over 600,000 Euro (~3%) but their performance has been above and beyond the experts hopes.
Vacheron Constantin did perform particularly well during the auction - almost half of the pieces went for 2x their low estimate. Photo MLG Lot 48, a Ref. 2215 Vacheron Constantin Royal Chronometer from 1978
This definitely is a small sample for now but as more and more results are pouring in we can keep an eye out whether the directions we've seen so far prove to be solid trends. The question remains whether the success of the Day-Date here will fuel the prices at coming auctions?
* Here, I take the price without premium - the so-called "hammer price"
** There are certainly problems with only looking at the estimate: Some auction houses are more prone to set the estimates low to foster a bidding war versus other houses sticking more closely to the actual value for example. Let's keep that flagged in the back of our heads when discussing trends based on estimates. Here, we particularly focus on the 'Low Estimates' as they have some binding implications: the reserve (minimum price) has to be below or equal to the low estimate.
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