Dirty Money Watch Auction

There is an extremely intriguing IRS auction taking place in Florida tomorrow involving a huge watch connoisseur’s collection.  Interesting enough, the collector is none other than ponzi scheme villain Scott Rothstein.  Rothstein now faces 100 years in prison for his wrongful, selfish acts that cost people millions upon millions.

Although Rothstein was clearly an unethical, greedy man, he did sometimes showcase good taste in watches.  The timepieces up for sale include models from Pierre Kunz, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Gerald Genta, Daniel Roth, BRM, Franck Muller and more.  While some of the watches are definitely out there, others are truly gorgeous and incredibly well-made.

Since I have preached that watches are very sentimental and carry a lot more value than just something that tells time, I have to wonder whether I would want a Scott Rothstein watch.  How far would you go to get the watch of your dreams?  If you believe in karma and are particular about the history of a timepiece, would you feel weird wearing your grail watch if it was originally owned by Rothstein?


If you look at the history of the hope diamond, some people thought it was so cursed that Harry Winston eventually just gave it away it to the Smithsonian.  It was apparently stolen from an idol in India and sold to earn money for gambling debts.  Some thought the stone would bring bad luck and death to anyone who even touched it!

It is one thing to purchase a watch where the history is unclear and unproven, but wearing a watch that has caused so much suffering to people could make you feel a little queasy. Rothstein’s last auction involving all of his high-end cars generated $5.8 million, so I will acknowledge that I may be looking a little too far into this.  There is no doubt in my mind that all of his watches will bring a hefty penny, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.  I do think, however, that the watches offered are at least somewhat dirty.

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Patek Keeps On Giving

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I saw an incredible story on NBC’s Today Show. In May 1943, Minnesota native Charles Woehrle was on an American bombing mission when his B-17 went under attack. Charles was forced to jump from the burning plane and was then held as a prisoner of war for two years.

Approximately one year into his captivity, Charles came across a brochure for Patek Philippe watches. He then somehow ordered one with the promise of paying for it once he was released. Several months went by, before a stainless steel PP was delivered to Woehrle’s door along with a note from the family-owned manufacturer saying, “We wish that this watch will give you full satisfaction.”

When Charles eventually returned to Minnesota, he paid for the watch as promised. Forty years later, Charles’ house was burglarized and his watch was stolen. Charles’ niece, while preparing a documentary on her uncle’s life, decided to write Patek Philippe and let the brand know of his story.

Just this last week, Patek Philippe brought Woehrle to New York and replaced the watch to help him remember his past experiences. Amazing! What an incredible deed by Patek Philippe! While Charles’ original watch was stainless steel, the replacement is 18kt gold. I am sure, however, that Charles’ does not mind!

I have always said that watches can represent so much more to people than just a timepiece. The sentimental value of Charles’ original Patek Philippe was obviously of the utmost. Charles will never forget those two years he spent as a prisoner of war and certainly won’t forget the watch that was there with him.

Ebay… To Save The Day?

While I was in Vegas last week, I overheard a guy say, “I wish I had just put all of my expendable income into watches over the last five years instead of the stock market.  I’d be a lot better off today if I had.”

With all of these crazy price increases from the various brands taking place, there is no question that the value of previously-owned timepieces is going to go up.  Breitling is joining the company of Audemars Piguet, Hublot and Ulysse Nardin by having their second price increase of the year tomorrow.  Patek Philippe just announced that they will be following suit as well in a little over a month on July 15.

Earlier this week, I read an article about a guy in California looking for a way to raise enough money to send his son to UCLA.  What better way to do so than to sell his used watches?  In order to help send his kid to school, he listed his collection of 19 Rolexes on eBay to be sold in entirety.  The auction started at $100 and was at $70,200 with over nine days left.

I have tried to track the auction over the last couple of days to see if we could witness another incredible eBay watch transaction, and I now see the auction has been terminated.  Rumor has it that the auction was canceling for violating the TOS.  Does anyone know the particulars?  I would love to find out!

Either way, look for a big boost in the pre-owned watch market over the next six months.  Believe it or not, new watches are becoming more expensive and less available!!!  I would not be surprised to see or hear about more large vintage-watch transactions over the rest of the year.

Don’t Forget About U.S.

I have written several blogs about how the Asian market is currently booming and has kept the watch industry alive during the toughest of times.  Luxury item sales have more than doubled over the last five years in China.  Meanwhile, Chinese consumers buy approximately half of the watches sold worldwide either in their home market or abroad.  Consequently, many brands have decided to open up more and more boutiques in China and Hong Kong.  For instance, Bulgari is opening up 18 boutiques in China this year.

