The steep downturn in luxury watch sales to China and the segment-changing entry of smartwatches has resulted in the resignations of watch department heads at Hong Kong divisions of auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s, while Bonhams has no regional department at all, according to the Financial Times.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which recorded $28.6 million in watch sales in April 2013, saw that figure drop to $8.5 million this year. The Christie’s watch sale in May last fetched $12.8 million as against the $24 million that the November 2012 sale brought in. The Bonhams auction of 68 watch lots last June realised $645,000 as against the $1.9 million that a 120-lot sale brought in a few years ago.
The drop in sales has resulted in a major inventory build-up in Hong Kong, which is now available at significant discounts from retailers. Buyers are flying in to avail of these discounts rather than bid at auction for the watches. Conversely, Asian watch buyers are now travelling to London to take advantage of the post-Brexit weak pound sterling to buy watches at better prices there.