A couple of weeks ago we received an email from Alexander Eblen, Director of the Fine Jewelry and Timepieces department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago. Their Fine Timepieces Sale was coming up and he wanted to give us a sneak peek. Before long we were making ourselves comfortable in their conference room; in front of 67 bubble wrap envelopes and watch boxes. We were like kids on Christmas morning tearing through packages, and in the end, Justin and I chose seven watches as our personal favorites; that’s what you see here.
What you’re about to read is a CliffsNotes version of Leslie Hindman’s history consigning & selling timepieces, including personal anecdotes from Alexander.
Nowadays it seems like there’s an auction happening every week. Our Instagram feeds are inundated with realtime coverage from mammoth auction houses like Christie’s and Phillips, in New York, Geneva, and other world cities. Most of us can only dream of playing ball in this arena; feeling butterflies dance in the pit of our stomach at the prospect of raising a paddle to bid on a mega watch. The average watch enthusiast is reduced to being a spectator; their emotional involvement limited to debates with fellow watch fiends about how much a watch sold for, like the recent piece-unique steel Patek Philippe Grand Complication, which hammered at $7 million.
The hoopla that these marquee auctions receive in the press can lead one to believe they’re the only game in town… But the truth is, there’s a number of smaller and medium-size auction houses with some pretty compelling lots of their own – with estimates more accessible to beginner and intermediate-level collectors. Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is one such house. Founded in 1982, it’s since become a Midwest institution with an international audience tuned into their auctions of fine art, precious jewels, rare furniture, and other assorted heirlooms from both private individuals and well-known estates.
Over the past three years Leslie Hindman has grown the fine timepieces arm of their business by separating watches from their jewelry sales. Traditionally they hold two Fine Timepiece auctions a year. The response to timepieces-only auctions, from both existing and new clients, has been overwhelming. So much so that this year they’re having a third sale, which is happening next week, on Monday December 7th.
Alexander works closely with the people who consign their possessions, as well as those who place bids hoping to become the next owner. As exceptional as some of the watches are in their own right, the stories about them, as told by attorneys and executors handling estates, as well as original owners and their heirs, can be equally remarkable. One such story that stands out to Alexander is about the one-owner Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona that recently sold for $92,500: It was originally purchased to be worn while jogging; to keep track of how long runs took.
I was surprised to hear Alexander say that most consignors “don’t know what they have…” We tend to think everyone calls up Google and performs a search of the name(s) on their watch’s dial. In Alexander’s experience, this isn’t happening as often as we assume. Alexander says he’s had the pleasure to tell many people “you do have a treasure.” He told me “I remember [the] joyful, surprised feeling when I first pulled a Tiffany-signed Patek Philippe ref. 3448 with Triple Calendar and Moonphase out of the leather pouch it was kept in… realizing how special it was and admiring just how elegant the design is. The client did know that her late husband had ‘good’ watches, but had no idea how good… While the estimate of $70,000-90,000 was a happy surprise for her, the final price realized of $182,500 was a real shock in the best way possible.”
“Clients aren’t always wealthy, but they all possess something worth a lot [to them].” Alexander reminds us that “jewelry and watches are some of the most personal possessions someone has. They tend to be the items most tied to someone’s personality. Think of your mother or father, their accessories are part and parcel to their identity.” With this being so often the case, it’s never easy to let go… Some watches have taken months to go under contract; a handshake and temporary custodianship happening only after earning a person’s trust.
Part of instilling that trust comes from Alexander and his team demonstrating expertise. As previously stated, Alexander is also in charge of the Fine Jewelry department. He’s worked in that industry for his entire career, after graduating from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Of late, in between louping diamonds and colored gemstones, he’s increasingly found himself researching and appraising watches. His knowledge of timepieces comes from paying attention to the goings-on in the auction world – past and present results. We can say from personal experience, that Alexander values the opinions of others; he’s always eager to learn something new about a watch, especially their nuances, which he’s come to realize is a lifelong education.
Alexander calls himself a “nascent collector”: someone just starting out, but with a promising future. He confided in me that he actually spent his first professional paycheck on a watch – a Tag Heuer Kirium. As you might expect, his role at Leslie Hindman has exposed him to so many different timepieces and profoundly influenced his taste; he’s now into 1950s two-register chronographs.
In some ways we hope you already know about Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. In some ways we hope we’re introducing them to you. I actually lived in Chicago for almost four years before discovering them. My earliest memory was in December of 2010. I remember paying a visit to a preview and beholding a Rolex Daytona ref. 6239. Come to think of it, this could’ve been the first time I ever held a vintage Daytona… Had I known about Leslie Hindman just one year earlier, I could’ve been the high bidder for a Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 that went for $3,904…
Our experience with Leslie Hindman’s watches is that most are honest, daily wearers, coming to market for the first time from original owners or their families. And since we at Watch Patina value knowing the personal history of a watch, this way of buying is right up our alley.
Alexander likes to say he deals with “the collections of today, and helps build the collections of tomorrow.” As auctions become more of a viable channel for purchasing, and original parts and provenance become more important to collectors, regional auction houses like Leslie Hindman Auctioneers are an ideal place to find your next timepiece.
When: Monday, December 7 | 5:30pm
Where: 1338 West Lake St | Chicago, IL 60607
Wednesday, December 2 | 10 – 5pm
Thursday, December 3 | 10 – 5pm
Friday, December 4 | 10 – 5pm
Saturday, December 5 | 10 – 3pm
Sunday, December 6 | 12 – 5pm
To check out the entire Fine Timepieces Sale, view lots online.
For more information on this lot or to receive a complimentary appraisal of your property, please visit lesliehindman.com or contact Alexander Eblen | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 312-280-1212
Attention: Please DO NOT solely use my photographs or write-up/description to assess condition, determine provenance, or judge desirability. Serious bidders should examine the watch in-person and/or reach out to the professionals at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.