RPM interview with Antoine Rauis
Today I like to share with you the RPM interview with Antoine Rauis. Antoine started his business called Le Collection ‘Heure with a watch shop in Brussels, Belgium and has now offices in Luxembourg, Paris and Ibiza. Let see what he has to answer to my questionary, enjoy!
# Which watch made your heart skip a beat during your worldwide search for vintage models?
So many ! But actually, having a “heart attack” for a watch is what makes me wake up in the morning.
# Which vintage watch would you never sell?
My “first owner” gunmetal grey 6238 originally retailed in my hometown which i managed to buy from a very nice gentlemen.
# Which watch do you regret not having bought?
None, because i think i bought all that was good and that i could (and more) in illo tempore , so no regrets as far as buying goes…selling is another (very painful) story of course.
# Tell us your greatest vintage watch anecdote of your collecting history
There are so many anecdotes since our profession is quite adventurous but let me tell you about this one. I was 16 and had worked the summer at Mc Donalds earning a fantastic 850 euros. My dream was to buy a Speedmaster. They were overpriced in my country so i took the nigh train to Milan the day right before Feria d’Agosto. I arrived at the store at 2pm and the dealer was leaving on holidays at 4pm. I wouldn’t get out of his store unless he would sell it to me for 850 euros, which was 25% below market value. In the end, after having threatened me to call the police, he gave me the watch, with a mixed feeling of compassion and irritation, not close from nervous breakdown. I kept the watch for 10 years and i am still very grateful to this guy !
# What was your most lucrative deal?
I am not really money driven and i don’t keep a top deals ranking. I always preferred to do a lot of deals with small margins than fewer deal with huge margins. I just love dealing. However, it is remarkable to note that one of the best deal i ever made was by buying a watch from a dealer and re-selling it 5 minutes later to another dealer. Of course, i also have some watches which i have been keeping for years and which will, eventually, generate a great mark-up…if i ever sell them.
# How far did you go to get your hands on a particular vintage watch?
There was this amazing Newman 18k from a country in Latin America. The owner had contacted every single dealer on the planet and received many high offers. I took my phone and told him “whoever is paying you whatever, i am going to pay more AND take you for a priceless 2 weeks trip across europe”. The guy shows up, it turns out he is super friendly and we went to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Brussels together. Then, after 12 days of fun and avoiding the subject, we have to talk about the moneyyyy. He goes “you know what, you have been so nice with me, here is the offer i have from this well-know dealer (which was true), give me 25k less and lets do more in the future”. I accepted and still have the watch in my private collection !
# Describe the perfect day for you as watch collector
Per se, there is no such thing as a perfect day since the minute you obtain the piece you have been looking for, you need the next one… this is a serious disease… we are complete psychopaths. But having said that, driving a vintage car or motorcycle on a twisty road with a nice pre-daytona or newman on my wrist isn’t that bad.
# Most collectors look for quality, age, uniqueness and complications. How do you calibrate the value of a vintage watch to avoid overpayment?
Age and uniqueness are for me the priorities (quality is not even a debate). Then come the complications, when appropriate and/or possible. The material is secondary to me, i can enjoy a watch in gold or in steel if it is nice. In the end, putting the right value on a watch is very tricky : there is always a premium for beauty and nobody wants something ugly, but how much are you ready to pay ?
# Which features are your core collection criteria, year, model, style, complication, material or …?
1960 Sportiness, Beauty, rarity, emotion and off the beaten paths, mostly from 1950’s to late 70’s.
# Should a collector always strive for a 100% original vintage watch or are periodically correct but not- authentic-to-watch parts allowed?
Of course, everybody prefers the real thing, the untouched/unpolished/unchanged (and hence probably unworn !) watch. And if you can afford only the best of the best, go for it with your eyes closed.
But if once you have realized that this represents probably less than 5 % of the vintage watch market, you can decide to limit yourself to those 5%, or not, if you want to be a major player.
To me, authentic, ORIGINAL periodically correct, service parts, or “replacement” parts are acceptable PROVIDED THAT (i) it is fully disclosed and (ii) the price is adjusted accordingly.
Lets not forget that some people changed their Daytona standard dial for exotic ones during a service back in the days….and you cannot buy only new old stock (unless you are a dreamer).
