Ineichen Auctioneers of Zurich, Switzerland is making horological history as the first private auction house specializing in watches to offer shares in the company through an auction to be staged on its eponymous platform. As Ineichen CEO Artemy Lechbinsky tells it, “We are offering 33% of shares in Ineichen Auctioneers to potential investors via a closed auction that runs July 20 to August 20.” This historic opportunity arises out of Ineichen’s pleasingly profitable closed live sale in May 2022 of a single lot that represents a 0.5% stake in the company. Based on that event’s winning bid of 210,000 Swiss francs, Lechbinsky explains, “We have allocated 66 lots for the upcoming sale and the starting price for a share in Ineichen Auctioneers is set at CHF 210,000. Only 499 buyers will be preapproved to participate, and buyers may bid on as many lots as they like.” While bidding to own 33% of shares in Ineichen is open from July 20, offers will be collected and reviewed until August 20. The winning bidder, or bidders, will be announced shortly thereafter.
According to Lechbinsky, “Each qualifying bid will lead to the conclusion of a share purchase agreement between Ineichen, and the buyer for the applicable number of lots. Ineichen reserves the right to accept or decline each bid once the bidding period has ended.” Until August 20, 2022 dawns, the house will consider all offers, and rank them from highest to lowest. The winning bid will be recognized as the amount the buyer is willing to pay for the available shares. Thereafter, the buyer’s application data will be verified by Ineichen to satisfy regulatory requirements. (If regulatory requirements are unfulfilled, Ineichen may render the bid(s) null and void.) A bid will be considered successful only after it has been confirmed by Ineichen via email or telephone call.
Once the verification process is completed, Ineichen will send a purchase agreement to the new investor(s) for countersigning, along with a purchase certificate that confirms that individual’s right to become a shareholder in Ineichen Auctioneers. The entire transaction may take from four to six weeks to finalize. As Lechbinsky explains, “As of now the total share capital of Ineichen is divided amongst 3 owners.” The 33% that is being offered to potential investors comes from shares belonging to Lechbinsky, Ineichen’s major shareholder. “After this sale we anticipate welcoming one or several new shareholders from around the world,” Lechbinsky says. “We are talking to potential investors from the U.K., the UAE, Hong Kong, Switzerland and from around the EU.”
Perhaps more than any other watch auctioneer, Ineichen is committing to blockchain technology. Auction houses have historically embodied the values of provenance and evidence-based authenticity, Lechbinsky notes, and utilizing blockchain is the ultimate expression of ensuring authenticity in 2022. Lechbinsky says, “Ineichen has transferred our company to the blockchain registry allowed by the Daura platform. The monetary transactions happen outside of the platform. As a parallel process, we have expanded our payment options to include cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum. Based on our client’s feedback,” he predicts, “we will accept more types of cryptocurrencies in the future. We naturally see blockchain as something that must to be adopted,” Lechbinsky says. “Accepting crypto is a small step into the evolving new universe, which also includes NFTs. From the business perspective,” he adds, “cryptocurrency allows us to reach a new audience and expand our growth horizons.”
Ineichen was established by Peter A. Ineichen as Auktionshaus Ineichen AG in 1973. Based in Zurich, it is the oldest Swiss auction house specializing in watches. In its first two years of trading, Ineichen achieved four world records in sales. In 1975, the house acquired the historically important collection of the Hellmut Kienzle watch museum. In 2017, the company changed hands, name and strategy. Ineichen Zurich AG began pioneering 21st century auction practices.
Three years later, with a new IT infrastructure in place, Ineichen concluded its most successful auction in sales in 40 years. In 2021, Ineichen launched their own online store and in-house bidding platform, which soon realized its first sale. Their previous record by sales volume was broken at the May 22 auction, which also saw the sale of the most expensive watch-related NFT token. The November 2021 auctions achieved more than double that result in sales, marking Ineichen’s successful transition from hosting large semi-annual auctions with more than 200 lots each to special, themed auctions limited to 50 lots. (As of June 2022, Ineichen currently ranks second in sales among Swiss watch auction houses.)
