You might not have known it, but this past weekend was one of the biggest weekends for the watch industry this year — at least in Geneva. Kicking off with the annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie Genève (GPHG, aka the “Oscars” of the watch world) which awarded 18 prizes to some of the best watches of the year, the weekend quickly transitioned into a weekend of auctions and incredible sales, with events presented by Phillips, Christie’s, and Antiquorum.
Possibly the most significant of these was Only Watch 2021, presented by Christie’s, one of the most famous and attention-grabbing watch auctions of the year due to the fact that the watches up for bid are all unique pieces created especially for it. The event continues to serve as a key launchpad for some of the most experimental work in the watch industry, as well benefiting muscular dystrophy research projects, with 99% of the proceeds devoted to that cause.
While the takeaways from the weekend’s sales are wide and varied, most immediately interesting are the top results. As such, we have assembled the five most expensive watches sold over the past weekend across the various auction houses and events — which represent a diverse range of heavy-hitting brands including Patek Philippe, F. P. Journe, Audemars Piguet, and others.
Leading the weekend was not a watch at all, but in fact a table clock, which was Lot 41 of the Only Watch auction. The Patek Philippe Complicated Desk Clock, Ref. Ref. 27001M-001, takes its inspiration from a similar, historical timepiece that resides within the Patek Philippe Museum. That vintage clock was produced in 1923 as a special delivery to James Ward Packard, the renowned American automobile magnate who founded the Packard Motor Car Company.
The Patek Philippe Complicated Desk Clock was sold for CHF 9,500,000 (approximately $10,433,800), not including buyer’s fees, which aren’t included as part of the Only Watch number. Still, the sale marked the fourth-highest price paid at auction for a timepiece.
Philippe Dufour is one of the most sought-after independent watchmakers out there, and this year one of his most important historical timepieces came up for sale. The watch, known as the Grande & Petite Sonnerie, was first produced in 1992. At the time, it represented not only the first grande & petite sonnerie ever manufactured, but it was furthermore the first watch ever produced under the Philippe Dufour brand, its movement bearing n°1 to indicate it as such.
Estimations for the watch were on the higher end at Phillips’ famed Geneva auction, posted at $1,090,000 to $2,180,000. But those valuations weren’t high enough, with the final sale price including buyer’s fees hitting CHF 4,749,000, or just above $5,216,600. An equally rare pocketwatch version of the watch also sold as part of the auction, that model (lot 145) reaching about three times its estimate at CHF 2,329,000, or about $2,558,145.
Featuring one of the more interesting designs of the year, the F.P. Journe X Francis Ford Coppola FFC Blue had the watch world in a frenzy shortly after it was announced, with its unique time-telling indicated via pointing mechanical fingers.
Naturally, the highly praised model and its renowned independent creator commanded a serious fee as part of the Only Watch 2021 charity auction, fetching CHF 4,500,000 (about $4,942,700) and blowing past its original estimate of CHF 300,000 to 400,000. The sale marked the highest hammer price for an independent watch at auction ever, though not the highest final sale price: that distinction belongs to the Philippe Dufour model above.
While the Only Watch pièce unique may have captivated our attention, a different F.P. Journe watch was also commanding serious prices at Phillips, namely the Chronomètre à Résonance “Souscription.” The edition 1 of 20 watch is extremely rare and the first of its kind (Edition 1 of 20), featuring a platinum and rose-gold case construction and most notable for its resonating escapements.
The F.P. Journe saw its estimate atCHF 200,000 to 400,000, but realized a sale price of CHF 3,902,000, or about $4,285,900.
While the Grande & Petite Sonnerie achieved the highest price at the Phillips event, other Philippe Dufour watches also drew massive intrigue there. Lot 190, aka the Duality, boasted the fifth highest sale price of the big watch-auction weekend. The watch, produced in 1996, is one of only three made, and like the Grande & Petite Sonnerie also features a world-premiere horological mechanism, specifically the double escapement that gives the watch its name, equipped with two independent balance wheels compensated with a central differential gear.
The Philippe Dufour was estimated to hammer between CHF 800,000 and 1,600,000, but far surpassed those projections with a final sale price of CHF 3,660,000, or approximately $4,020,100.
Topping hundreds of lots, these five timepieces comprise the pinnacle sales of the weekend across four different auctions, and quite notably they including four indie-brand wristwatches and one table clock from just three makers total.
While these results offer many interesting takeaways, chief among them would appear to be just how how far independent manufacturers have come in the auction market; both F.P. Journe and Philippe Dufour commanded many millions of dollars when not so long ago this may well have been considered impossible. Along these lines, the fact that the top five sales are spread amongst so few brands might indicate how much interest is still focused on the very top of the luxury watch market,
What do you think of the top five sales? Any surprises? Any letdowns? Let us know in the comments below!