1787 The Escapement of the Navy
2018 SOLD for £ 320k including premium
This promising miniaturization is extremely difficult to realize. Mudge demonstrated his first functional copy to the king in 1770. In 1781 Josiah Emery, a Swiss settled in London, began a series for rich customers. He died in 1797. His total production of lever watches is estimated at 38 units.
Vice-Admiral Nelson was concerned with controlling time. On the morning of the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, he takes out his Emery chronometer watch and gathers his officers to check that their watches are set to his own time reference.
He is killed in the battle. His corpse is immersed in a cask of brandy to ensure a suitable repatriation and his personal belongings are carefully set aside.
The Emery watch will enter by inheritance in 1835 in the ownership of the hero's niece. She understands the historical significance of the piece which she has fitted into the frame of a carriage clock with the inscription 'The Chronometer of Horatio Viscount Nelson. Worn by Him at The Battle of Trafalgar, placed in this case by his niece Charlotte Mary, Lady Bridport, to be preserved for any one of her descendents who may enter the Navy'.
Considering its serial number 1104, this watch was manufactured by Emery circa 1787. Nelson did not have it at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and it was too expensive for his means. The hypothesis of a reward presented for his victories is plausible. It is estimated £ 250K for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 4, lot 72.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1807 In Search of Perfect Time
2014 SOLD 820 KCHF including premium
He executes in 1800 the prototype of the tourbillon (French word for whirlwind), also known as cage tournante (revolving carriage), in which a mechanism generates a rotation of the escapement. Of course, such a realization is a feat of micro-mechanics, for which the brilliant inventor was also experimenting with new solutions for the escapement.
In 1806 and 1807, Breguet is developing a long revolving tourbillon of four minutes. Stability is increased by a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, 20% higher than the best mechanisms of that period.
This tourbillon was fitted into a luxurious gold watch 65 mm in diameter sold for 4,600 francs in 1809 to the Polish statesman Stanislas Potocki. It was the first montre garde-temps à tourbillon that had been commercialized.
This exceptional watch is estimated CHF 600K, for sale by Christie 's in Geneva on May 12, lot 294.
1861 Burke and Wills
2008 SOLD 100 KA$ before fees
The exploration of Australia was as exciting as for other continents. Travelers were facing a hostile nature, but nothing stopped their desire to move forward.
On February 9, 1861, the north-south crossing of Australia was completed by a group headed by Robert Burke, William John Wills being his second in command. The journey back was the worst that we could imagine. Climatic conditions had changed, discord prevailed, and several explorers including Burke and Wills died of starvation. Wills was 27 years old.
Wills was the meteorologist and astronomer of the expedition, and he maintained a very detailed journal. He measured latitude and longitude using three watches, which were collected when he died by the sole survivor of the group.
Bonhams and Goodman sells on September 22 in Sydney, as number 195, one of these three watches, true actor of what was one of the most important events in the history of Australia in the nineteenth century. It is estimated 60 KA$. This gold pocket watch, with a gold chain, has a movement of James Murray London & Melbourne, a case of Robert Rowland and is engraved on behalf of Wm John Wills Explorer Melbourne 1860.
POST SALE COMMENT
This watch loaded with history has far exceeded its estimate. Sold at 100 KA$ before fees, it's a very nice result.
1868 PATEK PHILIPPE FOR BARON ROTHSCHILD
2008 SOLD 650 KHK$ BEFORE FEES
Since the beginning of this column, all major watch auctions are dominated by the Patek Philippe brand.
This market sector is one of the few who often give the highest price to extremely recent specimens. However, old watches of high complexity or originality are in great demand, especially when their pedigree is prestigious.
The remarkable Bréguet watch manufactured in 1831 and owned by a long line of British Lords is an example of lots whose passage at auction is a milestone. On April 9, at Drouot, this pocket watch was sold 2.8 million € hammer price by Bailly-Pommery et Voutier. Its announcement had been very weak : late, no mediatic campaign, with an estimate that I should be ashamed to copy.
I visited Antiquorum site, to present you with the last lot (number 417) from the sale they hold in Hong Kong on June 7.
Made by Patek Philippe in 1868, this pocket watch became the property of a Baron Rothschild in 1879. In gold and enamel, it is equipped with some complications, including a second dial independent of the main dial to view solar time of a different location, curious property at a time when telecommunications were not known. The catalogue also tells us that the rules currently used for the definition of time around the world have been developed between 1876 and 1884. Two other small dials are one for the days, the other for the minutes. The case bears the monogram of the Baron.
POST SALE COMMENT
This watch was of the best brand, and old. It had a Rothschild pedigree. Its relatively low complexity (four dials) had left at its fair price: 650 KHK$ excluding fees.
1904 An Astronomical Watch by Dent
2020 SOLD for CHF 800K including premium
The Dent company was created in London in 1814. It specialized in high precision instruments for the Admiralty and the observatories, and contributed to the definition of the absolute reference of time, the Greenwich Mean Time. Dent was also the maker of Big Ben, the most famous clock in the world.
On June 16 in Geneva, Sotheby's sells an ultra-complicated watch made by Dent in 1904, lot 34 estimated CHF 300K. This piece 8 cm in diameter with grande and petite sonnerie includes no less than 19 complications, the reading of which is distributed over two dials. The precision is better than one hour over 80 years. It is in very good condition.
The first dial displays the time and the perpetual calendar including the leap year cycle. The astronomical dial includes the equation of time and the zodiac sign indicated by hands, plus four sub-dials for the rise and set of the sun and the moon. A window is assigned to the phases of the moon including its passage to the meridian and the appearance of the Big Bear, and two other apertures list the planets visible in the morning and in the evening.
This watch is signed by Dent who acted as prime contractor for a client who was not identified. The main subcontractors are known.
The toothed wheels were made by Léon Aubert at Le Brassus. He was a specialist in mechanisms for perpetual calendars and astronomical functions and was also a supplier to Piguet and Patek Philippe. Capt, who was also in the Vallée de Joux, integrated the complications. The dial with the calendar was made in London by Willis.
The tweet below shows the two dials of this watch.
Abraham-Louis Breguet transformed the field of watchmaking. This season, we celebrate his genius in the first online auction of pocket watches. Masterworks of Time Part III will take place from 3-16 June, offering exceptional pieces by Breguet... and more! https://t.co/rJgOALzFoN pic.twitter.com/4FPSKBrxRm— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 22, 2020
1904 In the Pocket of the Hunter
2016 SOLD for $ 490K including premium
The Palmer specimen, made in 1898 and sold in 1900, is a recent discovery. This watch was sold for $ 2,25M including premium by Christie's on June 11, 2013.
The Allen specimen, ordered in 1904 and delivered in 1905, has just surfaced. This watch is estimated $ 400K for sale by Christie's in New York on December 6, lot 42.
Its complications include the perpetual calendar, the split-seconds chronograph, the repetition of the minutes, the phases of the moon. Made to order, it is the only known example of a Patek Philippe pocket watch of grand complication in a hunter case also named style Louis XVI, meaning that it is equipped with a metal cover protecting the dial against dust.
