In early November, the watchmaking city of Geneva hosted two auctions of fine timepieces, held one day apart — one by Antiquorum and the other by Christie’s — each of which achieved new records for watches at auction. Antiquorum boasted the highest price ever paid for a Rolex sports watch and a Patek Philippe sold at Christie’s garnered the highest price ever paid for a non-complicated watch.
Antiquorum held its “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction on Sunday, November 11 at the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva. When the final hammer fell, sales totaled 8,631,137 Swiss francs — an outstanding result, according to the company, with several lots selling for many times their original estimates.
The auction’s obvious headliner was an extremely rare Rolex “Single Red” Sea-Dweller Submariner prototype model (Ref. 1518, lot 126), owned by a Japanese collector and appearing for the first time at an auction. The watch fetched an astounding CHF 490,900 (including buyer’s premium), or more than 400 percent of its pre-sales estimate, earning it the distinction of not only the highest price ever paid for a Sea-Dweller watch but the highest for any Rolex sports watch.
As per usual, several Patek Philippe timepieces drew some of the most interest and highest bids. The notables included a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 (lot 612), a rare perpetual calendar chronograph watch from the model’s First Series, made in 1951, which was bought for CHF 266,500 (including buyer’s premium), and a Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph (lot 511), which sold for CHF 290,500 (including buyer’s premium).
Perhaps the most historically important Patek in the auction was an extremely rare Ref. 1463 (lot 582), with a steel case, round-button chronograph and the only asthmometer dial known to exist, which was created, and once owned, by a famous Patek Philippe watchmaker, Jacques Golay. The un-numbered case and unusual dial indicate that the watch was finished by Golay for himself rather than for commercial sale. After some intense bidding, it sold to an Asian collector for CHF 194,500 (including buyer’s premium), more than 50% its pre-sale estimate. The second-selling lot, after the Rolex Single Red Submariner, was a rare Royal Presentation Musical Fan with a concealed watch from Piguet & Capt (lot 189). Originally a gift from Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Vicomte de Morais, it fetched CHF 386,500 (including buyer’s premium).
A while ago on our WatchTime blog, we previewed the extremely rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2499/100, from the personal collection of legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, which was to go on the block at Christie’s “Autumn Sale of Important Watches,” held on November 12 in Geneva. The watch, a perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases in a platinum case, manufactured by Patek Philippe in 1987, did not disappoint, fetching an astounding $3,635,808, a new world record price for this reference at auction.
The most valuable lot of the Christie’s sale was also a Patek, the so-called J.B. Champion Platinum Observatory Chronometer. It is a unique piece made for well-known American watch collector J.B. Champion in 1952. The timepiece, which carries the reference number 2458, has a platinum case, a certified chronometer movement with a Guillaume balance, and an additional platinum bracelet. Its final hammer price, $3,990,624, set a world auction record for a watch without complications.
The sales of the Christie’s auction, which included Part I of “A Gentleman’s Pursuit for Excellence,” a private collection of complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches and pocketwatches, totaled $28.5 million, selling 96% by lot and 97% by value. Numerous references and models from brands including Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Omega, and in the categories of antique and 20th century enamels, decorative watches and contemporary watches, also achieved world-record prices.
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