Why the rich are valuing watches, artworks, bags


How much is your watch worth? Or your artwork? Yes, you bought a designer watch a few years ago at a high price but do you know its value now?

The market for luxury collectibles in Africa is booming as more wealthy people learn the value of collecting contemporary art, whisky, watches, handbags, and sneakers.

Hannah O’Leary, the head of modern and contemporary African art at Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewellery, and collectibles told BDLife that the growing market has now led to an increase in valuation requests.

The wealthy are hiring experts to determine the market value of the paintings on their walls or bags in their closets, in addition to the wealth they have in the bank or the stock market.

“There is a growing demand for valuations of African art and collectibles from African clients. Much of this demand is fuelled by people looking to sell their art or because of the three Ds; death, divorce, or debt. The valuations may also be for insurance, tax or probate reasons as well as market and auction appraisals,” she said.

The biggest demand for valuation of the items, Hannah says, is coming from Nigerians, South Africans, Moroccans, and Ghanaians.

“But recently we started receiving more requests from countries where the luxury market is beginning to develop, such as Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” she adds.

As a luxury consultant who does personal shopping in Paris and London for clients the world over, we have also seen an increase in wealthy people asking for the valuation of their watches.

I was recently on a trip to West Africa to value an Audemars Piguet watch which had been purchased in 1992. The client had bought the watch for about Sh1.75 million. After valuation, the watch is currently worth Sh4.6 million.

Sadly, requests have been coming in from male consumers who also hire experts to shop and deliver timepieces such as Cartier, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Bovet, and A. Lange & Söhne to whichever parts of Africa.

Another client, still in West Africa, an art collector, had a large collection in one of his hotels. Part of his collection, are art pieces by Chinwe Ifeoma Chukwuogo-Roy, a celebrated Nigerian artist, one of the few to was allowed to paint official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.

After Chinwe died in 2012, the value of her artworks rose sharply. After valuation, we found out that the West African billionaire has an artworks collection amounting to at least Sh62.7 million.

Why is valuation important? People buy luxury items for pleasure, as gifts to themselves or other people. Some people buy luxury goods for investment purposes.

Art collectors must value their pieces for the following reasons. First, you could use it as collateral with financiers in the US, or the UK. Secondly, for purposes of wealth transfer to the next generation.

Knowing the value of his artworks, the West African tycoon was able to share out his wealth in his will properly, adding non-financial luxury items such as paintings. He said it would also help him pick out artworks as marriage gifts.

Another reason is the watch resale market is ticking fast.

Last year, watch lovers and collectors were stunned by the auction of a Blue Nautilus Patek Philippe at Sh754 million, which was 124 times its retail value. Bidding for the watch started at Sh2.3 million.

The piece was purchased by a California watch collector, Zach Lu. The sale shows that the craze over trophy watches, some new limited edition watches and others discontinued, shows no signs of slowing down.

Limited watch pieces have been seen on the wrists of musician Jay Z, Bernard Arnault, the owner of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, and a Kenyan president.

With the growing luxury market, more will started hiring valuers. According to the latest 2022 Africa Wealth Report, South Africa, followed by Kenya and Morocco is home to the largest luxury market in Africa by revenue.

The luxury sector in Africa includes exclusive hotels and lodges, cars, clothing and accessories, watches, private jets, and yachts.

Why buy

So why invest in non-traditional items? If you owned a piece of land in Nairobi valued at Sh4 million versus a timepiece at a similar cost, the value of the timepiece might be much higher than the piece of land in the coming years.

Birkin bag resellers, for instance, are counting big gains as they resell their bags at 10 times more than the original price.

Valuation of luxury items is usually done by professionals who inform you if the piece is original or a reproduction, and if it is original, they can assist you to get the current market value price.

Sotheby’s, for instance, sends its employees to value collections in person and some of the pieces are auctioned by the firm.

“Reselling with Sotheby’s is easy. We have frequent auctions in a variety of categories at our salerooms worldwide and an ongoing private sales programme. I have consigned many items for sale from Africa”, says Hannah.

“In our modern and contemporary African art auctions, for instance, we sell artwork from the whole continent, spanning the 20th and 21st centuries and a variety of media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography,” she said.

“At Sotheby’s, we offer a platform for all valuable objects, from art and antiques, luxury items such as vintage cars, designer watches, and handbags, limited-edition sneakers, wine and whisky, and collectibles from sports memorabilia to NFTs {non-fungible tokens}.”

Ms Maina is a luxury advisor based in Paris, France