On the circumference of the dial the name of the client, C.B.C. Allen, replaces the numerals of the hours. The watch also offers a portrait of this lady engraved inside the lid and a dedication to her husband Dr. Allen in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Patek Philippe had in their clientele a jeweler from St. Louis, Missouri and was present in 1904 at the world fair's organized in that city. The very unusual identification of the customer within the dial, previously realized on two other hunter case pocket watches delivered to the St. Louis jeweler, appears as an ephemeral local fantasy.
Patek Philippe was decidedly very active in 1904. The first complicated watch for the use of James Ward Packard also dates from that year.
1910-1915 The Watch and Sandals of Mahatma Gandhi
2009 SOLD 2.1 M$ including premium
In my auction previews last year, I had seen and ignored a wrist watch of Longines brand. I was wrong: it was sold 600 K $ including expenses, more than 20 times its estimate, by Antiquorum in New York on October 16 and was one of the most spectacular results of the quarter. It was Albert Einstein's personal watch.
It is clear that this price is due to the personality of its owner, who revolutionized the idea that cosmographers had concerning time.
Perhaps, too, is this the beginning of a dramatic growth in the market for watches of celebrities?
The same auction house has collected for its next sale in New York on March 4 and 5 a lot of artefacts of Gandhi, including his sandals, his glasses, a bowl, a plate ... and of course his watch, otherwise there would be no reason to find this set at Antiquorum, the international auction group which is the leader of this specialty.
This silver pocket watch of Zenith brand was manufactured circa 1910-1915. Gandhi later gave it to his grand-niece, who was also his assistant.
POST SALE DISCUSSION
$ 1.8 million before fees ($ 2.1 million charge included), this is not the price of a watch. This is the price of a very rare set of memories of Gandhi. The press in India, which became entranced by the appearance of that lot on the market, said that Gandhi was not interested in material goods and his personal effects are very rare.
The fact that this is an auction house specializing in watches which had conducted the auction to an end will remain as a curiosity in the history of sales.
The information before the sale stating that it would be cancelled was the fact of Indian groups in direct negotiation with the seller. These negotiations did not succeed. This possibility of cancellation has been continuously denied by the auction house, but a seller always has the possibility to remove an item before the sale, even after the issuance of the catalog.
Kennedy's watch was sold $ 100 K before fees from a low estimate of 150 K $. Its relationship with the U.S. president was less intimate than the artefacts of Gandhi.
1918 Watch Rivalries
2011 SOLD 1.76 M$ including premium
Inventor, industrialist, founder and owner of the car brand that bore his name, James Ward Packard had a hobby. Amateur of complication watches, he specified unprecedented combinations for his personal use.
Two pocket watches from his collection are on sale on June 15 at Christie's in New York. Each piece is a unique model. Made in the same year, 1918, they enable comparing technical performances of the two Swiss brands to whom Packard had provided his requirements. Kept in a bank, they are in perfect condition.
The advantage is on Vacheron Constantin, if one relies on the estimate, $ 250K. This chronograph clockwatch delivered in 1919 represented a technical breakthrough for the time.
Delivered in 1920, the Patek Philippe minute repeating watch is estimated $ 200K.
Both pieces are illustrated in the article shared by Bloomberg.
The Swiss rivalry quickly turned to the advantage of Patek Philippe. In the early 1920s, the banker Henry Graves Jr. began lining up to get the most complicated watch in the world, and Patek Philippe was the referee and the prime contractor of the rivalry between the two clients.
After the death of Packard (1928), Graves continued. His supercomplication watch, delivered in 1933 after five years of development studies by Patek Philippe, was sold for $ 11M including premium by Sotheby's on December 2, 1999.
POST SALE COMMENT
These two watches were worth much more than the estimate which had been announced, of course. The Vacheron Constantin, really exceptional, was sold for $ 1.76 million including premium. The Patek Philippe was sold for $ 987K including premium.
1924 The Stainless Steel Tourbillon
2015 SOLD for HK$ 4.8M including premium
The first contest was organized in Geneva in 1790. Kew, Neuchâtel and Besançon created similar competitions in the following century.
In the 1920s, Patek Philippe manages in parallel the miniaturizations of the complications and for the accuracy. In Switzerland, there is no hurry. Mechanisms intended for the contest must have been proven for years in the workshop before being listed to the observatory. The assembly in a case and the sale are subsequent to the competition.
On December 1 in Hong Kong, Phillips sells a tourbillon in stainless steel with a regulation of one minute, lot 315 estimated HK $ 3.9M.
The mechanism was executed in 1924 and won the first prize in Geneva in 1931. After being mounted in a gold case, the pocket watch was sold in 1935 to its first private owner.
The tourbillon is a system of rotating cage patented by Breguet in 1801 but for which he had failed to realize the implementation. The tourbillon compensates for the effects of earth gravity, but had the poor reputation of losing precision when the instrument was leaning. The prize obtained by Patek Philippe in 1931 demonstrates their control of this difficult technique for single units or very small series.
1929 Vacheron Constantin for King Fuad
2005 SOLD for CHF 3.3M including premium, worth at that time US$ 2.77M, by Antiquorum
The motivations of these two clients were different. Since 1905 James Ward Packard, the automaker, had been preparing for his pleasure the specifications at the limit of feasibility on which Patek Philippe made unique pieces.
Vacheron Constantin's client was the Maharajah of Patiala, one of the richest men in the world, lover of the most extravagant luxury in terms of jewelry, cars and harem. His pocket watches testify to the increasing sophistication of the brand's high-end. The first, in 1909, incorporated the calendar, the phases of the Moon, the chronograph and an alarm.
In 1918 Packard transmitted one of his specifications to Vacheron Constantin. This watch with grande and petite sonneries was sold for $ 1.76M including premium by Christie's on June 15, 2011.
The Boisrouvray specimen, completed in 1928, has eleven complications, including among others the minute repeater on three gongs, the perpetual leap calendar and the split seconds. It is also a high precision watch using the Guillaume balance. It was sold for CHF 1.1M including premium by Antiquorum on October 11, 2003, lot 134.
The other exceptional Vacheron Constantin watch from that period, completed in 1929, features thirteen complications but does not have the Guillaume balance. It was presented to King Fuad by the Swiss community in Egypt. It was sold by Antiquorum on April 3, 2005 for CHF 3.3M including premium, then worth US $ 2.77M, lot 182.
At that time Patek Philippe was designing the 24-complication watch commissioned by Henry Graves.
1932 The Best Customer of Patek Philippe
2011 SOLD 1.15 MCHF including premium
Henry Graves Jr., born in a banking family, had made his fortune in railroads. He was known as an art collector, but his posthumous fame is due to his collection of watches.
His passion was to specify to Patek Philippe the most complicated watches in the world, and he had much imagination! For him, the Genevan company built the watch with 24 complications which he paid CHF 60K in 1933 and which reached $ 11M including premium at Sotheby's in 1999.
Of course, these private operations were not visible to the general public. It is also not known exactly how many unique pieces Graves purchased to Patek Philippe. The figure of 30 is suggested by Christie's.
In 1932, during the development of the Supercomplication watch, Patek Philippe manufactured for Graves the pocket watch with platinum open face which is the subject of this article. The following year, this specimen was regarded as holding the world record for precision during contests organized by the Geneva Observatory.
