A hesitant start for watch auctions in Korea

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A hesitant start for watch auctions in Korea

The history of auctions in Korea is very short. Seoul Auction, which opened in Pyeongchang-dong in northern Seoul in 1998, is the country’s first auction house.
Since opening, it has specialized mostly in fine art, while promoting “auction culture” through various events on- and offline in Korea. Besides artworks, it deals in fine jewelry, furniture and imported wine.
Last May, the auction house added a new category: prestigious, high-end watches. Yang Kyung-hee, the public relations manager of Seoul Auction, believes Korea has a strong potential market for secondhand watches.
Before last Sunday’s auction, a total of 150 secondhand watches from luxury brands including Cartier, Rolex, Piaget, Patek Philippe, Frank Muller, IWC and Vacheron Constantin were exhibited at Sinsegye Department Store’s Sky Lounge in Gangnam.
Seoul Auction recently invited Charles Yam, the Hong Kong-based deputy director of Sotheby’s, who gave a lecture on “The World of Watch Collecting.” At the Marriott Hotel, Mr. Yam discussed the basics of watch collecting.
“Like other forms of art, watches have history, provenance and craftsmanship, and also have resale value,” Mr. Yam told some 80 Korean collectors.
Of the 150 watches, 70 were ready to be auctioned. On Sunday afternoon, 100 people participated in the auction; only 14 watches were sold. The highest bid of the day was for a Patek Philippe 1988 Gondolo wristwatch, which went for 10 million won (about $8,300).
“Unlike art auctions, Koreans are not yet familiar with buying watches at an auction; many people were hesitant to participate in bidding,” Ms. Yang said afterward. “We hope it will improve in the future.”
The company’s next auction, whose theme will be “Art & Living,” runs from Dec. 16 to Dec. 28 at Seoul Auction Center. For information, call 02-395-0330~4, or visit the company’s Web site, www.seoulauction.com.

by Ines Cho
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