Hugh Edmeades is responsible for over £2.2 billion in sales at the world’s biggest auction house.
Here, he presents his expert advice for would-be auctioneers
‘It’s showtime,’ declares Hugh Edmeades, Christie’s International Director of Auctioneering, who has conducted over 2,300 auctions since making his debut in August 1984 — selling over 300,000 lots for more than £2.2 billion.
‘Auctioneering is a performance art,’ Edmeades continues. ‘Our stage is our rostrum, and our only prop is our gavel.’ With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Edmeades is an expert performer, and now manages a select group of 65 men and women responsible for taking Christie’s sales across the globe. Many are graduates of his highly competitive ‘Auctioneering School,’ run every two years for Christie’s staff.
| Auctioneers must enjoy themselves, and the bidders will too |
In this video, Edmeades gives an exclusive insight into the rigorous training his potentials undertake. ‘If an actor doesn’t know his or her lines, then they cannot truly perform their part. And with auctioneers, if we don’t know our numbers and our increments then we cannot truly sell,’ he insists.
His other nuggets of wisdom are more subtle, though no less important — from encouraging auctioneers to adopt bright accessories, to using hand gestures. Perhaps the most vital is a sense of enthusiasm. To succeed as an auctioneer, Edmeades says, requires speed and energy: ‘Auctioneers must enjoy themselves, and the bidders will too.’
As Edmeades approaches the 22nd anniversary of his first sale, that sense of enjoyment remains palpable — shining through a now expertly-polished performance.
Owned by one of Napoleon’s most brilliant generals and then the founder of the world’s first news agency, the story of Breguet No. 217 — one of only two watches of its kind from the very rare perpétuelle series — is extraordinary
Regarded as one of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s masterpieces, the reappearance of this exceptional perpétuelle watch after decades in an important private collection provides devotees with the opportunity to obtain one of the most complicated and desirable watches ever made. Its remarkable provenance includes one of Napoleon’s generals — later a rival — and Charles-Louis Havas, the founder of Agence France-Presse (AFP), the world’s first news agency.
In addition to being from the self-winding or perpétuelle series, a great rarity in itself, Breguet No. 217 has the extra complications of both day and month calendar, power reserve and, most unusually and importantly, an equation of time indication. The equation of time in astronomy is the quantity that needs to be added or subtracted to switch from real time given by the sun, to the mean time: our time, which arbitrarily divides a day into 24 hours.
Within Breguet’s total production between 1790 and 1830, only 15 watches with equation of time were made. Of these 15, only two are known to have been from the perpétuelle series — No. 217, and the legendary ultra-complicated watch No. 160, known as the ‘Marie Antoinette’ and now in the L. A. Mayer Museum in Jerusalem.
Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, but it was in Paris that he spent most of his career. His early breakthroughs included the development of the successful self-winding perpétuelle watches, the introduction of the gongs for repeating watches and the first shock-protection for balance pivots. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were among the early enthusiasts for his watchmaking.
During the French Revolution, Breguet took refuge in Switzerland. When he returned to Paris, it was with the ideas that led to the Breguet balance-spring, his first carriage clock (sold to Bonaparte), the ‘sympathique’ clock and its dependent watch, the tact watch, and finally the tourbillon, patented in 1801.
He became the watchmaker to the scientific, military, financial and diplomatic elites of the age. For his most celebrated clients Breguet designed exceptional timepieces, including the world’s very first wristwatch, conceived in 1810 for Caroline Murat, queen of Naples.
No. 217 was first sold in 1800 to Jean Victor Marie Moreau, who paid 3,600 francs for the watch. Moreau was a French general who served under Napoleon Bonaparte before later becoming a rival, and ultimately being exiled to the United States of America.
Moreau arrived in the USA in 1805. Seven years later President Madison offered him command of the U.S. troops, but Moreau decided instead to return to Europe, where he became involved with republican intriguers supporting the Prussians and Austrians in leading an army against Napoleon.
Moreau was mortally wounded at the Battle of Dresden in 1813 and died six days later from his injuries. His wife received a pension from Tsar Alexander I of Russia, and Moreau was posthumously given the rank of Marshal of France by Louis XVIII.
Breguet, as was his custom, particularly with the perpétuelle watches, bought back watch No. 217, presumably from Moreau’s family. He made some aesthetic improvements to it in the form of a new case and a stunning new guilloché silver dial by Tavernier in the latest style. This replaced the original white enamel dial, which by 1817 would have been regarded as old-fashioned.
Breguet’s repurchasing, updating and resale of his watches made excellent business sense because he could often update the watch and resell it for a much higher price. The perpétuelles, in particular, were very expensive, selling for upwards of 3,000 francs.
Charles-Louis Havas became the second owner of watch No. 217, purchasing it on 31 December 1817 for 4,800 francs. Born in 1783 in Rouen, France, into a wealthy Jewish family of Hungarian descent, Havas was a merchant, banker and publisher who had learned a number of languages — a very useful tool for his future business exploits.
In August 1832 he opened his own office in Paris, supplying news about France to foreign customers and translating articles from foreign papers and selling the translations to bankers, businessmen and politicians. Three years later, he restructured his operation and launched the world’s first news agency, calling it Agence Havas, which was described as ‘the first information bureau for the press’.