For the second time, this superb watch is for sale by Christie's in Geneva. It is estimated between CHF 800K and 1.4 million, for sale on November 14. It had been sold CHF 843K including premium on 17 November 2008. Three years ago, such a price was slightly more than US$ 700K. Today, by comparison, the lower estimate is equal to US$ 900K.
POST SALE COMMENT
This watch of prestigious origin was sold CHF 1.15 million including premium.
While the sale is still in progress, we can already observe that three other Patek Philippe did better, including an outstanding result at CHF 2.1 million including premium for a model 3448 with perpetual calendar manufactured in 1968.
1937 The DAWN of World Time
2011 SOLD 480 K$ including premium
2020 SOLD for CHF 390K including premium
In the mid-1930s Louis Cottier invented a new horological complication for wristwatches, the Heures Universelles. The watch is equipped with two rotating rings. The user sets his position to the local time displayed by the central hands. The time in all cities of the world is a direct reading of the junction between the two rings.
Patek Philippe, which had delivered their Supercomplication watch to Graves in 1933, are eager for any invention. Their first integration tests of the Heures Universelles (HU) are carried out in 1937 with the support of the inventor.
These early units are experimental. They re-use old movements, perhaps chosen from their availability in the warehouse. The 96 HU is known in two units and the 515 HU in three units. Both 96 HU Calatrava and at least one of the rectangular 515 HU are assembled with cases in the same range of serial numbers. Both types refer to 28 cities.
The rotation of the city ring was not compatible with the 515 but Patek Philippe did not give up. The 542 HU, assembled in five units, is the last model of prototypes before the marketing begins in 1939 under the references 1416 HU and 1415 HU. A 1415 HU was sold by Antiquorum on April 13, 2002 for CHF 6.6M including premium, worth $ 4M on that date. It is the only known example in platinum for that reference.
The 96 HU has long been considered as a unique piece, fueling frustration among experts because no photo was available despite an auction in 1969. It was sold for CHF 410K including premium by Christie's on November 14, 2011.
The second watch surfaced in 2011. Unrestored, it was sold as is by Sotheby's on December 6, 2011 for $ 480K including premium, lot 386. I narrated it in this column before that sale. It is estimated CHF 300K for sale by Phillips in Geneva on June 27, lot 64.
1940 Archive 3620 from Vacheron Constantin
2019 sold for CHF 740k including premium
A photo in this book stirs the most enthusiastic attention : the tonneau shaped wristwatch displayed from photo archive number 3620 with the date of 1936 has unique characteristics. The design of the dial offers a superb readability. The photo is not sufficient for the manufacturer to retrieve its traceability at that stage.
The watch surfaces a few years ago after spending more than 60 years in a vault in South America. The dial is different from that of the archive photo but the watch has the same rare features : the retrograde calendar, the trigger of the repeating on the right side, the crown at the top. It was then discovered that it is made in 18K yellow gold and that it bears the monogram of its owner, FR.M.LL.
Now having the serial numbers of movement and case, Vacheron Constantin finds the letters received in period from their client, which have resulted in this extraordinary feat of joining in a wristwatch the retrograde date and the minute repeater. The retrograde date is a hand that automatically switches from position 31 to position 1 at the end of the month by the release of a spring. The client had commissioned two dials, which explains the difference with the archive photo.
The direct customer was a Madrid retailer whose name is written on the dial. The end customer, who from December 1935 provided the sketches of his requirements, was a Spaniard who had made his fortune in the mines of Chile. His first name was Francisco and his watch is now identified as the Vacheron Constantin Don Pancho. He may not have fully appreciated to what extent the combination of complications in a wristwatch is a technical feat. After four years of development and settings, the watch was delivered in January 1940.
Out of its vault, Don Pancho's watch was in its original configuration but soiled by poor storage conditions. Vacheron Constantin repaired the mechanism by reusing the original components as much as possible. An identical dial has been created with the only difference of replacing radium by another material for filling the numerals.
Accompanied by its original dial and by duplicates of the archive documents, the Don Pancho watch is estimated CHF 400K for sale by Phillips in Geneva on May 11, lot 109. Please play the videoshared by the auction house in association with Bacs and Russo.
1942 A Chronograph for Boxing
The reference 130, launched commercially in 1934, is a single-push chronograph using the calibre 13. It is equipped with two subsidiary dials, one indicating the seconds up to the minute and the other the minutes up to the half hour.
Produced from 1940, the reference 1491 is a watch without chronograph with a more elegant design than the already classic Calatrava. Released in 1941, the reference 1518 introduces commercially a tantalizing combination of complications, paving the way for the 2499 that replaced it in 1951.
Some sensational prototypes are prapared during this period. In 1942 the reference 1554, known in only two units, modifies the 1491 to insert a chronograph. In 1943 the reference 1527, not communicated in period to the public, manages to improve the aesthetics of the 1518. It was also made in only two copies, among them a unique example with a chronograph which was sold for CHF 6.25M including premium by Christie's on 10 May 2010.
These refinements interest professionals in specific applications. In 1938 a sports commentator specializing in boxing bought a 130 made in 1937, which obviously interested him for its 30-minute chronograph.
Advances in broadcasting create new needs. When his watch returns to the factory for servicing in 1942, it is reassembled as a 1491 with a slightly wider and thicker casing than the basic 1491. The dial is modified especially for this customer by an oversizing of the 30-minute sub-dial.
This wristwatch is estimated US $ 500K for sale by Christie's in Dubai on March 22, lot 177. It is the only known example of a chronograph in the reference 1491. The simultaneity of its design with the ephemeral 1554 cannot be a chance.
1947 A Tourbillon on the Wrist
2017 SOLD for CHF 1.43M including premium
The twentieth century had great advances in the miniaturization, encouraged by trials organized by the observatories for granting their official certificates. After the second world war, the wristwatch category of these competitions is applicable to mechanisms less than 30 mm in diameter, without assembly requirements.
In 1947 Omega enters to the observatory trials the miniaturization of the tourbillon with twelve identical mechanisms under the reference Tourbillon 30 I. The original feature of the Omega tourbillon is a very slow movement of the cage. Seven of them will be found forty years later in the archives of the brand and mounted in cases. These mechanisms are also compensated in temperature by the Guillaume balance.
Unknown so far, a wristwatch surfaces as lot 182 in the sale by Phillips in Geneva on November 12. The investigation carried out by the auction house with Omega and highlighted by the specialized website Hodinkee confirms that this watch was assembled in 1947 as a prototype of which it has typical qualities : it is not embellished and remains in superb condition.
Omega's success at the observatory trials in Geneva, Neuchâtel and Kew from 1947 to 1952 demonstrates the feasibility of their miniaturized tourbillon to reach the required accuracy. The commercialization project was abandoned for whatever the reason and was never disclosed. For thirty years nowadays the tourbillon has become after further improvements one of the most appreciated mechanisms in the complication wristwatches.
1949 Eurasia in Cloisonné
2018 SOLD for CHF 970K including premium
Patek Philippe had no exclusivity on the Cottier patent but has never stopped proposing HU variants for prestige. In 2016 I had grouped the announcement of two wristwatches using this system. The 2523 HU was sold for HK $ 19.5M including premium by Phillips on May 31 of that year.
