Phillips X Baselworld

février 27, 2020


Interview with Aurel Bacs about the new Phillips X Baselworld collaboration

Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant for Phillips in Association with Bacs&Russo discusses plans for the most exclusive pop-up museum ever seen.

This is the very first time that an auction house has exhibited at the Baselworld fair. How did the idea come about?
I must give the credit to Michel Loris-Melikoff, who literally reached out to us with an idea. He said “Let’s have lunch?” and the rest, as they say, is history. He was thinking outside of the box. There are some dreams that are just too big to be dreamt and I would never have had the guts to invite myself to Baselworld. So, I really thank Michel Loris-Melikoff for his initiative.

We are both from Zurich, which is a coincidental match. We were struggling a little with our French when we realized that we were both Swiss German and could talk to each other in our own language. It is always easier when you can read between the lines, understand the placing of a comma. We are carved from the same piece of wood.

Can you tell us about your plans for the exhibition?
This is the first exhibition of its kind ever, so there is no precedent, which is both a privilege and a pressure. We are starting with a blank piece of paper. Right from the beginning we said that we were not interested in quick sales or to compete with the manufacturers. My belief is that an auction house should never compete with the manufacturers. At Baselworld, I would encourage all our clients to buy new. A new watch is the start of a watch’s history.

We believe we should be complementary and exhibit to the broader public so that they understand that what they see at the manufacturers had a predecessor. Patek Philippe’s current perpetual calendar chronograph, the 5270, for example, was preceded by the 5970, and before that, it was the 3970 and before that, the 2499, right back to the 1518, the very first Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph. If you want to experience the Adam and Eve moment, come to the auction house, Phillips.

Patek Philippe and Rolex could bring their museum timepieces to Baselworld, but they go to Baselworld to show new pieces. This is what we do, and I hope Mr. Stern, Mr. Bianchi, and Mr. Dufour will all come and visit our stand and see where timepieces such as the Day Date, the Daytona, the Calatrava all started.

What are some of the key timepieces visitors are going to be able to see?
There will be affordable pieces and multi-million dollar watches. But nothing is for sale. Some will be timepieces that are coming up in future auctions, while others are from private collections that have either never been seen, or never been seen collectively.

I believe that the selection of watches on display will be the most exclusive, rich assembly of vintage watches ever seen out of a museum. There will be watches that have obtained world records at auction, watches that have not been seen in years, watches that have been owned by crowned heads, Hollywood stars, and racing drivers. There will be timepieces that have accompanied daring exploits, along with unique pieces and prototypes. It will be the most exclusive pop-up museum ever seen.

Auctions are often open to the public, but they remain quite exclusive events. Is sharing these timepieces with a wider audience important to you?
It is easy to preview timepieces at an auction. You can be a curious novice and still attend an auction. All you need to do is identify yourself and show your financial good standing with proof of a bank account. You don’t need to be Rockefeller or Bill Gates or show you have a huge watch collection to enter.

What are you most looking forward to with this new exhibition?
I am looking forward to meeting curious newcomers, as well as seasoned watch lovers to discuss technology, history or any inspiring topic. Today, the way the big brands are going is towards a different clientele. I like the analogy that the manufacturers are like olive oil and we are the Aceto balsamico. I hope after one week, we can make beautiful vinaigrette together.