GENEVA, Switzerland (CBS) -- If you do a Google search for the phrase "cheap watches", you can find timepieces that actually work for under $5. You won't find any of those, however, at an event in Geneva, Switzerland.
It's a status symbol like no other a 'look at me' that's, well, timeless. Evan Zimmerman with Antiquorum Auctions says, "The nice thing about watches is it's the only item you can collect and you can carry with you all day long so even with a car at the end of the day you can drive it, but you have to park it and go upstairs."
And those serious about watches, come to Geneva in Switzerland, the home of watch making.
Patek Phillipe, the most prestigious manufacturer in the world, is a family run business that has been making watches since 1851; a place where time really is money. Director Patrick Cremers says, "Prices range, I would say, between $350,000 U.S. dollars to $1.3 million U.S. dollars, but those watches that you see on those windows, you can't buy them. You have to order them, and then you have to wait between two to three years before getting them. So you have to be very patient."
Evan Zimmerman is a former New York lawyer who runs Antiquorum, the Geneva based auction house, dealing exclusively in watches. He says collectors' patience is being tested by investors who want to buy and sell rare watches to turn a profit. He says, "The manufacturers certainly are not happy about them being used as investments, especially the modern watches. They don't want to see dealers who buy their watches and turn around and sell them at a higher price for people who do not want to be on the waiting list for example."
And so for a few days each year, Geneva turns over its high end hotels to the world of high end time pieces
This auction is one of several this week in Geneva, where collectors from around the world gather to do battle, with numbered paddles, phone proxies and online bids, hoping to buy up one of the more than 600 rare items on sale. Everything we've seen today has sold for thousands of dollars, very often tens of thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands.
Auction is where collectors and investors go toe to toe bidding big bucks on the biggest names
Claude Sfier is a jeweler from Lebanon. Together with his son, will be making the rounds at Geneva's auctions. He says, "I spend more money, but whatever any piece I want to buy, I never stop because any piece I want to beat, I never stop because I study the piece before and when I want it, I buy it."
But for the few who can afford a priceless timepiece or two, buying is not about the money. In fact it's not always even about the watches. Sfier says, "The excitement is to beat everybody, to break everybody."
With the competition broken, he won his prize for a mere $436,000.
The auction raised just over $8 million in a single day, a small contribution to a global wristwatch market set to clear over $46 billion this year. But for the true collector, it is more about looking back, than forward.
Zimmerman says, "Today with everybody having a phone and everybody having a phone that has the time in it, people still appreciate the fact that these watches are hand-made and they take an incredible amount of skill to create and an incredible amount of time to create. I think people appreciate the work that goes into the watches."