After the ephemeral 96 HU and 515 HU references used by Patek Philippe in the development phase, the reference 1415 HU released in 1939 marks a stabilization of that offer. 115 pieces were made. The 1415 HU was replaced in 1953 by the 2523 HU with double crown.
Launched in 1948 the very rare 1415 HU DE is an aesthetic refinement. DE stands for Décor émail. The dial is illustrated in cloisonné.
Two 1415 HU DE in consecutive serial numbers were prepared in 1949 with the map of Eurasia. The yellow gold watch discussed in this column in 2016 was sold to its first customer in 1954, such a long term storage demonstrating that it was not a special order. It was sold for $ 730K including premium by Sotheby's on June 8, 2016, lot 213, and is estimated CHF 700K for sale by Phillips in Geneva on May 13 in association with Bacs and Russo, lot 268.
1950 Made on Special Order by Patek Philippe
2011 SOLD 710 K$ including premium
The variety of Patek Philippe watches knows no limits: it still happens that undocumented variants enter the market,having been stored for decades in the family of the original owner.
In such a case, the fabulous archives of traceability are opened, and the serial numbers of the mechanism and case provide all the sought information.
So a 2419 wristwatch for sale on March 10 by Antiquorum in New York is the only one known to be equipped with a minute repeater, and its 18K yellow gold case has some unique features assessing that it was specially made for a demanding customer.
The mechanism dates from 1946. The watch was completed in 1950 and sold by Cartier New York. We assume that the client had discussed with Patek Philippe and Cartier one year before and, not finding in the catalog the features he wanted, had it created according to his personal wishes.
This elderly man wanted a watch that was both luxurious and easy to use. The dial was simple and easy to read, and the size of the crown was increased.
Handled with care by the first client and his descendants, this exceptional piece is in superb condition. The estimate, $ 300K, is certainly too conservative. The image is shared in an article published by The Watch Lounge.
POST SALE COMMENT
This unique watch was worth obviously better than its estimate. It was sold for $ 710K including premium.
1950 The Oyster and the Two Americas
2011 SOLD 660 KCHF including premium
The name of the Rolex product lines is a digest of the history of watches of the last century.
In 1906, Wilsdorf & Davis filed a patent for a wristwatch. The market hardly believed that miniaturized mechanismswill be able to equip precision watches small enough to be worn like a bracelet.
In 1908, they coined the brand word Rolex, short and resounding and meaning nothing, like Kodak twenty years earlier.
Sport is one of the best users for time accuracy, and Rolex will ever be at the forefront of progress in this specialty.The Rolex Oyster, a name carefully chosen, is the first waterproof watch in 1927. Continuous improvement of these models will enable to equip divers with Rolex at increasing depth.
'Perpetual' applies to a regulation system, invented long time before but re-used by Rolex from 1931.
A copy of a rare model of Rolex Oyster Perpetual is estimated CHF 130K, for sale by Antiquorum in Geneva on March 27. The dial of this Rolex 6284, made in six units circa 1950, is decorated in cloisonné enamel with the political map of the Americas. The black oceans are inhabited by fish and birds, and equipped with a compass rose.
POST SALE COMMENT
Like all other specialists, the collectors of Rolex watches applaud the rarities. The price of this Rolex, CHF 660K including premium, is remarkable.
from 1950 Patek Philippe 2499
On May 9, 2021, Phillips sold a yellow gold 2499 for CHF 1.97M from a lower estimate of CHF 1M, lot 161. Made in 1953, it is one of the last examples of the first series, with a Vichet case. It has an Italian calendar.
A pink gold 2497 assembled in 1953 was sold for CHF 590K by Phillips on November 8, 2015. Another 2497 in pink gold, also assembled in 1953, was sold for CHF 980K from a lower estimate of CHF 500K by Sotheby's on May 12, 2019, lot 184. They waited respectively until 1970 and 1971 to be sold to their first customer, long after the end of production of this reference. They had already become collector's items and remain in exceptional condition.
A yellow gold 2499 assembled in 1954 was sold for CHF 1.48M by Phillips on November 7, 2021, lot 247.
Antiquorum sold a 2499 for $ 1.5M on October 16, 2008 in New York. Made in 1956, it is still part of the first series, which is characterized by its square pusher button.
A pink gold 2499 was sold for CHF 2.45M from a lower estimate of CHF 1.5M by Phillips on May 9, 2021, lot 208. Made in 1957, it belongs to the second series, with a Wenger case. It was sold to its first owner in 1961 and has German calendar inscriptions. It had been sold for CHF 1.2M by the heirs of its original owner at Christie's on November 15, 2010, lot 234.
A pink gold third series 2499 made in 1971 was sold by Phillips on November 12, 2017 for CHF 2.8M, lot 187.
1951 Perpetual Calendar and Chronograph
2013 SOLD 795 K$ including premium
The development of supercomplication watches was focused at first on unique specimens built to meet the specific needs expressed by demanding customers. Combinations of complications are engineering feats.
In 1941, Patek Philippe introduces the first public model of wristwatches to include both perpetual calendar and chronograph, without forgetting the phases of the moon. Under the reference 1518, it will be during ten years the high end in their catalog. The production output of the 1518 was an average of 20 units per year until 1954.
The 1527, dated 1943, is an experimental model derived from the 1518 for the list of its main complications. With its barrel shape, it is the prototype of the modern upscale mechanical wristwatch, but it was made in only two copies. A1527 was sold for CHF 6.25 million including premium by Christie's on May 10, 2010.
An interesting unit of 1518 is estimated $ 400K, for sale by Antiquorum in New York on April 10. Manufactured in 1951 in pink gold, it has kept its original matching bracelet in the same gold shade, and it is in very good condition.
It is illustrated (along with a Rolex) on the Hodinkee page shared on details.com.
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good price for this 1518 that had some exceptional features: $ 795K including premium.
1952 The Rolex Stelline
2019 SOLD for CHF 975K including premium
On May 13 in Geneva, Christie's sells a 6062 made circa 1952 that combines two desirable features : the pink gold case and the stelline dial. This dial is one of the most elegant with hour numerals replaced by eight stars, three arrows and one crown. In superb condition, it is estimated CHF 1M, lot 203.
The 6062 stellines in very good condition deserve high prices. The results below include the premium.
The Dark Star, so named because the natural oxidation of its dial is intact, was sold for $ 1.57M by Christie's on December 6, 2018, lot 160. Its case is in yellow gold.
Phillips sold a pink gold example for CHF 1.26M on November 8, 2015. A rare and spectacular yellow gold 6062 with a black lacquered stelline dial was sold for CHF 900K by the same auction house on May 15, 2016.
The black dial of the 6062 custom designed in 1952 for Bao Dai is perhaps inspired by the stelline, with real diamonds instead of stars. This watch was sold for CHF 5.1M by Phillips on May 13, 2017.
1953 Vichet Cases
2019 SOLD for CHF 980K including premium
These high complication watches are assembled gradually over a very long time. The total production of the 2499 is 349 units from 1950 to 1985. The 2497 is even rarer : 115 units, from 1951 to 1963, or 179 units when adding its waterproof version 2438/1.
