Ineichen Auctioneers have been selling watches and jewellery ever since its founding in 1973, delighting collectors and experts alike with exquisite and delicate objects from all eras of watchmaking and goldsmithery.
Ineichen Auctioneers was established in 1973 in Zurich to hold auctions for antique toys, helvetica, drawings, militaria, scientific instruments, books, carpets, and antique valuable papers. As most of the auctions of those times, Ineichen Auctioneers started off as a family business, operating for a close circle of experts and friends.
Peter A. Ineichen, who founded the house, was mostly interested in the history of chronometry and began to specialize in watches and clocks. As the oldest auction house with a focus on watches in Switzerland, Ineichen Auctioneers has established itself as an important player in the field, even internationally.
First years, first results
Prices for watches began to soar in the 1970s. Through this time, Ineichen Auctioneers continuously worked with collectors to ensure a steady flow of new pieces. Within the first 5 years of existence, the auction house has set 4 world records on sales of the watches, in 1975 and 1977 with two pieces sold at record prices each. In 1975, only two years after it was founded, Ineichen Auctioneers were entrusted with the world renown collection of the Hellmut Kienzle watch museum.
Back in the 1970s it wasn’t common to hold auctions dedicated exclusively to watches, and Peter Ineichen introduced a new concept when he started dedicating his sales solely to horology.
Ineichen successfully set new benchmarks for historically important pocket watches. The Breguet No. 213, featuring an array of complications such as quarter repeater and equation of time, was originally purchased in 1800 by the French general Moreau, famous by bringing Napoleon Bonaparte to power. After Moreau passed away in 1813, the watch was resold to another outstanding historical personality – French writer, translator, and founder of the first news agency Agence Havas (known today as Agence France-Presse) – Charles-Louis Havas. Ineichen, which by that time became the frontrunner of the pocket watch trade, successfully sold Breguet No. 213 for CHF 500,000 in 1975.
Ineichen played a vital role in ensuring a successful sale of another extremely rare and exquisite pocket watch called “Montre garde-temps à tourbillon No.1918”, created by Abraham-Louis Breguet.
The famous Parisian watchmaker and inventor patented his revolutionary piece of mechanics – the tourbillon – in 1801. Between 1805 and 1826 Breguet sold only 35 watches equipped with tourbillon regulator, one of which was the abovementioned piece “No.1918”, originally sold to Count Archinto of Milan in 1822. On the auction held in 1978, Ineichen sold this timepiece at a sensational price of CHF 500,000.
In 1977, Ineichen Auctioneers moved its business to new premises on C.F.-Meyerstrasse opposite quaint Belvoir-Park in Zurich, which allowed for regular conferences with art experts and friends.
Growing stronger in hard times
The boom years came to a halt in the mid-1980s, causing the Swiss watch industry to struggle and contract. A further downturn could be averted by investing in mass production, which eventually lead the interest in luxury watches to flourish again.
In 1982, Ineichen Auctioneers founded its publishing branch, beginning with a book on Geneva watchmaker dynasty Patek Philippe, published in collaboration with the iconic writing duo of Martin Huber and Alan Banbery. The book included some of the rarest Patek Philippe pocket watches ever made, such as the famous Henry Graves Supercomplication watch, which was sold for US$24 million at Sotheby’s. To this day, the book serves as a guide for the entire community.
It was followed by a book on the Hellmut Kienzle’s famous collection of antique watches (1984) and a book on history of IWC International Watch Co. by Hans-Friedrich Tölke and Jürgen King (1986).
Ten years after its last move, Ineichen Auctioneers relocated to Badenerstrasse in 1987 and began holding auctions in the Casino across the street, with a focus on watches, jewellery and antique toys from 1996 on. Exclusive wristwatches, such as Paul Newman Rolexes, panda dial Tag-Heuer Carreras or Nautilus Patek Philippes, were sold to an international audience.
The relocation to Stadthausquai, in the heart of Zurich, gave an opportunity to run a retail business in conjunction with existing auction business in watches.
The introduction of quartz watches in 1969 did radicalize the industry as a whole and nearly caused the extinction of both pocket and mechanical watches. With a shrinking community of pocket watch collectors, Ineichen was no longer what it once was. Nevertheless, Ineichen remained to be family owned business until 2017-2018.
New times - new challenges
In the middle of 1990s, Peter A. Ineichen gave the board of the auction house to his son Frank, who ran it until 2017.
In the 2000s, with a strong boom in wristwatches from the top brands, the auction house continued to deal mainly with vintage watches and was unable to pick up a business-friendly direction. Since the beginning of 2010 , the rapid development of online retailing and advertising began, and Ineichen Auctioneers again failed to completely adjust to a new business model, which eventually led to the sale of the auction house in 2017.
At that time, a young diligent man by the name of Artemy Lechbinsky, with a vast knowledge in all things watches, from antique pocket watches to contemporary independent watchmakers, envisioned the potential to transform this sleeping giant into a premier auction house. He aimed to bring back the glory days of Ineichen Auctioneers by building relationships with collectors and offering rare and independent wristwatches.
A change for the best
After the sale, the full transformation of both the design of the premises, storefronts, etc., and the technical equipment of the auction house began. The new team of professionals adjustable to the new conditions was gathered.
2018 was a transitional year and required considerable efforts to restructure the business model. The auction house began to work with independent watchmakers and sell used watches in its stores. This year Ineichen Zurich held 3 auctions (including jewelry).
In 2019, additional investments were attracted in the development of new IT infrastructure, the approach to photographing goods and its presentation to potential buyers was redesigned, additionally, serious budgets were invested in online advertising. All this has resulted in sales growth of more than 5 times compared to 2018.
In 2020, the first stage of IT infrastructure was launched. The number of personnel was increased several times, with a specific focus on the online marketing team. These adjustments allowed to hold the most successful auction in sales in the last 40 years.
In 2021, the auction house is launching its own online store, starts the in-house online bidding platform, and realizes the first sale through it.
On the May 22nd auction, the previous record by sales volumes was broken. Additionally, this auction was marked by the sale of the most expensive NFT token from the watchmaker in history.
November auctions have cumulated more than twice the result of the May record, proving that Ineichen has stepped on the path of continuous and rapid growth.
2021 became another milestone in the auction's history, with the new concept for auctions to be introduced. Moving from large semi-annual auctions with over 200 pieces, the focus is given to "special" auctions. These auctions feature highly outstanding lots in amounts of no more than 50 per auction. Each auction has its own theme uniting all the items allocated to it.
Taking over the business the new management is determined to continue the tradition of family Ineichen, while simultaneously adapting to the new circumstances and complexities of the global market. This responsive and flexible business adjustment, keeps Ineichen interesting for long-time consumers, while also being interesting for new buyers.