I hear a lot of bullxxx talk from dealers/collectors selling their stuff (or themselves) pretending they would “never buy/sell a sub with a replacement insert” or ” a daytona with a replaced dial” and i find this both hypocritical and irritating.
Who can tell whether a Daytona was born with a silver or black dial ? Nobody.
Who, in is right mind can pretend that such watch has his original crystal, or bracelet ? Nobody.
They can have been replaced by matching spare parts and nobody could know (except the watchmaker who did it).
Of course, you cannot prove that such assertion is false but neither can they demonstrate that what they are telling you is true. In legal terms this is called “the diabolic proof” because nobody can establish it. And it is reprehensible !
This tendency to “promise” features that are impossible to prove is a deviance that should be highlighted since it misleads collectors and create a tendency to “puritanism” that is imho ridiculous given the age of the objects with are dealing with. If you can be happy with Sharon Stone’s new boobs, can’t you accept a new Plexiglas on your Red Sub ?
# Which brand met/exceeded your expectations in terms of creating a true vintage watch identity? Which brand could have done better in terms of creating a true vintage watch identity?
Rolex and Patek of course. Rolex for their design, marketing, groundbreaking history; but it should be noted that the phenomenon was not initiated by the brand but by the collectors. Patek for their complications innovation and involvement in preserving, enhancing their historical patrimony since basically forever – two examples : (i) their archives which gives you a certainty as to the authenticity of a watch configuration and (ii) the fact that they will always accept to manufacture you the spare part you need even if your watch is 100 years old.
On the low side, i think a brand like Audemars Piguet has missed the “vintage patrimony” train a few years ago, although now they are developing great efforts to catch up.
# Which brand is the dark horse at the moment, having potential to gain collector’s interest in the near future?
I would say that JLC and Breguet are probably under-evaluated considering their very rich history. Universal was too low for too long but now price are rising. And of course vintage Heuer have long been ignored and are now super hot.
# Which contemporary watch models have the potential to become the classics of tomorrow?
Small, independent, not-totally marketing oriented brands such as Laurent Ferrier, Moser, with my personal preference to FP Journe which is the only modern watch i personally own and wear. It is also hard to discard the special/limited/not so massively produced Patek & Rolex but they have turned so much into a mass consumer industry that nothing is certain for the future.
# Do you expect a shift in collecting vintage watches towards less rare models, given the high prices the extraordinary examples fetch at auctions?
I don’t expect it, i can see it. Everybody does what he can. And not so many people can afford a 500k+ watch. And even those who can would not want to wear it everyday, do sports, go to the beach with it…so they would buy a cheaper piece for their “day-to-day” activities.
# Do you think collecting vintage watches has become a bubble of ever increasing prices that will burst one day?
I truly don’t think so. This is a classical “supply/demand” case study.
Supply is standing still or worst diminishing (some watches get lost/stolen/destroyed). Furthermore, the cycles of buying/selling are longer given the low number of nice pieces available (why would i sell my AAA watch to buy a ABB one ?).
Demand on the other hand is (i) increasing everyday and (ii) penetrating new markets (Middle East and Eastern Europe for example) to become global.
What happens when demands exceeds supply….the “Equilibrium Price” increases increases increases as long as the market is healthy.
And this last point is crucial. Before 2008/9 many actors were just speculating with watches, buying basically anything to quickly flip them. They were washed away by the crisis. Now the market is much stronger, healthier than before and people who own the nice pieces (i) can afford them (so don’t need to flip them at some point), (ii) don’t have the intention to sell them because they truly love them and (iii) are much more educated than the lousy speculators who were buying sometimes “toxic” watches.
# The word passion is used frequently in the vintage watch community to mark a common driver to collect. Isn’t this word misused too often nowadays and collecting has become a cold hard cash business?
As i just said, i think this is less the case than before. And as the values rise, we face wealthier players in the market, who don’t want/need to sell what they truly cherish.
Of course, they will always be some smartasses “shaving” the curves of values but i think today this represents a minority.
# What is your view on the development of the increasing number fake vintage watches that are almost impossible to detect with only the eye?
It is good and bad. Let me develop.