The cases of the 2497 and of the 2499 are similar except that the 2497 does not have the push button of the chronograph. They are available in the three golds and in platinum. The first cases are manufactured by Emile Vichet. The next series of cases are entrusted to Wenger. Their back side is rounded and the shape of the lugs is simplified.
The collectors of watches look for impeccable pieces in the rarest configurations. The results below include the premium.
With the Vichet case, let us refer to a pink gold 2499 assembled in 1951, sold for CHF 2.63M by Christie's on November 9, 2014, and to a pink gold 2497 assembled in 1953, sold for CHF 590K by Phillips on November 8, 2015. Another 2497 in pink gold, also assembled in 1953, is estimated CHF 500K for sale by Sotheby's in Geneva on May 12, lot 184.
Ever ahead of its time, Patek Philippe knew how to innovate without worrying about the market. The two pink 2497 listed above waited respectively until 1970 and 1971 to be sold to their first customer, long after the end of production of this reference. They had already become collector's items and remain in exceptional condition.
For the 2497 with the Wenger case, there is a white gold watch assembled in 1954, sold for CHF 2.3M by Phillips on November 12, 2017 and a military variant for the use of Haile Selassie, assembled in the same year and sold for CHF 2.9M by Christie's on May 15, 2017. A 2499 assembled in 1956 for Asprey in a yellow gold Wenger case was sold for CHF 3.9M by Sotheby's on November 13, 2018.
1954 Reference 2497 ex Haile Selassie
2017 SOLD for CHF 2.9M by Christie's
Patek Philippe is attentive to meet the specific requirements of its customers and lists all its outputs in its ledgers but an impeccable confidentiality still allows breathtaking discoveries several decades later.
The watch that just surfaced was manufactured in 1954 on a special order from an Italian pilot, pioneer of the use of aviation for the modernization of Africa, who immediately presented it to His Majesty Haile Selassie. The Emperor of Ethiopia in turn departed from it a few years later for a diplomatic gift.
The King of Kings. while claiming an affiliation to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, was one of the most important political figures of his continent. He targeted the social improvement of Africa and was a successful opponent to fascism.
This watch is a 2497, which is a variant without chronograph pusher of the prestigious 2499. It is a military watch, meaning a particular attention to the legibility of its Arabic numerals and an increased width of the hands. It has some highly rare features for a Patek Philippe of that period such as the alpha shape of the hands and the auto-luminescence of numerals and hands.
This watch probably unique of its kind had never been opened and even widely preserves the fragile chemical paste that ensures its luminescence.
1954 Reference 2497 in White Gold
2021 SOLD for CHF 2.8M by Phillips
The brand made much expectations in the 2497. Breaking with its practice of sequentially numbering the elements, it reserved for this model and its waterproof version 2438/1 two hundred movement numbers, from 888,000 to 888,199. Only 115 of these numbers were used for the 2497 which is one of the rarest serially produced Patek Philippe watches.
Scarcity does not prevent the existence of variants. Made by special order for a client who wanted to honor Emperor Haile Selassie, a 2497 assembled in 1954 with a military dial was sold for CHF 2.9M including premium by Christie's on May 15, 2017.
For a long time the wealthy customers demanded only yellow or pink gold cases. Only three 2497 were made in white gold. Without much success ! One of them also assembled in 1954 waited a customer for nine years in the available stocks of Patek Philippe.
This watch has the classic mid-1950s dial with Arabic numerals for some hours. Curiously a magnifier is integrated in the plexi crystal to better see the day and date, a feature which was not regularly proposed by Patek Philippe in its day. Even more rare, a groove in the case facilitates the access of the user to the corrector button without undoing the bracelet. Although the catalog does not consider this hypothesis, a special production is possible for an elderly client who could not take possession of his order.
This white gold 2497 was sold by Phillips for CHF 2.3M on November 12, 2017, lot 231. and for CHF 2.8M on November 5, 2021, lot 122. It is in an excellent original condition.
1967 Three Decades of Wins
2019 SOLD for $ 1.22M including premium
Nicklaus is the youngest of the three. He became a professional in 1962. His success record is unmatched, even though it was approached by Tiger Woods. In 1966 he was the 4th player to have won at least once in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments. He was the first to win each of these tournaments twice, in 1971, then three times, in 1978. At 46, he won his 6th Masters. Later entering the senior tours, he won his 100th and last victory in 1996.
In 1966 during an event in Tokyo, Rolex offers a cocktail party where the three friends participate. The brand, always eager to sponsor athletes, is already working with Player. Nicklaus, who had not used watches until then, defines his special watch.
Nicklaus receives his gift in 1967 : a Rolex Day-Date reference 1803 in yellow gold with a champagne-colored dial, a mark of hours inspired by golf tees and a President-style bracelet.
The champion uses this watch to this day in competitions and in everyday life. He wears it in the 12 Grand Slam tournaments which he wins after this acquisition. For Rolex, it is a remarkable demonstrator of elegance and robustness.
The Rolex is on his wrist when he waves the British Open trophy at St Andrews in 1978. This photo was chosen in 2005 by the Royal Bank of Scotland to illustrate the £ 5 bill. This American from Ohio becomes the first non-royal personality to have his portrait in his life time on a British note.
Jack and Barbara were married in 1960. They have been supporting the National Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio since 1976 and established in 2004 in Florida the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.
The time for sports success has gone and charity is becoming a priority. Nicklaus sells his Rolex for the exclusive benefit of his Foundation. The auction is managed by Phillips in New York on December 10, lot 18.
1969 The Black and Gold Chronograph
2020 SOLD for £ 1.22M including premium
At the end of the 1960s, Rolex wanted to capture this market sector by improving the elegance. The Exotic dial, displaying three subsidiary dials, received the nickname Paul Newman from collectors, in reference to the 6239 from 1968 that the actor never parted in the circuits and behind the wheel. In 1969 three new references, 6262 to 6264, are an evolution of the 6239 to integrate either a new calibre or a change in the push-button technique.
Almost all watches of these models are in stainless steel, the robustness of which meets sporting needs. The other metals are very rare. The range of colors offered for the dial is original and spectacular : lemon, tropical panda, champagne.
On July 31 online from London, Sotheby's sells as lot 951 a watch that combines several rarities of the highest prestige : a 1969 Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman "18k JPS" reference 6264. The black dial with golden subdials in a gold case was nicknamed JPS by enthusiasts in reference to the livery of the Formula 1 Lotus cars sponsored by the John Player Special cigarette brand.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The higher estimate, £ 650K, was exceeded on the first day of bidding.
(1969)-1970 In the Sleeve of Steve McQueen
2020 SOLD for $ 2.2M including premium
In 1969 Heuer, in co-operation with three other companies, succeeds in developing the Calibre 11, which is the first self-winding chronograph movement. This caliber is integrated in a new variant of the Autavia and in the 1133 Monaco. The Monaco is a spectacular watch of unprecedented shape, whose waterproof square case had been designed by a décolleteur.
In 1970 the film Le Mans is made to the glory of motor racing with Steve McQueen as star actor supported by Siffert for training and for the preparation of stunts. Jo is very popular and Steve absolutely wants to look like him. At the instigation of Jack Heuer, Steve displays the Chronograph Heuer logo on his suit and wears an 1133 Monaco made in 1969.
