Sotheby’s is familiar with the price-boosting effects of space. The auction house has ridden auctions of well-traveled Omega Speedmasters (famously, the official watch of NASA) and former astronauts’ watches to massive sales. Space, famously, is now a playground for the superrich—and, presumably, also the slightly less rich, who can’t front the $55 million it costs to go on a private mission but might settle for a watch that did. “More than fifty years have passed since the first successful human spaceflight and in that time only a select few have earned the privilege of seeing Earth from outer space, making the feat of ‘collecting Space’ one of the fastest growing sectors in our market,” said Janet Tham, Sotheby’s watch specialist. Consequently, watch brands are eager to make it so space. In addition to Omega and this Jacob & Co., IWC also designed pieces for the Inspiration4 mission that made it to orbit in September of last year.
Jacob & Co.’s Astronomia line was always destined for the outer bounds of earth’s atmosphere. The watch, which Jacob & Co. makes in rose and white gold or dressed up with diamonds, features a space-like view: a moon-shaped diamond and an orb painted like the earth rotate around the Astronomia’s dial.
Despite the on-theme design and its newfound provenance, the watch’s value at auction stayed relatively earthbound. Sotheby’s reports that over 20 bidders were in on the watch, with a final sale price of $441,000. In a vacuum, that’s a ton of money—though it’s worth pointing out that Jacob & Co. watches eclipse that figure regularly. In 2015, when Jacob & Co. released a rose-gold version of the Astronomia, it set the retail price at about $548,000, according to ABlogtoWatch.
So, what gives? It could simply be a case of bad timing—prices for even the most coveted watches are currently flagging. Or this could be a bigger declaration about what collectors want out of their auction pieces. When it comes to watches, maybe not all space missions are created equal.