Ahead of its upcoming second share sale which ends August 20th, Zurich-based Ineichen Auctioneers welcomes its new co-owner, Sebastien André Heiniger, who successfully bid on the first 0.5% share in the company at a timed sale in May 2022. According to Ineichen CEO Artemy Lechbinsky, “Our May auction was designed to invite potential shareholders to bid for a stake in the company to further our growth and development. It was also a way to establish the perceived market value of Ineichen. Sale of the 0.5% shares started at CHF 100’000, and finally sold for CHF 210’000. We were delighted to learn that Sebastien was the successful bidder, because he’s a luxury watch professional and a passionate collector, as well.” (Note: the U.S. dollar equivalent of 210’000 Swiss francs is $221,160.87)
Although Heiniger’s family has a history in watch business management, he only entered the luxury watch realm in 2021 when he became Bucherer AG sales consultant in Geneva. Heiniger quickly advanced to the position of assistant manager at Bucherer AG. Trilingual in English, French and Spanish, Heiniger’s previous work experience was in the motoring, real estate, catering and finance sectors. Heiniger learned about Ineichen through online searches for watch auction news. As he tells it, “The first thing that caught my attention was the company’s intriguing history. The house has been active for almost 50 years and has offered interesting and important watches at each of their auctions.” What’s more, as Lechbinsky notes, “Ineichen is the oldest Swiss auction house specializing in watches.”
Established in Zurich by Peter A. Ineichen as Auktionshaus Ineichen AG in 1973, Ineichen achieved four world records in sales in its first two years of trading. Thanks to its business success and estimable reputation in the international watch collecting community, Ineichen was entrusted with the world-renowned collection of the Hellmut Kienzle watch museum in 1975. In 2017, the company changed hands, name and strategy. Ineichen Zurich AG began to embody contemporary auction trends and raise its profile in the international watch community. Three years later, with a new IT infrastructure in place, Ineichen concluded its most successful auction in sales in 40 years. 2021 saw more high points, when Ineichen launched its own online store and in-house bidding platform, which soon realized its first sale.
At the May 22nd 2021 auction, the previous record by sales volume was broken. This auction also marked the sale of the most expensive NFT token from a watchmaker in history. Ineichen’s November 2021 auctions generated extremely high sales: these more than doubled the results of May’s sales, proving that Ineichen is on a path of continuous and rapid growth. What’s more, they marked the company’s graceful transition from hosting large semi-annual auctions with more than 200 lots each to specially themed auctions of 50 lots maximum.
Heiniger observes that, “As of August 2022, Ineichen currently ranks second in sales among Swiss watch auction houses.” When the opportunity to bid for a stake in the company arose in spring 2022, Heiniger set his eyes on the prize. “I saw potential for Ineichen to grow,” he recalls. “I understand and relish the house’s approach to meeting new challenges and creating advantageous opportunities. I share their progressive views, so becoming a shareholder is logical to me.”
One prime example of their shared pro-active vision, Heiniger observes, is the way that Ineichen departs from tradition and creates new opportunities for itself. “Ineichen has a very different point of view compared to the more traditional auction houses,” Heiniger explains. “For example, Ineichen has eliminated taking a buyer’s premium at auction. Small auctioneers enjoy the advantage of flexibility,” he continues, “which manifests through the introduction of new ideas and the ability to see things differently, which is just what the market needs.”
Despite his long-standing interest in watches, Heiniger says he never considered working in the industry until a friend suggested it. “So, I decided to try, and now I am very thankful for this fantastic new opportunity. I wake up every morning looking forward to being surrounded by what I love.” While he is formulating plans to help Ineichen grow, meeting with clients and working to develop Ineichen’s offering, Heiniger is positively psyched to become head of Ineichen’s watch department in Geneva. “The company plans to open a new office in autumn 2022. This is an exciting challenge for me, but also a refreshing change.”
Led by Lechbinsky, the house is determined to continue the venerable tradition of the Ineichen family while anticipating and responding to circumstances affecting the global watch market. 2023 may prove to be a pivotal year as Heiniger and Lechbinsky source ever more important watches while cultivating new collectors and consignors. The establishment of Ineichen’s Geneva office is surely a sign of the company’s commitment to making the most of every minute.