Want to bid like a pro? Adrienne Hines (pictured, right), who heads the watch department at Christie's New York, offers these tips.
Focus: Auctions feature hundreds of watches, so Hines recommends narrowing your interests to specific manufacturers, styles, or designs to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Use past catalogs as a background.
Request Details: Catalog descriptions contain only basic information, but auction houses offer more comprehensive reports on condition, rarity, and other features onsite or by e-mail. "We've had the piece for the entire cataloging process_ we've lived with it. Our report is a good key," says Hines.
Bring Tools: Seemingly minor details in the watch's dial or case can mean thousands of dollars in value, so bring a photographer's loupe to get a closer look. "It magnifies the watch for a better view of its condition, and anybody can use it. It's a good thing for someone to have when they're starting out," says Hines.
Use the Specialists: Onsite experts can help narrow your search, open watches to reveal internal mechanisms, and even teach you how to evaluate different models. "Ask them to show you different pieces so you can learn, step by step, what to look for, since it becomes more evident the more examples you see," says Hines.
Know your History: Ask the staff specialists about the watch's provenance and originality of parts_ both important factors in determining its value. Hines also recommends inquiring about original accompaniments, such as the box and receipts. "Those provide a time capsule of when the watch was originally bought," she says.