In order to stock these Asian boutiques, brands have to take away many of the watches that would normally be sent to the European and US markets.  A lot of companies cannot produce more watches than they are currently manufacturing.  They simply do not have the watchmakers, the facilities or the parts.  It could take brands five to ten years to increase production.

A mistake I think a lot of watch brands could easily make during the next few years is overinvesting in China.  One brand that definitely will not is Patek Philippe.  Patek Chaiman Thierry Stern recently was quoted as saying, “I’m not putting all my eggs in the same basket.  It’s a big mistake I think that a few brands are doing by going only in China.  They focus everything on China and it’s dangerous.”

Could it be penny wise and pound foolish for brands to focus too much on China and lose concentration on other markets?  Is China going to continue to grow?  What if things slow down in China?

With the dollar at an all-time low to the Swiss Franc, brands have another reason to send their watches to other markets aside from the US.  The weakness of the dollar is what has led many brands to increase US retail prices this year.  Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, IWC, Breitling, Patek Philippe, Glashutte, Ulysse Nardin and Omega have all had one or are going to have one, while Audemars Piguet and Hublot have had two!

I think it is essential for brands not to lose focus on the American market.  The world is constantly changing, and it is important to have a worldwide presence and following.

“For three to five years it should be fine,” in China, Stern said.  “After that, it’s hard to know, but one day, of course, there will be something happening.  This is why you have to really watch out.”

I will take the Patek Philippe Chairman’s word for it!

The Art Of The Movement

I read an incredibly interesting article in the NY Times this week on the Swatch Group. The watch manufacturing company is unable to meet the current demand for its products. To combat that problem, Swatch is looking to add 2,000 employees and expand their factories.

The statistics mentioned in the article are astounding. Exports of mechanical timepieces increased 32 percent in terms of units from 2009 to 2010. Meanwhile, Swatch group’s net profit in 2010 was a record 1.08 billion Swiss Francs.

The most interesting part of the article for me was reading how Nick Hayek, the Swatch Group CEO, wants to change what it means for a watch to be “made in Switzerland.” Swatch has supplied the base movements for watches manufactured by brands outside of their group for years and controls 70 to 80 percent of the industry’s current overall watch movement production.

As Hayek says, “We are in a ridiculous situation that would be like having BMW supply all the engines for Audi and Mercedes. In no other industry do you have one company supply all the critical parts to the people who then compete directly with it.”

Patek Philippe, Rolex, Zenith, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Glashutte are all true manufacturers that make all of their watch movements in house. While numerous other brands produce some of the movements for their watches entirely in house, most of them outsource movement parts from Swatch and other manufacturers.

The threat of Swatch no longer supplying movements to various watch brands is what has led brands like Breitling into investing millions upon millions of dollars towards producing in-house movements. If Swatch decides to completely stop supplying other manufacturers with movements, it would certainly stir things up in the watch industry. Each brand would have a much stronger individual identity.

Some watch collectors and enthusiasts are very particular about the movements used in their watches. Others care more about aesthetics and case materials. What matters the most? I think the answer varies depending on whom you talk to. We all have our different values. Regardless, I think it is crazy to undervalue the art of watch movement production. Nick Hayek clearly agrees.

New York Times Article

Brand Sponsorship

Who would you want as your sponsor?

I always love seeing which watch brands famous actors, athletes, musicians and events are sponsored by.  I was fortunate enough to go to Wimbledon a couple years ago, and Rolex was everywhere at the All England Club.  Meanwhile, I could not help but notice Rory Mcllroy had an Audemars Piguet patch on his shirtsleeve while playing the Masters a couple weeks ago and rocked an AP stainless steel Royal Oak Chronograph with a silver dial once he was done.  I love that AP by the way!

I am now reading that Longines is the official timekeeper of the upcoming Kentucky Derby and that the winner of this year’s race will get a Longines Column-Wheel Chronograph.  I remember Hublot was the official timekeeper of this past summer’s World Cup in South Africa and how a huge Hublot digital game clock was used and held up when substitutions were made.

I cannot help but dream about which brand I would choose as my sponsor if I had my choice of the litter.  You probably have never seen Patek Philippe sponsoring a person or an event because they never have!  Regardless of who you are or what you do, Patek Philippe never gives out a watch for free.  If they did, however, and were part of the field, what watch brand would you choose as your sponsor?  Would you go with a big brand name or a brand that flies more under the radar?

L’O – Hotel L’Orologio

A special thanks once more to everyone who participated in the polls last week.  We received a good amount of votes for each subset of watches.  It looks like the Navitimer World was the favorite from the Navitimer family, the Chronomat and the Chronomat 01 were aside one another atop the Windrider series, the Skyracer Raven was the winner in a close race amongst the Professional family, the Super Avenger took the torch for the Aeromarine series and the Mark VI and Bentley 6.75 were the favorites of the Bentley line.  The winner of the contest is listed below, while I have taken note of all of the people who took the time to give their input each day.  There will be plenty of more giveaways, and I am already working on getting in some ridiculously awesome new Breitling swag.

