Hart Davis Hart Watch Auction Co. is a new digital-first watch auctioneer focusing on independent watches
While all collectors get into watch collecting through different journeys, many of us eventually arrive at a point where we begin to look beyond off-the-shelf timepieces, and become deeply attracted to vintage watches, independent watchmaking and specific, rare limited edition pieces. To fulfil these newfound horological dreams, there is only one main pathway, the pre-owned market. Here, top auction houses such as Christie’s and Phillips dominate the marketplace but they are by no means the only options for eager buyers. A burgeoning segment of small and medium sized auctioneers have entered the scene and the latest name you’ll want to add to cart is the Hart Davis Hart Watch Auction Co.
Who is Hart Davis Hart
If the name already sounds familiar, then you’re probably a wine collector as well. Because Hart Davis Hart has been a consistent part of the North American auction scene since 2004. Founded as a wine auction house by Paul Hart and Michael Davis, the company has sold over US$1 billion worth of rare and collectible wines to clients all over the world. Which hardly surprised anyone since both Paul and Michael previously served as Head of Wine Department for Sotheby’s North America. Over the years, Hart Davis Hart has become one of the world’s largest sellers of wine at auction. Now, they are more than ready to pivot into luxury watch auctions, and they are doing it with a digital-first approach.
How is Hart Davis Hart auctions different from others
Designed to offer a superior user experience on both mobile and desktop devices, the Hart Davis Hart Watch Auction Co. brings new opportunities for watch enthusiasts looking to secure a beautiful timepiece, whether they’re in search of the ultimate Holy Grail watch or simply interested in a timeless work of classical haute horlogerie. The team behind Hart Davis Hart is made up of passionate individuals sharing a love for wine as well as watches, just like its clientele, just like you and me.
Ben Nelson, the auction house’s president since 2008 envisions the Hart Davis Hart Watch Auction Co. to be a trusted source of rare and highly collectible timepieces with a predilection for independent watchmaking. Known in the community as @1815chronofan, Nelson’s own journey to luxury watches, dovetailed with the realization that many of his customers share this very same passion, led him to establish the company’s first watch auction division.
He relates: “I have a passion for wine and that’s why I went into the wine business. I tend to be pretty all-or-nothing when it comes to my interests in life, and for a long time watches weren’t on my radar. At some point, I took a wine client to Bordeaux and he teased me for wearing an Apple Watch. Told me that with the kind of clients we deal with, I needed to get something like a Patek.”
What wines and watches have in common
That comment stayed with Nelson for a while, but it also inspired him to start researching on watches, eagerly consuming watchmaking content from one source to another, including Alp Sever’s blog, Langepedia. The next thing he knew, he went from wearing an Apple Watch to owning six different A. Lange & Söhne watches including the boutique edition 1815 Chronograph as well as the 1815 Rattrapante in Honeygold. A true 1815 chrono fan as his IG handle shows, Nelson comments, “The chronograph movements by Lange are a thing to behold.”
He has identified numerous overlaps between the watch and wine industries. To him, Patek and Lange are like Bordeaux – incredible brands with staying power and history. Independent watchmakers, on the other hand, are like Burgundy – artisanal, exciting and made in small quantities. He adds, “Through Instagram I met great people like Moe Jaber @thewindingstem and Osama Sendi @thejourneguy who helped me to learn, and who both ultimately agreed to consult on our watch auction project.”
Who are the people behind Hart Davis Hart
Moe Jaber and Osama Sendi are external senior watch consultants for the Hart Davis Hart Watch Auction Co. In this interview with A Collected Man, Sendi is introduced as a collector, enthusiast, historian and lecturer, but everybody knows him as @thejourneguy and the authority on all things FP Journe. Meanwhile Moe Jaber, a collector and enthusiast with a passion for promoting artisanal watchmaking and community building, is presently the head of collector experience at Romain Gauthier.
Additionally, Moe has also helped launch the first Travelling Education program for the prestigious Horological Society of New York and frequently organizes gatherings to connect likeminded collectors.
With a united passion for the work of independent watchmakers, the Hart Davis Hart Watch Co. places a significant amount of spotlight on the craft and authenticity behind these mechanical masterpieces. The team also commits itself fully to transparency in terms of the condition of the timepieces. Specifically, Nelson mentions senior consultant Jason Hernandez, a former US Attorney who prosecuted fraud cases and now is a private attorney advising the auction house on its approach to authenticity and protecting its buyers.
Says Nelson, “We are not interested in selling vintage watches, or anything that could be deemed suspect. If we don’t feel 100 percent about something, we won’t sell it. One of the reasons we are interested in this opportunity is that modern watches are in favor at this time.”
What to expect from HDH’s first major auction
The trusted reputation Hart Davis Hart has earned over the years was built around respect for the product and a total commitment to truth in the inspection process. A particularly notable point of pride for Nelson was that he was told by a trade client in Asia that he buys wines from others to resell, but buys wines from Nelson to drink and keep for himself. It’s an accolade that money can’t buy.
“There is a lot of crossover between the wine and watch worlds,” Nelson elaborates. “The clients are similar, the passion for the product is similar, there are many parallels. And the market is huge. We’re not here to transform it. We just intend to be honest, transparent in how we represent the watches, and hope to be a positive contributor to the community.”
Indeed, there is much room for new entrants in the auction space, as long as players take care of buyers and sellers alike. Nelson adds, “That was the formula for growing our wine business, and we intend to follow a similar path with watches. This first auction is just the beginning.”
The upcoming auction will feature watches from iconic brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Söhne, and Audemars Piguet. Also included are important pieces from independent watchmakers such as Akrivia, Romain Gauthier, Daniel Roth, Grönefeld, FP Journe and Urwerk. At the moment, the star lot of Hart Davis Hart’s first auction is an Akrivia AK-06 — the first piece ever offered at auction. Other interesting lots include a Tiffany-signed Aquanaut, a Gronefeld Remontoire, an URWERK 100V, a rare FP Journe Octa Divine in 36mm, a one-of-30 Romain Gauthier C1, a Daniel Roth Papillon among others.
The first Hart Davis Hart watch auction will kick off on 3rd August 2023. You can download the mobile app here or visit the website here to browse lots and place bids. The company accepts absentee bids on watches as well, and hammering will begin on 25th August 2023 via a ‘live’ bidding method available on both platforms.
Contact [email protected] with any questions about buying or selling watches in this inaugural watch auction.
FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date|
|Case||41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m|
|Dial||Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices|
|Strap||Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp|
|Limited Edition||Limited edition of 50 pieces|