May 10, 2023Since founding Luxury Bazaar 20 years ago, Roman Sharf has built a cult following among watch collectors. Part of his success can be attributed to the YouTube channel he started for the business in 2019 (to say nothing of his personal channel, which has nearly 300,000 followers). Known for demystifying the world of grand-complication luxury timepieces with straight talk and sound advice, the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, dealer makes collectors at all levels feel welcome and in the know.
In 2011, Sharf joined forces with A&G Jewelers, expanding his inventory to include fine jewelry. And there’s plenty of it on offer in Luxury Bazaar’s 1stDibs storefront. In fact, on May 10, 1stDibs will launch a weeklong auction event with Luxury Bazaar, putting on the block more than 100 items, many with no reserve price.
Sharf is no stranger to acquiring goods at auction and has some advice for bidders. “Auctions can be a way to get a great deal, but sometimes you can get carried away and overpay for stuff. I always say set a budget, plus one extra bid if you really want the item,” he says. “Bid your budget, and then wait till the end, see where it goes. If the price is still within twenty percent of where you want to be, then bid one last time to get to your number. Once you put in that bid, do yourself a favor and turn off the auction or you’ll just get caught up in it.
“Always ask yourself, ‘How much of a thrill am I getting out of this?’ ” he continues. “ ‘Is it worth the extra two hundred dollars?’ At the end of the day, it’s about the passion you have for watches and jewelry — don’t lose sight of that.”
Ahead, more wisdom from Sharf. Use it to define your goals and shop (or bid!) wisely, so that you eventually acquire the jewel or timepiece that takes your collection to the next level.
What’s trending in the world of watch collecting?
It’s no secret that Rolex is the leader in terms of popularity. And when you’re talking about prestige, Patek Philippe is the Rolls-Royce of watches. Recently, there was a big correction in the market, where the most popular models from brands like Audemars Piguet, Rolex and Patek Philippe took a dip. These were the most popular top-tier models, and it had gotten to the point where you had models out there trading at five times their retail value, which just got ridiculous. As we explain in a recent blog post, “In any given year, a watch, just like a stock, can be subject to price fluctuations.” So, today, if you ask me what is the most popular, what are people asking me for the most, it’s going to be Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, followed by Omega and Cartier.
What about trends in the vintage watch market?
People are starting to open up their eyes to pieces made from the nineteen eighties to the nineteen nineties. This is because the amount of goods that were produced during this time period was very, very small in comparison to today’s production numbers. The reason is that in the nineteen seventies, the Swiss watch industry found itself in what’s called the “quartz crisis.” Seiko, a Japanese brand, had come out with the first quartz watch [powered by batteries] and it challenged the Swiss watch industry [which had focused on mechanical watches powered by gears and springs].
Of course, oddly enough, it was a quartz watch that saved the Swiss watch industry — the Swatch watch — because the Swatch Group took all that money they made from it and put it back into Blancpain, Breguet and other major Swiss watch brands. So, people are looking at the nineteen-eighties-to-nineties time range, specifically, because it’s also still affordable.
What’s one of the most impressive timepieces in your 1stDibs storefront that you would suggest to a highly knowledgeable collector?
Just one example of many is this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grand Complication Watch, a one-of-a-kind model that displays the brand’s technical watchmaking prowess and their material innovation, making it a true collector’s piece. It has several functions including a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, and split-seconds chronograph powered by the self-winding calibre 2885 (composed of 648 parts). Audemars Piguet is a pioneer in the use of alternative materials and it cased this watch in eighteen-karat rose gold, on an eighteen-karat rose gold bracelet, a detail that makes this model all the more collectible and desirable among Audemars Piguet enthusiasts.
Your 1stDibs inventory also includes Timex and Seiko. Why have you chosen to diversify your assortment in this way?
Not everybody can afford a Rolex or an Audemars Piguet. I’ve always preached that a passion for watches is irrelevant to price, so buy what you like, first and foremost, within the price range you can afford. A Timex or a Seiko is a gateway for somebody to get into this wonderful world of watches. A person buying themselves a one-hundred-fifty-dollar watch or a fifty-dollar watch can feel just the same as the person buying a one-hundred-thousand-dollar watch. It’s all relative to your income levels, and the joy that comes with wearing the model you have chosen.
For budding watch enthusiasts just beginning to amass collections they hope will grow in value over time, what is your best advice?
The first thing I tell them is don’t look at watches as an investment. Watches are an expensive toy, first and foremost. Nine out of ten times, you don’t end up reselling the item. Get educated, and see what drives you. Maybe it’s the history, the innovation, the mechanics of watchmaking or the recognizability of the watch. Look across the spectrum of major brands that have been around for hundreds of years — look at their history, their watchmaking skills and the inventions that have been created over the years. And look at the resale value of all those brands.
Expensive timepieces also have what’s called a “flex factor” [show-off value], like with a Cartier Love bracelet: Its value in gold is not that high, but the Cartier Love bracelet is very recognizable and has flex value. At the end of the day, people buy expensive toys because they want to show them off. And that remains true for a lot of collectors today. There’s nothing wrong with buying for flex factor.
But if you’re a bit more low-key and you don’t want something flashy, there are a lot of options. For somebody who is driven by the horological aspects of things — how well the watch is made — and limited-production runs, I suggest looking at independent watchmakers like MB& F, H. Moser and F.P. Journe. If you want something you will not see the guy next to you wearing, look at these brands. They are the future of collecting.
When it comes to the jewelry you sell on 1stDibs, what maker aligns most closely with your personal tastes?
When it comes to jewelry, my favorite brand, aesthetically and historically, is Bulgari. I think that the Serpenti line from Buglari is timeless, as is the Alhambra collection from Van Cleef & Arpels. You will see it a hundred years from now. And Cartier is appealing to me from two perspectives, because it’s a powerhouse when it comes to both watches and jewelry.
“These ultra-glamorous diamond-dotted fringe earrings have floral-motif posts formed of diamond-encrusted petals with round diamond centers.”