Auction Wednesday, September 28th 2011
Forty one-off watches were auctioned by Antiquorum on September 23rd in Monaco, under the high patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II. At EUR 1.4 million (USD 1.9 million / CHF 1.7 million), the Patek Philippe Ref. 3939 tripled its low estimate.
Audemars Piguet Only Watch – Jules Audemars Gstaad Classic © Audemars Piguet
The fourth Only Watch Charity Auction moved from the Monaco Yacht Club to the Hôtel Hermitage, overlooking the famous marina. Well before the 4pm start, collectors, aficionados and celebrities, including Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, a great watch lover, mingled in the hotel's elegant Salle Belle Époque. A fitting setting for this biannual event which is also an eagerly-awaited "horological test bench."
Each of the forty brands taking part had created a one-of-a-kind timepiece for the event. There were no reserve prices. The auction supports a worthy cause: since 2005, proceeds have been donated to the Monaco Association Against Muscular Dystrophy to fund research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affects some 250,000 young males in the world.
Shortly after Prince Albert's arrival, smiling and relaxed, Julien Schaerer from Antiquorum stepped up to the podium before an attentive room. The Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars went quickly to an online bidder for €38,000 (est. €35-45,000), followed by the Bell&Ross BRO 1 Casino, which at €18,000 fell short of its €20-40,000 estimate. Blu's Gagarin Platinium Flying Tourbillon found a buyer at its high estimate of €300,000. Lot 5, the 7-Day Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix with reverse hand-fitting by Bovet, which was making its third appearance at Only Watch, disappointed at €70,000 after a much higher estimate of €180-220,000. Fortunately, the Breguet Classique Grande Complication, Réveil Musical sold for its high estimate of €120,000. Next up was the astonishing micro-mechanical mobile phone by Celsius X VI II, a young brand whose risky choice paid off: it fetched €75,000 (est. €40-60,000). DeWitt's X-Watch, an extraordinary concept watch in titanium and steel, only just made it, arriving the day before the sale. It sold in just one minute for €410,000 (est. €350-500,000).
The audience was beginning to warm up as the brands came thick and fast: Franck Muller, Girard Perregaux, Harry Winston, Hublot, and suddenly Ikepod with its stunning red hourglass, which went for €23,000. Lot 28, a highly original HM4 by MB&F, was an aviation-inspired watch made in collaboration with the Chinese artist Huang Hankang, hence the detachable gold panda! It sold for its low estimate of €170,0000. So many original timepieces had the audience on tenterhooks when the highly coveted lot 30, the Patek Philippe Ref 3939, was brought into the room; a unique minute repeater with black dial and a small 33mm stainless steel case. Less than four minutes was all it took for it to find a new home in the United States (although the buyer wasn't American) for €1.4 million, to thunderous applause from the public and an equally enthusiastic Prince Albert.
This left ten watches still to come, beginning with the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton, which sold for €54,000 (est. €25-35,000). It was followed by the Richard Mille RM 027 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal. This high-tech timepiece, weighing just 20g, is the very one which the tennis champion wore when he won the 2011 Monte Carlo championships, and which he had generously donated to Only Watch. The successful bidder parted with €510,000 (est. €400-600,000). Coming up next were watches by Romain Jerome (€11,000), Ulysse Nardin whose Freak Diavolo went for €125,000, and Van Cleef & Arpels' delightful From the Earth to the Moon Poetic Complication, which sold to a bidder in Japan for €215,000.
All in all an excellent sale, with half the lots exceeding their low estimates, despite a few disappointments for some of the so-called "classic" watches, such as De Béthune, Girard Perregaux, Hermès, Chanel, Blancpain and Vacheron Constantin. Creativity and generosity were the order of the day in Monaco, as enthusiastic bidding pulverised even the most optimistic forecasts. At the end of an exciting sale, €4.5 million (USD 6.1 million / CHF 5.5 million) were raised, double the amount made in 2009. ■
Danièle Chambas in Monaco