Havas employed every form of information technology available at the time, including hundreds of carrier pigeons delivering daily information on London stock exchange prices and news on various wars and conflicts. He was the first to use Samuel Morse’s invention, installing electromagnetic telegraph machines as of 1845, and thereby revolutionising the distribution of news.
The growth of the agency saw correspondents reporting from Crimea, Italy, Mexico and the United States. To cover his growing costs, the pioneering Havas created an advertising division in 1852.
His concept of an agency distributing news to the media was quickly adopted in other countries, notably by his most prominent employees, Paul Julius Reuter and Bernhard Wolff, who went on to establish Reuters in the United Kingdom and Wolff in Germany, the forerunner of Deutsche Presse Agentur. The 1859 agreement between the three major agencies — Reuter, based in London, Wolff in Berlin, and Havas — divided the world between them for the collection and dissemination of information.
Charles-Louis Havas passed away on 21 May 1858, and in 1879 Agence Havas became a publicly limited company.
On 25 November 1940 the News section of Havas was nationalised and became a government agency. The advertising branch, which retains the name Havas, and the news branch, which was renamed Office Français d’Information (OFI), were legally separated. Less than four years later, a group of journalists seized the offices of the OFI and issued the first news dispatch from the liberated city under the name Agence France-Presse.
Breguet watch No. 217 was sold at Sotheby’s in London in July 1965, and was described in the catalogue as ‘probably the finest Breguet watch to be offered for sale since well before the war’. It was bought by the famous Portuguese collector and art connoisseur Antonio Medeiros e Almeida for the then enormous sum of £8,500, an event deemed worthy of a story in The Daily Telegraph in London.
Today, Agence France-Presse (AFP), the company built by Charles-Louis Havas and headquartered in Paris, is the world’s third largest international news agency after Associated Press and Reuters.
This February, Christie’s is to celebrate the release of the 24th Bond film with charity auctions, live in London and online. Here highlights – including an Aston Martin DB10 and Q’s laptop — and how you can bid.
The 24th film in the James Bond series, Spectre, is to be released on Digital HD, Blue-ray™ and DVD on 9 February in the US and on 22 February in the UK. To mark the occasion, Christie’s is to present a unique opportunity to acquire memorabilia from the film — with 24 lots straight from the archives of EON Productions, as well as donations from Daniel Craig, director Sam Mendes, actor Jesper Christensen (Mr White in Spectre, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), Bond producers Michael G.Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and artist Sam Smith, who co-wrote the official award-winning Spectre theme song. All proceeds will benefit Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), other charitable organisations, and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
The live auction on 18 February is led by an Aston Martin DB10, one of the series of DB10s designed and engineered by Aston Martin exclusively for James Bond, Spectre, illustrated above. Most of the DB10s were modified for use in the filming of Spectre, but two of those produced were kept back as show cars, for display purposes only, and this is one of them. The car is expected to realise between £1,000,000 and £1,500,000 and is to date the only DB10 to be released for public sale by Aston Martin and EON Productions. This is the only car that includes a special plaque signed by Daniel Craig and was displayed at the world premiere of Spectre at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Aston Martin has been associated with the James Bond franchise for over 50 years, with the DB10 model featuring in the latest Bond film, Spectre.
Omega Seamaster 300 watch worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond. Estimate: £15,000-20,000. To be offered in Spectre — The Auction on 18 February at Christie’s in London
Additional highlights of the live sale include the Omega Seamaster 300 watch that was worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond, estimated at £15,000-20,000, while our online-only sale is to feature the laptop used by actor Ben Whishshaw as Q, estimated at £4,000-6,000, and a pair of Tom Ford ‘Snowdon’ sunglasses, worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond, estimated at £4,000-6,000.
Q (Ben Whishaw) using his laptop on set. To be offered in Spectre — The Auction, 16-23 February, online
Worn by Daniel Craig in the opening scene of Spectre, James Bond’s blue ‘JB’ Tom Ford cufflinks are to be offered in the live auction, along with the Spectre Blu-ray™, signed by Daniel Craig, estimated at £3,000-5,000. The live auction and online sale take place in the same month that Spectre is released on Digital HD, Blue-ray™ and DVD in the US (9 February) and UK (22 February).
Commenting on the sale, David Linley, Honorary Chairman, Christie’s EMERI, said: ‘As a life-long James Bond fan it gives me great pleasure for Christie’s to be part of this James Bond Spectre charity auction, celebrating the 24th film in the franchise. All proceeds of the auction will benefit Médecins Sans Frontières, other charitable organisations, and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). We are proud to continue Cubby Broccoli’s philosophy of giving something back.’
Spectre, is to be released on Digital HD, Blue-ray™ and DVD on 9 February in the US and on 22 February in the UK
The online-only sale is to feature 14 of the 24 lots available, with bidding open from Tuesday 16 to Tuesday 23 February at christies.com/spectreonline. The remaining 10 lots will be presented in a live auction, held at Christie’s London on 18 February. Although the live auction is invitation-only, internet and telephone bids will be open to anyone who wishes to take part in the sale.
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