The summer 2022 series of Ineichen timed auctions comes in the wake of a successful sale in June which coincided with the launch of the Ineichen app. This intrepid technology enables bidders to optimize their time and decisions during auctions with instant push notifications. According to Lechbinsky, “We are hosting the timed auctions on our own platform, which we built in-house, and this technological opportunity also happens to be a first for any auction house.” As it happened, Ineichen enjoyed a very vibrant spring auction season: From March to May 2022, the house generated approximately CHF 12 million, or about US$12.5 million in revenue from sales. Given this stellar track record, this summer’s Ineichen auctions promise to be dramatic events for watch collectors. Extending their niche offering of fewer than 50 pieces per sale, the first two auctions will catalogue a mixed collection of timepieces. The August sale will be exclusively comprised of Konstantin Chaykin creations, specifically pieces from Chaykin’s artistic and witty “Wristmons” collection.
Other notable Ineichen firsts in 2022 include its becoming the first auction house to cancel the buyer’s premium and offer a transparent commission model for consignors from April to May 2022. (In April, Ineichen Auctioneers also sold a car, an NFT and a one-of-a-kind watch bundle created especially for the auction by Konstantin Chaykin, Aleksandr Markovsky and Olexander Nyezhnyk.) Turnover at Ineichen’s Royal 50 sale totaled approximately CHF 6.5 million – just over half the total revenue generated at auctions between March 2022 and May 2022. For perspective’s sake, it’s worth noting that upmarket watch auctions are relatively new phenomena in the auction world. In the 1970’s, auction house jewelry departments typically dedicated just a handful of lots to important wrist watches or pocket watches. Without dedicated watch departments in auction houses, single horology-themed sales never happened. This all changed when Ineichen, and a few other European-based houses, started dedicating auctions solely to pocket watches and wrist watches in the following decades. At the same time, Dr. Helmut Crott, a serious collector, also started an eponymous auction house that focused on watches. Thus, both Peter A. Ineichen and Dr. Helmut Crott played influential roles in fostering the rise of the upmarket watch collector market and horology-driven auctions.
Although Lechbinsky is too discreet to say it, Ineichen Auctioneers does far more more than consign and sell timepieces. When pressed, he claims: “Ineichen carefully curates an unusual and exciting experience for its patrons. We build compelling interest around one-of-a-kind or limited edition items offered for sale by educating people about the timepieces we offer. We know that the most rewarding aspect of any auction,” Lechbinsky claims, “is the possibility of buying something aesthetically pleasing, precious and rare that you love and wear throughout your life.”
Ineichen is the 21st century avatar of an auction tradition that stretches back to the Roman Empire. In those days, soldiers auctioned off their spoils of war in what were called ‘atrium auctionariums’, while regular citizens mounted estate sales and presented informal auctions for luxury goods, furniture and other valuable goods. The battle-hardened Praetorian Guard even tried to auction off the city of Rome in 193 A.D., the Year of the Five Emperors, after Emperor Pertinax was killed. During this epic auction, Didius Julianus outbid all others and successfully ‘acquired’ the Roman Empire for a short spell. A few months after he was assassinated, Septimius Severus ascended to the throne and initiated the Severan dynasty, which lasted until 235 A.D.
Fast forward to 2022, in which Lechbinsky observes, “Online auctions provide bidders with optimal flexibility in terms of time and place, which also helps users save money since they can bid remotely via our app.” Ineichen uploads images and videos of its timepieces and other products on its website and users can conduct research regarding the prices and quality of given watches before participating in the auction. “This helps users understand the nature and approximate value of what’s on offer,” Lechbinsky adds. “Our online auctions streamline the bidding process and make it easy for watch enthusiasts. This ease is a major lever driving the growth of the global online auction market. I look forward to seeing how our historic share offering in Ineichen Auctioneers goes this summer.”