It is of course bad because this is getting more and more dangerous and you need more expertise, specific tools as well as probably an in-house watchmaker, to establish whether a watch is authentic or not.
But then, if you do your job professionally, with proper ethic and invest in the right resources (tools, watchmakers, taking the time to check watches at manufactures etc), you have an edge on the “smartasses” who are hurting, competing with your expertise, your profession.
It also gives an edge to those who “have been around” for longer, which is the case in every sophisticated, valuable profession (“would you get a surgery with a 25 or 45 year old surgeon ?”).
Any random “rookie” cannot be as competent as a good old wise dealer and this will imply respect and credit to them, which is a great thing for the development and recognition of our industry.
# How would you compare vintage car collecting with vintage watch collecting? What are the differences and similarities?
I could talk here for ages as these are my two main passions (with tennis).
Of course they are many similarities : the craftsmanship, the rarity, the exclusivity, the “toys for boys” aspect, the legendary men behind the brands, the sports/adventurous stories linked to or generated by them, the “vanity” that men have to own them…but the main differences to me are the facts that (i) a vintage watch works as well a modern one, which is clearly not the case for cars and (ii) the management to own them is so much easier with watches (storage, maintenance, taking them on holidays) so in the end i enjoy my personal watches much more than my classic cars. I must also stress out that as much as it is ok for a classic car to be restored, this is totally value-crushing for a watch. Which then again means that the supply in vintage watches will always be limited…
# The art world resembles a meritocracy where talent eventually is achieves the highest status. Do you see any similarities compared to the vintage watch world?
That really rings a bell since i have been exhibiting vintage watches at major art fairs such as Art Basel and FIAC.
First of all, the art market, which is massively dominated by the contemporary art market, is a business of high figures. We are talking dozen, hundreds of millions. So this is not really a meritocracy based on talent but rather on financing, marketing and creating trends, fashions – all driven by the main galleries/auction houses. This business is much more “orientated” (not to say manipulated) than the vintage watch market and much managed like a true financial market. In comparison we are innocent amateurs ! Hence, as always, when such big sums are involved, who can really believe it is all about passion ? It is all (well, 99%) about business, speculation, and those who say the contrary are either naive or not honest. Of course, you can compare some masterpieces of every field and i personally think that some watches are pieces of art but our world is very different. What i noticed at those major art fairs is that collectors are first “working” (=doing business buying arts) and then “relaxing” by buying a watch as a celebration. So, all in all, i think our industry is much more casual and pleasure oriented that the (contemporary) art world.
# Two events are organized at the same time: a classic car fair displaying some of the rarest vintage cars out there and a vintage watch fair showing some of the most complicated watches ever made. Which event will you attend and why?
That would probably be a tragic dilemma. If it is the rarest watches i would chose the watches. If it is simply the most complicated watches, i would chose the rarest cars since i am more obsessed by the design, beauty and rarity than by the mechanics.
# If you could travel back in time, who would you choose to have lunch with: Hans Wilsdorf or Antoni Patek & Adrien Philippe?
Wilsdorf without a doubt, he was so visionary. And then Louis Abraham Breguet to ask him what does he think of FP Journe today.
# What is your golden tip for novice collectors?
Don’t buy to speculate but to treat yourself, follow your emotion !
Don’t overestimate the stories you read on the internet, apart from super trustworthy (and rare) websites, there is a lot of crap circulating and becoming “the truth” since it is replicated on several websites;
Do have trust in a good dealer who is fully responsible for what he is selling you (by opposition with auction houses) and who is probably giving his heart and soul for his job of a lifetime;
Don’t buy anything “stupid” unless you are sure you can resell it easily
Don’t believe in the marketing of the manufactures, this is made to manipulate you ; You actually own what you buy, you might no simply look after it for the future generations, so be careful with what you own !
Don’t accept to replace all the parts of your vintage watch during a service because “this is our manufacture policy”, negotiate, argue, this is your property, not theirs.
Do follow your guts, your instinct when having to chose between several watches, don’t let yourself influence by “must have/must do”, you will look at it hundreds of times per day, it better pleases you and nobody else !
Don’t ask for your wife’s advice/permission !
Check out the vintage Rolex Antoine Rauis has for sale on RPM over here…