Steve rolls up his sleeves opportunely and the Monaco is much visible throughout the film. This choice is opportunistic : the actor prefers his Rolex Submariner. After the shooting, he gives the Heuer to his chief mechanic with an inscription on the back side : To Haig / Le Mans 1970. Haig early understands the historical value of his watch, which he keeps in the safe for almost half a century. It will be sold by Phillips in New York on December 12, lot 20.
A similar 1133 was sold by Profiles in History on July 31, 2012 for $ 650K before fees from a lower estimate of $ 200K. It was accompanied by a blank guarantee certificate issued by the Heuer company for "24 h at Le Mans 1970" acting as a potential seller, as well as a letter of authenticity from the film prop master. It is almost certain that Jack Heuer had left several watches at the disposal of the film crew.
1970 Rolex 6264
2022 SOLD for £ 1M by Sotheby's
Almost all watches of these models are in stainless steel, the robustness of which meets sporting needs. The other metals are very rare. The range of colors offered for the dial is original and spectacular : lemon, tropical panda, champagne.
On July 31 , 2020, Sotheby's sold for £ 1.22M as lot 951 a watch that combines several rarities of the highest prestige : a 1969 Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman "18k JPS" reference 6264. The black dial with golden subdials in a gold case was nicknamed JPS by enthusiasts in reference to the livery of the Formula 1 Lotus cars sponsored by the John Player Special cigarette brand.
A yellow gold Daytona chronograph reference 6264 made ca 1970 with a rare lemon dial was sold for £ 1M by Sotheby's on September 7, 2022, lot 8. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This watch displays the full original proportions with few if any signs of polishing and a virtually spotless dial. Its fragile set of lume plots, often damaged when removing the dial, are intact. A dark hue caused by the oxidizing of impurities in the 18k yellow gold attests for a long period in a cold dark space such as a safe or a secure deposit box.
1971 Patek Philippe Reference 2499 in Pink Gold
2017 SOLD for CHF 2.8M by Phillips
It is a watch from the third series of the model 2499 for which an advance was made in the elegance of the dial, with the marks of the seconds pushed away to the periphery. With this series the baton marks sometimes applied on the previous series for the hours are systematically replacing the Arabic numerals.
This watch features a variant in the dial which is exceptionally rare including a simplification of the batons plus pretty arrows at 3, 5, 7 and 9 o'clock where the full length of the baton should come in conflict with the position of the sub-dials.
Made in 1971, it has been preserved for almost half a century in a sensational mint condition. It is one of only six known in pink gold from the third series.
1981 Do not miss the Leap Year !
2013 SOLD 1.62 MCHF including premium
A new challenge for the engineers is to take into account the leap year in the calendar. Tests are done in the 1970s. Recently discovered, a watch made in 1981 was probably the first one to be offered for sale with this improvement. The new gadget is visible through a small opening between three and four.
Technically, this is a 3448 in white gold but in fact it was made on special order with other unusual features: the day of the week and the month are in Italian, and the hour marks are black coated to enhance the readability.
This unique piece has been very little used and is in excellent condition. It is estimated CHF 800K, for sale by Christie's in Geneva on May 13.
In 1982, pleased with the achievement, Patek Philippe released a variant of the 3448, reference 3450, including the leap year among its basic characteristics.
POST SALE COMMENT
The history of Patek Philippe is marked with such wonderful pieces, often made to order, opening up new combinations of complications. This watch was sold CHF 1.62 million including premium.
1985 The Full Control of the Calendar
2015 SOLD for HK$ 12M including premium
The first experiment made in 1975 by the transformation of a watch of the 3448 reference was not acceptable: the position of the indicator was incompatible with another complication of the model.
The success comes in 1981 with the transformation of another 3448. This white gold watch was sold for CHF 1,62M including premium by Christie's on May 13, 2013 over a lower estimate of CHF 800K. After their achievement, Patek Philippe decided to release this improved version to which they attributed the reference 3450.
Only two 3450 are known in white gold. One of them made in 1985 is estimated in excess of HK $ 8M for sale by Phillips in Hong Kong on December 1, lot 305. It is in excellent condition.
RESTART OF GERMAN WATCHES
On the art market, the wristwatch offers a specific characteristic: often the most recent models get the highest prices. The collectors of watches are very selective, and their choices will focus on models with very high complication.
The Swiss brand Patek Philippe is very brilliantly at the top of this market.
I previously noted that second to Patek Philippe we often find the trademark A. Lange u. Söhne (A. Lange and son). I indicated that a platinum Tourbograph 'pour le mérite', made of 1000 components, could reach 3.5 MHK$ at Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 10. It was sold 5.9 MHK$, including the costs.
Announcing a new sale, also in Hong Kong, for October 7, Sotheby's presents us with another Tourbograph of the same model as the one above, whose remarkable result is also reminded in the press release. It is estimated 4 MHK$. The auction house said that, to ensure quality, Lange has limited the production to 12 pieces per year with a total of 51. The one that comes up for sale has the serial number 8.
A. Lange U. Söhne is a former name, but a newcomer. The first company was founded in Glashütte near Dresden in 1845. Its current boom is a consequence of the reunification of Germany when it was recreated in the same small town in Saxony by a descendant of the first Lange. It currently belongs to Rougemont, Swiss luxury group which also owns IWC.
'Pour le mérite' is a prestigious honorary title of German watch industry, which is also applicable to the 'Tourbillon' series of the same mark.
2000 Titanium for Patek Philippe
2014 SOLD 1.32 M$ including premium
It is particularly interesting for its light weight, high mechanical strength, high chemical stability and resistance to seawater. It is therefore a great candidate to compete with gold and platinum in luxury wristwatches.
So far four Patek Philippe watches were known in titanium. The 5004T was the scoop of the charity auction managed by Antiquorum for OnlyWatch on September 28, 2013, with a sensational result at € 2.95 M.
Discreetly, the Swiss brand had worked on titanium for over ten years. The sale at Sotheby's in New York on June 10 includes no less than five previously unrecorded titanium watches from a single-owner collection gathered by private commissions.
Assembled in 2000, the 5001T is the most exceptional. It is estimated $ 1M, lot 30.
The Patek Philippe model 5001 Sky Moon Tourbillon was very sophisticated for its time, with two dials, a sky chart and twelve complications, but it is too thick : 18 mm. It seems retroactively logical that Patek Philippe and its client had wished to reduce the weight by using titanium.
Compared to a basic 5001, the 5001T offers some unique design features that make it an intermediate specimen preparing the prestigious 5002 reference released in 2001.
2000 : 455 DIAMONDS ON AN AUDEMARS PIGUET WATCH
Some watches are real jewels, in the true meaning of that word. The sale at Sotheby's in Doha on March 19 is full of items of that class.
There is specifically a wristwatch by Audemars Piguet entirely paved with diamonds for a total of about 40 carats. Of Royal Oak-type and presented in its case, it is a unique copy made circa 2000.
The dial channel alone contains 80 tapered baguette diamonds with a weight of 4.48 carats. For the bracelet, the catalog indicates 375 diamonds and 35.42 carats.
