Car & High Tech

Collectors buy their childhood dreams

The auction market has been spectacularly growing over the last few months. The automotive and watchmaking sectors attract investors, whose profiles have changed. David R. Seyffer Museum Curator at IWC Shaffhausen and Paul Gaucher Motor Cars Europe Specialist at Bonhams explore these evolutions.

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino25 novembre 2021

The Geneva Rally, organised by the Automobile Club of Genevea, took place in October 2021 (DR)

Last October, the Geneva Rallye mesmerized the Swiss town and countryside over a weekend dedicated to automotive passion. Organized by the Geneva Automotive Club, about twenty teams gathered to drive their vintage cars.

To be a collector is to be passionate and reminds me of the passion I had as a child, regardless of the car. One can love a R5 Turbo2 as well as a Ferrari

Gregory Driot, founder of the Automobile Club of Geneva

No record speed was planned, only regularity: the objective these afficionados had set to drive on the countryside roads. Regularity and reliability are also what drove the watchmaking brand IWC Schaffhausen, whose relationship with the automotive world is historic, to support the Genevan Rallye. For Gregory Driot, founder of the club four years ago, and great automotive sports lover - a passion inherited from his father Jean-Paul Driot, founder with Alain Prost of E.Dams, and director of the Nissan racing team E.dams in Formula E - the link between both worlds is obvious: “I have been involved in automotive sports for a long time, thanks to my father. Both the members of the Geneva Automobile Club and the ones who participated in the Geneva Rallye are greatly passionate and participate in races or drive on tracks, classical and modern. And this motivation goes way beyond automotive sports, it encompasses luxury codes, watches, design, boats. To be a collector is to be passionate and reminds me of the passion I had as a child, regardless of the car. One can love a R5 Turbo2 as well as a Ferrari.”

Passions that intertwine and which can also be found on the auctions market. Two sectors which have been strongly growing over the past years, and whose audiences are becoming significantly younger. The opportunity to question two experts and to join their analyses of current challenges, with David R. Seyffer Museum Curator at IWC Shaffhausen and Paul Gaucher Motor Cars Europe Specialist, Head of Sale Switzerland at Bonhams.

What is the current state of the auction market for collectible cars?

Paul Gaucher, Motor Cars Europe Specialist/Head of Sale Switzerland, at Bonhams (Cathy Dubuisson)

Paul Gaucher. The market is growing. Between 80% and 90% of lots are generally sold today. This shows that the business is evolving. And it follows a trend dictated by a new generation of clients. These buyers want to acquire cars that they have dreamt of during their childhood. The youngtimers (cars from the 1990s) are truly at the forefront.

David R. Seyffer. It is very interesting to observe that on the watch auction market, the demand is also very high, with prices constantly increasing. But this amplifies IWC’s value. The model alone is not enough. In this sense, we have been truly impressed by the success of the IWC watch auction, which belonged to Mister Blümlein’s family, a person who strongly impacted the history of Swiss watchmaking. This model 3705 was very well known by IWC collectors. This type of success is impossible to foresee, as consumers are the ones to decide. Nevertheless, on the watch auction market, it is also about generation. Clients want watches which they dreamt of when they were young, and at the moment, it is about the 1980s.

With the "Tribute to 3705" Chronograph Edition Aviator's Watch, IWC Schaffhausen is going back in time to pay tribute to the legendary ceramic Fliegerchronograph (ref. 3705) dating from 1994. The original, which belonged to Günter Blümlein, was recently sold at auction. (IWC)

How do you work on the value of a future collectible IWC watch?

David R. Seyffer, Museum Curator at IWC Shaffhausen (Studio Willen)

D.S. At IWC, we gather a great fanbase, which has a very wide knowledge of our models. We interact with them a lot, and this helps us to build our strategies, but we cannot plan the future heritage value of a watch. Of course, some watches will catch specialists’ attention more than others, such as the Ingenieur Gérald Genta 1832 model which is a perfect example, but its success is also based on its iconic designer. It is as appreciated as a Nautilus or a Royal Oak. Our work is about opening the knowledge of a watch’s history to the public; it is impossible to work on its auction price.

Who are the clients that belong to this new generation of car afficionados?

P.G. We are currently noticing the arrival of new buyers in Asia or Russia, who like to buy supercars from the 1990s, with completely different profiles.

What brands do these youngsters from China like to buy?

P.G. They appreciate modern supercars, Lamborghini limited editions, Ferrari or Pagani for example. They don’t like vintage cars. But generally speaking, the current market remains led by Ferrari, driven of course by iconic models such as the 250 GTO. A model was sold for 70 million dollars recently. Ferraris from the 1960s and 1970s were always sought after, and always go way beyond supercars.

Only 36 examples of the Ferrari 250 GTO were produced (Shutterstock)

Watch auctions have the same challenges, with the same watch brands at the head of podiums such as Rolex, Patek Phillippe or Audemars Piguet…

D. S. Of course, these brands attract ever more investors. Some even buy without knowing the product, without wondering about their history. I would say that our community knows the value of an IWC, knows its story and I don’t believe our collectors are among these investors. Our work is to offer maximum information to auction houses in order to help them better know the value of our watches. And I must say that currently, it is increasing, and this makes me very happy, as this shows that our efforts based on “faire savoir” (to infuse knowledge) is fruitful.

P.G. I would add that the recent example of the Aviateur Chronographe Édition “IWC x Hot Wheels™ Racing Works” auction by our auction house Bonhams reached excellent results. The price was valued between 9000 and 35 000 pounds and was sold at 70 000 pounds.

IWC Schaffhausen and Hot WheelsTM celebrated the return of the IWC Racing Team to the 78th Members' Meeting at Goodwood by unveiling the "IWC x Hot Wheels™ Racing Works" collector's box set. The Number 1 set was auctioned by Bonhams. (IWC)

D.S. Yes, it’s true! I am convinced that the story which connected the watch to the car attracted buyers. And in this sector, Bonhams was the auction house best fit to sell this piece related to the automotive sector.

The Rallye recently organized in Geneva gathered collectors. Are these types of events also a way to build value?

D. S. Before I started at IWC I worked at Mercedes and during each event, I was surprised to see how much car collectors loved to show what they were wearing on their wrists. Collectors of both worlds are the same. To collect is about passion, the pleasure of talking about models, racing anecdotes, restauration. And any initiative that can unite both communities, such as the rally which took place in Geneva, are good as they nourish passion, human relations, and the happiness of getting together and having fun. But more globally, the automotive race universe enables to value a model, be it a car (vouture) or a watch. The film Le Mans 66 launched two years ago values the lifestyle of that time. This nurtures the collectors’ universe.lifetsyle de cette époque. Cela nourrit l’univers des collectionneurs.

P. G. Of course! With this movie, we all dreamt of being Steve McQueen driving the Porsche 917. And each detail including the watch, is interesting.

Could Lewis Hamilton, great Formula One champion and IWC ambassador, be the perfect incarnation of a myth which could inspire the younger generation in a few years?

D.S. Yes. Lewis Hamilton truly has style and elegance. He completely embraces his success and the way to show it and live it. It’s very inspiring. But this is the case for some collectors that are less traditional, who see themselves in this type of lifestyle, who collect watches such as the IWC Big Pilot, which allows to show a certain behavior, a very bold style. This shows that to collect watches today is about being inspired by a character, a way of life. Clients will choose models that are different from classical vintage models. History and storytelling will become ever more significant. 

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