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Q&A: Aurel Bacs, Auction Maestro

by Nick Gould on July 9, 2015

In the auction realm of wristwatches there is a name that stands out: Aurel Bacs.  Currently the Executive Consultant and Auctioneer of the Phillips Watch Department in association with Bacs and Russo, Mr Bacs was the former international head of the Christies Watch Department when many world records were broken for Patek Philippe and Rolex timepieces.   Aurel Bacs was kind enough to give Deployant the opportunity to ask him some questions.

Aurel Bacs on the Rostrum at The Geneva Watch Auction- ONE on 10 May 2015

Aurel Bacs at the rostrum taking bids at the Phillips  Geneva Watch Auction: One.  Picture (C) Phillips Watches


 Q&A with Aurel Bacs


Deployant: Tell us how you started and what first lead you to become an auctioneer in the world of wristwatches?

Aurel Bacs: Since the age of 12 I was interested in vintage wristwatches.  When I was 23, after over a decade of attending flea markets, antique shows and collectors meetings I was shown an advertisement of a leading auction house looking for a specialist to join their Geneva team. I was curious to find out if my knowledge was sufficient to be accepted but not seriously interested In the job as I was at my last year at university. After several interviews across Europe, I was, much to my surprise, offered the job. Once I realised what a privilege this was, I accepted, however with the aim to soon return to finish my studies. Precisely 20 years I am still in the auction industry.


Deployant: Could you describe to us the feeling, when the hammer came down and you were declared the winning bidder on the Graves Super Complication? What was the reaction of your client when you told them the news?

Aurel Bacs:  I must admit that the bidding marathon for the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Jr Super Complication was one of the most exciting and adrenaline burning experiences in my entire professional life. When the hammer cane down I was exhausted but utterly relieved and so happy for my client. As he was on the phone to me throughout the auction I did not need to share the news with him so the outcome was not the surprise to him. Needless to say that he was also very satisfied with the outcome.

Graves Supercomplication

The Patek Philippe Supercomplication made for New York businessman Henry Graves Jr. Aurel Bacs was the winning bidder on behalf of a client.  The final hammer price including buyers premium was $23,237,000 Swiss Francs.   Picture (C) Sothebys


Deployant:  During your time at Christies, you auctioned the only platinum Patek Philippe 2499 in private hands and sold the first Rolex Daytona to break the magical $1 million figure. These must have been two very special watches.

Aurel Bacs:  Indeed, the Eric Clapton Patek Philippe Ref 2499 in Platinum was incredibly emotional moment in my career, but the same should be said for the unique Ref 1527 Patek Philippe which I sold in 2010 for over six million Swiss francs, as well as the steel Ref 1526 Patek Philippe which achieved over 4 million Swiss francs. During my 10 years at Christie’s we have broken nearly every world record in the field of watches, and it always felt unique and so special. Despite expectations always being high whenever seizes to be amazed when a watch reaches a magical result. Thankfully, there are still many watches that I would love to sell during my career, including a stainless steel ref 1518 a pink gold two crowns world-time ref 2523 but also watches that once belonged to celebrities.

PP 2499 Plat EC

The Patek Philippe 2499 in Platinum previously owned by Eric Clapton and sold by Aurel Bacs.  Picture (C) Christies


Deployant: Are there any other pieces that would leave you speechless for a few seconds if they were to walk through the door?

Aurel Bacs: Can you imagine if we could obtain Fidel Castro’s Rolex Submariner.


Deployant: Are there any modern timepieces in your opinion that will be future collectables?

Aurel Bacs: Yes, certainly. I am thinking of watches, either made by independent watchmakers or established larger companies where the love and attention for details and craftsmanship have not being sacrificed for the sake of shareholder value, and respect for tradition is in harmony with a spirit of curiosity and innovation.

Aurel Bacs_color_2015 1

Aurel Bacs, Executive Consultant  of Phillips Watch Department. Charismatic and Knowledgeable.  Picture (C) Phillips Watches


 Deployant: In recent times has the geographical spread of bidders become more diverse, as a result of technology allowing potential bidders to view catalogues over the internet and to make bids online?

Aurel Bacs: Absolutely, watch collecting is now reaching nearly every region of our planet, and thanks to a unprecedented level of technology, it is now easier than ever before for watch collectors to discover and bid on their dream watches at an auction on the other side of the planet.


Deployant:  How does the Phillips Watch Auctions experience differ from other auction houses?

Aurel Bacs: Our approach to serving our clients is very different and so is our concept when selecting watches for our auctions. I do not think that the newly Phillips watch department, can be compared to existing auction houses, and hence I won’t be able to list the differences. The Phillips watch auctions are not competing with anyone for a size, or volume but aim to offer the very best to a discerning clientele who wants the best.

Below is a short video from Phillips of Aurel Bacs talking about the customer experience:


Deployant:  What watch is currently strapped to your wrist? Do you like to rotate the watches you wear in your collection?

Aurel Bacs: “To me a watch is not only an instrument telling me the time but actually a part of me. it reflects my mood, the way I feel, where I go and how I dress.  Consequently you may bump into me one day wearing a vintage sport’s watch as well as a contemporary dress watch. During the last few days I have being wearing an early Zenith El Primero from 1971. “


We would like to thank Mr Aurel Bacs for taking the time to answer our questions and Miss Asta Ponzo for arranging the Q&A.

On November 7th in Geneva, Mr Bacs will be at the helm for the 6th edition of the Only Watch Charity Auction.  This event raises funds for the Monaco Association against Muscular Dystrophy.   For more information on the Only Watch Auction please click here.  To view the watches being offered for the auction please visit Phillips Watches.

We know Mr Bacs will have the bidders raising their paddles for the unique timepieces on offer!

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