Sotheby's presents this piece at the inaugural session of its sales in Doha. There is no doubt that luxury has many fans in that region. The estimate is 250 KUS$, lot 275..
2001 the 150th Anniversary of Patek Philippe
2020 SOLD for $ 1.02M including premium
Wristwatches also experience a new breakthrough, with the introduction to the catalog of the reference 3974. It is the first wristwatch to combine the minute repeater with the self winding. This wonder of miniaturization, which also features the perpetual calendar and the phases of the moon, integrates 467 components in a diameter of 28mm and a height of 6.8mm. The case is inspired by the 2499, modified to optimize the sound of the chime.
The movements were certainly made in a single production batch, but the assembly was carried out until 2002. A 3974 with a black lacquer dial which is one of a kind for this reference was sold for CHF 1.18M including premium by Phillips on May 15, 2016. Five examples are known in white gold. One of them was sold for HK $ 5.4M including premium by Sotheby's on April 7, 2013.
After 2000, the latest 3974s may have been assembled for an ultimate use of the remaining components in stock. Such a case is known : the last two 2499s assembled in 1987 at the request of Philippe Stern. One of them was sold for CHF 3.45M including premium by Christie's on November 12, 2012.
On December 12 in New York, Phillips sells a white gold 3974 assembled and sold in 2001, lot 10 estimated $ 600K.
2005 Complications by Vacheron Constantin
2005 SOLD for CHF 1.88M including premium, worth at that time US$ 1.56M, by Antiquorum
Vacheron Constantin creates in 1884 a double-sided pocket watch with complications : leap year perpetual calendar, moon phases. Complications become a specialty of the brand. In 1929 King Fuad's watch features 13 complications. Completed in 2015, the unique specimen in reference 57260 is the most complicated mechanical watch in the world, with 57 complications.
Several innovations are unveiled in 2005 for the 250th anniversary of the creation of the brand by Vacheron : a mysterious clock, a watch model with hands-free reading, two new calibres, and the wristwatch reference 80250 nicknamed Tour de l'Ile by reference to the location of the factory between 1843 and 1880. An auction is dedicated to this Quarter Millennium celebration by Antiquorum on April 3, 2005. King Fuad's watch is sold there for CHF 3.3M including premium.
80250 was in its day the most complicated mechanical wristwatch in the world, with 16 complications divided into two dials plus the tourbillon. It integrates 834 components in a gold case 47 mm in diameter and 17.8 mm high.
80250 was produced in seven units. The number 1, which is in pink gold, is guaranteed by the brand as being the only unit with black dials in this reference. Listed in the 2005 Antiquorum sale mentioned above, it was sold for CHF 1.88M including premium, worth at that time US $ 1.56M, lot 249. It is estimated € 1.5M to 2.5M for sale by Antiquorum in Monaco on January 24, lot 304.
Please read the catalog shared by Antiquorum on issuu.com, including very detailed chronologies of Vacheron Constantin company, its patents and watches, as well as glossaries.
2005 Gyrotourbillon 1 by Jaeger-LeCoultre
2009 SOLD 312 K$ including premium
Two wristwatches of the same model are presented for auction at three week intervals and some thousand kilometers away. Yet there were only 75 copies made of the Gyrotourbillon 1 of Jaeger-LeCoultre, at a rate of 20 per year.
This skeleton model includes the Calibre 177 of Jaeger-LeCoultre, a component that represents an important technical progress by enabling a multi-axis rotation.
The number 01/75 is retained by the Museum of the brand. The following number 02/75 is the earliest to be available on the market. It is coming on September 17 in New York at Antiquorum. It will be followed by the number 11/75, at Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 7.
This apparent coincidence is interesting because it follows after only a few months the end of production. The model was launched in 2005, and one can easily calculate that the series was completed a few months ago.
It is estimated 270 K$ in New York, and 2 MHK$ in Hong Kong. These two prices are similar, and not far below the commercial price that could be found on the web. This means, whatever the result of the sale, that auction sales are used and favoured as a process in the market for contemporary luxury watch.
What's better than a video to appreciate the complexity of the movement of a Gyrotourbillon 1? Here is one on Youtube.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Let us begin with the result at Antiquorum: the Gyrotourbillon was sold just below the low estimate: $ 260 K excl (312 K $ including fees). It's a good price, considering the arguments I discussed above by comparison with the previous price of the brand piece.
No surprise for this second lot of my article, sold 2.3 MHK$ including premium by Sotheby's.
2005 GREUBEL FORSEY IN THE TOURBILLON OF AUCTION
2010 SOLD 160 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
In March, I found it interesting to pay tribute to the current dynamism of the watch companies by discussing a Greubel Forsey wristwatch. To my surprise, this lot was left unsold. This serial number comes back in the same auction room,Antiquorum in New York, on December 8 with an estimate lowered to $ 150K.
Trying to understand, I observed the sale of a very similar copy at Sotheby's on October 6: estimated HK $ 1.6 million, it was sold HK $ 2.5 million including premium. I would not be surprised that the Antiquorum watch reaches the price that was announced in March: $ 200K.
Here is a copy (slightly improved) of the preceding article:
Greubel Forsey, founded in 2004, is one of the newest companies in the watch industry, contributing to maintain a long tradition. It is a Swiss brand operating in La Chaux de Fonds whose founders (Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey) introduce themselves as much as inventors than as industrialists.
The history of the timepieces is the continuous progress, extending over several centuries, of the regulatory mechanisms. They mostly had to provide a greater stability to the movement, so that the user get an accurate information despite the gradual relaxation of the springs.
The contribution of Greubel and Forsey consists in the compensation of gravity in all positions of the wrist by a mechanical optimization. In their first model, the DT30, a one second tourbillon is included in another tourbillon with a period of four seconds, with a relative inclination of 30 °. They then developed a system of quadruple tourbillon.
The serial number 61 of the DT30 manufactured in 2005 belongs to the Vision variant providing visibility on the mechanisms. Another variant named Secret gives such visibility only from back side.
For the very recent watches, the price at auction is always a little below the price that was required for a commercial purchase. Do not expect surprises.
POST SALE COMMENT
This watch was sold for $ 160K including fees, probably just after the auction.
2005 PATEK PHILIPPE SKY MOON TOURBILLON REFERENCE 5002P
In one of my earliest articles on the French version of this network, I took it to the market of contemporary watches. Dominated by Patek Philippe, it is one of very few sectors of the art market where recent pieces can really achieve the highest prices. Provided however that their complication is a real technical achievement.
At that time I announced the sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on 10 April 2008 of a Sky Moon Tourbillon 5002P. This model is produced with only two copies per year since its launch in 2001. This was the first double-faced wristwatch created by Patek Philippe. With 12 complications and 686 components, it is still considered today as the most complicated watch ever made by that mark. It was sold $ 11.7 MHK including fees.
A watch of this model comes at Antiquorum in New York on March 4 and 5. We note without surprise that the estimate is of the same order of magnitude as the price obtained last year by Sotheby's: 1 MUS $. This copy was made in 2005.
2007 NEW MODELS OF SWISS WATCHES
2010 SOLD 243 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
To be on time today, the market for contemporary watch is convenient. It is an area where very recent pieces are presented regularly at auction.
