Auction Houses Sold Over $150 Million In Luxury Watches Over The Weekend
Rolex, Patek Philippe, and F.P. Journe were the kings of the auction blocks in Geneva for Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s.
If there were any lingering fears of a slowdown in the pre-owned watch market, they were blown away over the weekend: the Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s watch auctions in Geneva raked in a total of just over $162 million, with numerous world records set for grail pieces that somehow keep making their way to the secondary market.
Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo’s Geneva Watch Auction XVII totalled approx. $78,792,372 (USD$52,488,707), with all lots sold. Two watches went above the $4.5 million mark, and a record was set for a gem-set Rolex Daytona: the Ref. 6270 “The End Game,” in yellow gold with a pavé diamond dial, sapphire indexes, and baguette diamond bezel sold for approx. $6,163,419 (USD$4,105,853). The second- and third-highest lots were both rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronographs—a perennially sought-after model among high-level collectors. A second-series model in pink gold sold for approx. $4,896,361 (USD$3,261,784), and a first-series in yellow gold sold for approx. $3,940,254 (USD$2,624,859).
Another notable lot was the very first Biver watch produced by Pierre Biver and his father, industry legend Jean-Claude Biver, sold for approx. $2,121,290 (USD$1,413,129). The watch, a Tourbillon Minute Repeater Carillon in Titanium with a silvered obsidian dial, is a prototype (numbered 00) launched in March for the new brand. The first pieces are not even delivered yet, but pre-orders are being taken for approx. $825,620 (USD$550,000).
On the other end of the “up-and-comer,” so to speak, spectrum…even minor Rolex models can hit the big-time at auction. Phillips sold a steel Ref. 6541 Milgauss, a steel watch with a honeycomb dial and “lightning” hand, for approx. $3,738,146 (USD$2,490,222), a record price for any Rolex Milgauss. Made in 1958, this was the first series of Milgauss watches made by Rolex, with the rare lightning seconds hand to indicate its magnetic resistance.
Christie’s sold just over approx. $67.5 million (USD$49 million) worth of watches at its weekend sales, held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. The combined total of its Rare Watches and Art of F.P. Journe sales: approx. $44.6 million (USD$29.7 million) and approx. $22.97 (USD$15.3 million) respectively. A total of six watches sold above $1.5 million, with four watches exceeding the $750,000 mark.
The top lot in the Rare Watches sale was a Patek Philippe Ref. 5711-1A-018, also known as the Tiffany Blue—a Nautilus double-signed by Tiffany with a blue dial, which easily ranks as the most famous watch of the decade. It sold for approx. $3,751,137 (USD$2,498,876), an impressive amount, but not a new record for the model. Christie’s sold one last year for approx. $4,774,591 (USD$3,180,665). The watch, made in a limited edition of 170 to celebrate the 170-year partnership between Tiffany and Patek, retailed in 2021 for just over $75,000. Also notable in the sale was a rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 one of the first series, made in 1953, selling for approx. $2,934,425 (USD$1,954,811).
Christie’s also sold a rare Daytona chronograph watch with a diamond-set bezel and a diamond and sapphire-set dial and bracelet, ref. 6269, made circa 1985 for the Sultanate of Oman, sold for CHF1,134,000 (AUD$2,136,702). It was one of six pieces in the sale ordered by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman.
The Art of F.P. Journe sale of 40 lots totalled approximately $22,999,006 (USD$15,314,702), confirming Journe as the master of independent watchmakers. The top lot was a Tourbillon Souverain Souscription watch, numbered two of 20, made circa 1999, selling for approx. $4,555,941 (USD$3,033,735). The second-highest lot was a platinum Chronomètre à Résonance made in 2000, for approx. $2,315,838 (USD$1,542,083).
Sotheby’s Geneva watch totalled just over $19.5million. The Important Watches sale generated approx. $15,940,808 (USD$10,614,751) and the Centuries of Time: A Private Collection of decorative pocket watches totalled approx. $3,868,412 (USD$2,575,919). The top lot in the Important Watches sale set a new world record for a Rolex Paul Newman John Player Special, at $3,741,867 (USD$2,491,655). Seven bidders battled in an eight-minute bidding war for the piece, the third most valuable Paul Newman Daytona in gold ever sold and the fourth most valuable Paul Newman style of Daytona. Named after the British tobacco-sponsored Team Lotus Formula One car of the 1970s, the Rolex JPS was produced in only 300 18-karat yellow-gold versions. Among these, only a small fraction were fitted with the coveted John Player Special dial.
The second-highest lot in the Important Watches sale was an F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance ‘No. 1, with a platinum case and a ruthenium-plated movement, selling for approx. $891,829 (USD$593,856).
But not all collectors are after wrist candy. The Private Collection sale included a rare selection of curated elaborately decorated pocket watches, many of which were made for the Chinese market. The top lot was a Breguet pocket watch minute repeater with an elaborately enamelled gold case, selling for approx. $1,698,720 (USD$1,131,153), followed by a gold, enamel and pearl-set flask watch, with two elaborately engraved gold eagle heads. Made circa 1800, it sold for $159,255 (USD$106,046).
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