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Auctions - Interview with James Marks

Auctions Interview with James Marks

We spoke to James Marks, the new London-based International Specialist for Watches at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, to talk about his plans in this new role.

You have been a watch collector for many years and you are now turning your passion into a career. What are your plans for the new watch department in London?
We are going to evolve in terms of how we think collectors in the UK would like to be served. Until now it has been more of a dealer-based model in the UK over the past 10 to 15 years and we are very keen to have a presence in the UK so that Phillips becomes a destination in the UK for UK collectors. We want people to come to us not only for the auctions but for private treaty, for advice, information and education.

We are convinced that there are significant collectors in the UK who would like to have more of a relationship with auction houses but at the moment they are not sure where to go. My role specifically will be to re-engage with those people, to find the people who are outside London. The UK has always been good at unearthing unusual watches, especially military watches, and we are very keen to make sure that people are aware that we are here for them.

Given your background as a collector, what has been missing in the UK market and how will you address this?
There are a lot of collectors in the UK who have traditionally been buyers of complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches who are interested in vintage but are not sure which route to take. Traditionally in London they may have gone to a dealer but at Phillips we have great experience with people like Aurel Bacs and we want to educate our collector market. I see the UK as being a very important market for vintage watches in general. We want to take the transition with the collector towards vintage and towards independents, which has not been the case before. London is an amazing economic hub and the UK will have a transition in general, with Brexit. So we are positioned to move with the traditional collectors to bring them more into the vintage sphere.

What approach will this take given that retail and auction are increasingly moving online?
We always want to have a personal relationship with our clients. So I want to engage with them primarily by traditional means such as personal contact through a programme of events that we intend to hold in our offices in Berkeley Square. These events will not just be focused around the auction catalogue, there will be a 12-month programme. By doing this the relationships can only get stronger. Our greatest asset is our people and our watches and once people start to appreciate this I think we will go far.

How will your activities integrate with the existing auction calendar?
Private treaty for us is a year-round business. So first and foremost we aim to be the destination for people who want to buy and sell vintage watches. If you are looking for a rare Rolex to add to your collection, you should be coming to Phillips. We are slotting events into the calendar in June, July and August when people are in holiday mode. We will be proactive rather than waiting for people to come to us.

As a collector, I can think of nothing worse than receiving an auction catalogue without having a personal contact. As specialists we have a unique insight into the watches and therefore we want to be able to tell people that they are always welcome to come and see us at Berkeley Square and if there watches that they are looking for that are not in the catalogue, then we may know where to find these as well.

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