Recently we spoke with Berry Harleman, watch expert at online auction platform Catawiki. Catawiki hosts weekly online auctions in over 80 categories which are all put together by a team of experts in their fields. They offer several weekly watch auctions, some dedicated to specific brands or styles. We asked Berry a bit about how he became a watch expert and what his role is within the company.
How did your passion for watches begin?
BH: I don’t know. It’s just something that I’ve always had; I can’t explain it. As a young boy I was already standing in front of watch store display windows admiring the watches. As I got older I started shopping for watches online. I really like the technique behind watches, which led me to attending watchmaking school.
What was your first watch?
BH: My first serious watch was an Omega Speedmaster and that’s where it all went wrong shall we say. My collection quickly grew and I’m still buying watches today.
How did you become a watch expert?
BH: Well, as mentioned, I attended watchmaking school, so I know the mechanics and technical aspects of watches. Additionally, I’ve learned a lot through reading magazines and books, looking online and attending fairs.
What brought you to Catawiki?
BH: Catawiki actually came to me. They noticed that I was selling quite a few watches on their platform and one day recruitment contacted me and offered me a position. Of course, I couldn’t turn it down! I really love what I’m doing here.
What is it that you do as an expert at Catawiki?
BH: I curate the auctions, which means my team and I review every lot submission that comes in and check the authenticity and quality before we schedule it for auction. Because the condition affects the value, we look closely at that and we do our best to make sure the watches are in good working order.
Every week we host about 30 different watch auctions with an average of about 80 watches in each auction. From pocket watches to chronographs, I get to see a lot of great watches every week.
What do you do for buyers and sellers on Catawiki?
BH: For Sellers I try to screen them as soon as possible and promptly plan in their lots. I also help Sellers to create descriptions when they need assistance.
For Buyers, we put together diverse auctions and make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. For example, we have special themed auctions dedicated to just one watch brand, so if you’re looking for a Rolex, you can visit our Rolex auction and find only Rolexes. If Buyers have any questions about lots, I’m always happy to answer. I think personal contact with both Buyers and Sellers is important so everyone has a good experience.
What lot would you like to see in the auction?
BH: It’s hard to say that there’s just one specific lot I’d like to see come up for auction. It’s the truly special, rare watches with nice complications that I enjoy seeing, but what makes me happiest is when I see a watch on auction that sells for a good price because I know both Buyer and Seller are going to be happy.
What was your favorite lot ever sold at Catawiki?
BH: Again, it’s so hard to pick just one when we have so many wonderful watches up for auction. I’d have to say that Audemars Piguet watches always catch my attention. I just really like them.
One particular watch we had on auction recently was an Omega Seamaster XVI from the 1956 Melbourne summer Olympics. That watch was super interesting because of the rarity and the history. There were only 100 made and this particular watch was a prototype. Omega found out they couldn’t use the Olympic Cross of Merit design on their commemorative watches, so the prototypes either never went on the market or were recalled. Rare watches with a history like this are some of the most fun to see at auction.