For two centuries, Switzerland has established and maintained a technical superiority on watches. New names reinforce the most venerable brands, which themselves are adapting to new technologies.
To support this comment, here is a watch of the Jules Audemars product line, a model manufactured in a total quantity of three by Audemars Piguet in 2007. It is rather big as a wristwatch: 43 mm diameter and 14 mm thick. Its elegant black dial includes a window making the tourbillon visible. The reverse is skeleton.
This lot is estimated $ 200K, for sale by Antiquorum in New York on September 15. It presents a refinement: it is offered in its original box shaped like a piano that amplifies the resonance of the ringing.
The demonstration is made in the video shared on YouTube by the auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
The very recent models do not provide surprises at auction. This watch was sold exactly at its lower estimate, $ 200K before fees, 243K including premium.
2010 Patek Philippe 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon
2022 SOLD for HK$ 24.5M by Christie's
With the Star Caliber 2000, Patek Philippe put the sky in the pockets of its customers. This watch 73 mm in diameter and 32 mm high incorporates 21 complications including the night sky map that rotates counterclockwise. Its complications have been specially selected for their difficult compatibilities.
In March 2001, Patek Philippe launched the most complicated wristwatch, the 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon, taking advantage of technologies developed for the Star Caliber 2000.
The mechanism has been further miniaturized. In the 5002, 686 components activate 12 complications in a case of 44 mm in diameter and 16 mm high. The price announced in 2001 was CHF 950K in yellow gold and CHF 990K in platinum.
To avoid a too tight display the 5002 is the first wristwatch with double dial made by Patek Philippe. The progress is not just about astronomy : the new cathedral minute repeating chime, prolonged and more musical, is made in a specially developed alloy. The model also incorporates the tourbillon and the perpetual calendar with retrograde date.
The front dial is classic, but the reverse dial displays the sky chart directly inspired by the Star Caliber 2000. The mobile sky map of the northern hemisphere is accompanied with the sidereal time, the phases of the Moon and the passages of Sirius selected as the brightest star. A variant with the sky of the southern hemisphere could be prepared on request.
The extreme complexity for the assembly of the 5002 limited its production to about ten pieces per year until it was discontinued in 2012. It had been only available by invitation and interview to Patek Philippe’s hand picked wealthy clients.
The 18K pink gold model is the 5002R. An example delivered in 2008 to a special order was sold for CHF 1.2M by Antiquorum on May 12, 2013 just after the model was discontinued. Another one in superb condition made ca 2010 was sold for HK $ 24.5M from a lower estimate of HK $ 10M by Christie's on May 24, 2022, lot 2273.
The platinum version is the 5002P. A watch assembled ca 2010 was sold for HK $ 12.5M by Sotheby's on October 5, 2022, lot 2257.
A very rare 5002G-010 in white gold, assembled in 2012, was sold by Phillips on November 25, 2019 for HK $ 18M, lot 845.
A yellow gold 5002 assembled in 2011 was sold by Sotheby's on October 8, 2019 for HK $ 11M.
One of the very last examples, made in platinum and delivered in February 2013, was sold by Antiquorum on May 13, 2018 for CHF 1.05M, lot 200.
A 5002P-001 purchased in 2004 was sold for $ 1.6M by Christie's on April 8, 2021, lot 1.
The 6002 reference launched in 2013 is a deluxe dressing for the Sky Moon Tourbillon.
2010 HIGH COMPLICATION
The sale of watches organized by Christie's in Hong Kong on May 30 is a festival of high complication. The technical advances of the latest watches have certainly been enabled by the computers, making it a new category in the market for luxury goods.
Franck Muller, in Geneva, positions himself as the master of complications. Number 1 of his Aeternitas Mega 4 model from 2010 is estimated HK $ 4.8 M.
This tonneau-shaped watch is large and thick, 61 x 42 x 19 mm, but it comes however into the category ofwristwatches. Its 36 complications are activated by 1483 components.
A comparison with two prestigious watches enables to appreciate the evolution of technology.
The masterpiece of the inter-war period, the Patek Philippe commissioned by Graves, had 24 complications. Too big to be worn on the wrist, the Calibre 89 of Patek Philippe, 89 mm diameter and 41 mm thick, totaled 33 complicationsand 1728 components.
The upscale market of contemporary watches made in very small series is currently very dynamic, and includes recent brands like Christophe Claret, HD3 and Maîtres du Temps.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's, where six of these wonders are presented including the Aeternitas discussed above.
2010 On the Wrist of Rafael Nadal
2011 SOLD 510 K€ with no applicable buyer's premium
Swiss brands are invited to provide a unique specimen for the benefit of a charity supporting the research against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 40 of them responded positively.
Richard Mille's offer is spectacular, and will, hopefully, have the same impact as an advertising campaign. For nearly a year, this unique piece (or rather a pre-production prototype) RM027 accompanied the victories of Rafael Nadal.
Watch manufacturers have long understood that entrusting their best models to aviators, racers or mountain climbers was an effective way to demonstrate the reliability. The frantic move of the wrist of a tennis champion was also a great idea, materialized last year by a partnership between the watchmaker and the player.
Despite its thickness, 11.8 mm, the RM027 is considered the lightest mechanical watch in the world: 13 grams, less than 20 grams including the strap.
It is illustrated in the article shared by Montres de Luxe.
It's a charity auction: elegantly, we will not talk of estimates but of wish prices: € 400K to 600K.
2012 Extreme Conditions on Track
2013 SOLD 350 K€ with no applicable buyer's premium
Two years ago, a ultra-light watch used in tournament games by Nadal was sold € 510K.
Then Richard Mille chose another prestigious sport with extreme movements: sprint. Yohan Blake is one of very few sprinters who are able to compete with Usain Bolt, his Jamaican fellow.
Last year, Blake used a Richard Mille RM 038 adapted to meet his personal requirements. The new light alloys based on magnesium enhance the resistance to wear and heat. This skeleton watch with a tourbillon movement was involved in the victories of the champion at the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
Richard Mille offer this watch unique of its kind in the next edition of OnlyWatch in Monaco on September 28. Here is the link to the page dedicated to this lot by Watchonista.
Note that this charity auction for the benefit of research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy does not provide an estimate but a wish price. This lot is expected between € 450K and 500K. The hammer will be held by Antiquorum.
2018 The Precious Seconds of Walter Lange
2018 SOLD for CHF 850K including premium
The bombing of Dresden put an end to Walter Lange's dreams. The business went on without him but with mediocre products. In 1990 just after the reunification of Germany, he recreated it with another engineer without changing the name, releasing their first collection in 1994. A. Lange u. Söhne quickly found its place among the best manufacturers of high-complication watches, often including tourbillons.
Walter Lange died in January 2017. His engineers went to work immediately for paying tribute to him with a new calibre incorporating his favorite complication and named L1924 by reference to the year of his birth. The new model "1815 - Homage to Walter Lange" was unveiled in January 2018 with a production plan of 262 pieces in white, pink or yellow gold.
A unique specimen was also made in stainless steel, a material very scarcely used by Lange. Its black enameled dial is also unique. This watch will be sold on May 13 by Phillips in Geneva as lot 233, entirely for the benefit of the Children Action charity.
Please watch the video shared by A. Lange und Söhne.