A buddy of mine sent me a cool article over the weekend about a hotel in Florence that is going to carry a special watch theme with it for this summer’s Pitti Uomo men’s biannual fashion show.  L’O – Hotel L’Orologio, a boutique hotel owned by luxury hotel group Whythebest, is going to hold owner Sandro Fratini’s personal collection of more than 2,000 vintage watches.

Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to a particular brand from Fratini’s collection of Rolex, Vacheron-Constantin and Patek Philippe watches.  The hotel is made up of 54 rooms, and each room is adorned with elements from Fratini’s timepieces.  L’O – Hotel L’Orologio is meant to give off the feel of a traditional men’s club and certainly looks like a gorgeous place to stay.  I think the watch theme is brilliant!

The winner of the giveaway is Steve Melendez.  Steve, please email me when you get a chance so that I can confirm where you would like me to send a copy of The Book, the Breitling lighter holder, the Breitling lighter case and Breitling utility knife.  Congrats!

Charlie Sheen UPDATE

We have all heard about Charlie Sheen’s antics, but unless you are one of his 1,568,874 twitter followers, you may not have seen this photo.  Here he is rocking a vintage Patek Philippe and Babe Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring.  At least the guy has got good taste in watches, right? Read more about Charlie Sheen here and here.

Check back later today for a preview of one of Breitling’s upcoming releases at this year’s Baselworld Fair.

Have you seen me?

Hello watch world!  This is my first foray into watch blogging, and I hope you enjoy.  I have been an avid fan of the Breitling Report for a while now, so I was very excited when George approached me to be the first guest blogger.  I had been mulling over topics and just as I had given up hope, a great story came across my desk. What does it involve you ask?  Grand Larceny, Brazilian models, a Rolls Royce, and of course, a Patek Philippe.

Paolo Zampolli took it to another level when 3 watches – a Patek Philippe 5980R, a Bamford Rolex Daytona, and a Yacht Master II Rolex – totaling $140,000 were stolen from his Gramercy Park residence. The crown jewel, a 5980R, was a gift given to his son for his first Christmas. Although one watch was recovered, Zampolli took the retrieval of the Patek into his own hands, plastering ads for a $50,000 reward on his Rolls Royce Phantom.  New Yorkers were delighted to see the car driving around town.  The link below has the full story.

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/02/man_plasters_rolls_royce_phant.html

After reading the article, I asked myself what someone else would do if they had their watch stolen.  I decided to set up a small experiment.  After delicately removing George’s SuperOcean II that was sitting on his desk, I played dumb when he asked if I had seen it.  George proceeded to tape the flyer, found above, around the building.

How far would you go to get your watch back if it was stolen?

– Brian

Zenith is Back.

I know many Breitling enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the company’s first in-house movement to be put in an exhibition caseback, and I can tell you that it’s coming and it won’t be long…  A brand that already has their extremely reputable in-house chronograph movement visible through an exhibition caseback is Zenith, a brand that has really reemerged onto the scene in the watch industry.

Zenith is one of the few true manufacturers in the Swiss-watch world today, meaning they make all of their movements themselves.  A couple other true manufacturers are Rolex, Patek Philippe, Glashutte, Girard-Perregaux and Jaeger-LeCoultre.  Zenith’s famous El Primero movement is arguably the best chronograph movement in the world; in fact, Rolex used it in the Daytona until they went completely in-house in 2002.

The El Primero movement beats 36,000 times an hour, while the average chronograph watch operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour.  Frequency is what creates accuracy, so the El Primero movement is therefore supposed to hold time better.

Zenith’s legendary El Primero calibre was the world’s first automatic chronograph to beat at a rate of 10 vibrations per second.

Anyway, for a couple of years, Zenith was coming out with watches in their Defy series that were outrageously overpriced.  I mean we are talking $27,000 titanium chronograph watches on rubber straps…  You should only make your price tag that high if you want to end up like Wyler

Understanding that those watches are not what people are looking for in today’s market, they decided to change it up and get back to their roots.  The new El Primero 36,000 stainless steel chronograph now retails for $7,900.  Not only is it an extremely sharp looking watch, it showcases the movement that defines who they are in an exhibition caseback.  Now that’s what I’m talking about….

If you have yet to see the new El Primero Striking 10th Chronograph, you absolutely have to.  This timepiece is limited to 1969 pieces worldwide and has a large red central 1/10th of a second counter hand that makes a full revolution every 10 seconds, once the chronograph is activated.  Talk about sick and innovative.  I love it.  Congratulations Zenith, you are back on the map.