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Auctions - Interview with Edward Dolman

Auctions Interview with Edward Dolman

Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo is about to shake up the world of watch auctions. In an interview with WorldTempus, Edward Dolman, CEO of Phillips auctioneers, explains why and how.

You have been CEO of Phillips for less than a year yet you have already set up a watch department and organized its first sale. Was this a priority for you?
I was lucky enough to work with Aurel Bacs at Christie’s and I recognize his particular position in the marketplace. He is an extraordinary expert and a trusted advisor to most of the top watch collectors in the world. So when I found out that he was thinking of setting up his own company I thought we should have a conversation. Because I want to build up an auction house at Phillips that builds on what we have already established and looks at specific areas of the market and attempts to be the best it possibly can.


"I am determined to set the highest possible standards."

The first watch sale by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo positions Phillips as a cut above your competitors. Is this a fanfare arrival or the shape of things to come?
I am determined to set the highest possible standards and Phillips has just opened a new sales room at Berkley Square in London which has had a similar sort of impact because it gives us a viewing capability that is unmatched by any of the traditional auction houses in London. It is spectacular and it gives an idea of our aspirations and the standards we are setting. We want to offer the best environment for people to sell and buy in.

How do you plan to develop private sales?
We are currently developing a spectacular space in Geneva for our auctions and brokerage business, about which we will be making some announcements in the coming weeks. But we definitely feel that an important part of our business will be private brokerage and auctions. What we are hoping is to become the trusted brokerage at the top end of the watch business.

"What we are hoping is to become the trusted brokerage at the top end of the watch business."

 Given that you are concentrating on quality rather than volume for the auctions, how important will this brokerage side of the business be? 
It will be important. We can offer the key watch collectors the best possible service and the best possible access to watches. The brokerage and private sale side of the business will allow us to develop this kind of relationship and give people opportunities that they might not otherwise get. It’s a key part of our business plan.

Does your business plan also include sales elsewhere in the world?
Yes, over the next couple of years, possibly as soon as November in Hong Kong, we will roll out a series of auctions worldwide. The final auction plan will be Geneva, Hong Kong, New York and London.

What are your objectives for the watch department in terms of sales?
We have set ourselves some aspirational goals. We want to lead the market in vintage watches but at the high end. We are not about volume and we will be dealing with relatively low volumes but high values. Who knows how we will stack up against our competitors? They may decide to go into a much higher volume, low value business. Actually, you can see that already and we think this is the wrong way to go and we are going in the opposite direction and I think it is the right strategy for us.

"We want to lead the market in vintage watches but at the high end."

Does that mean we will see increasing competition to have the best lots?
I believe generally for Phillips that we need to give clients more choice and I think we will make a big impact.

What advice do you have for someone looking to enter the auction market and make their first purchase at auction?

I am always amazed at how low some of the estimates are and how well they compare with retail. If you look at some of the watches in the Rolex Day-Date sale they are below today’s retail price, so to someone thinking about buying a watch this is an interesting alternative to buying from a jewellers. The watch may well maintain its value better than a new watch.

Which watch appeals to you most in the catalogue?
I have a small collection but coincidentally one of the watches I don’t have is a Rolex Day-Date, so this is the perfect opportunity for me and there are a number in the sale that I like. Aurel always manages to get a bid out of me somehow.

So if you bid yourself, how does that work? Presumably you cannot do it in the room during the sale? 
No, we are allowed to bid but the way we do it is governed in a special way. We have to leave bids in writing before the sale. 

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