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Antiquorum sets the ball rolling in Geneva
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Antiquorum sets the ball rolling in Geneva

Friday, 14 March 2014
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Fabrice Eschmann
Freelance journalist

“Don't believe all the quotes you read online!”

“In life as in watchmaking, it takes many encounters to make a story.”

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3 min read

The auction house, whose 40th anniversary is this year, is offering no fewer than 383 lots at the Mandarin Oriental this Sunday March 16th. Among them, an extremely rare Consulate period audience clock by Antide Janvier.

While other auctioneers have yet to kick off the new season of watch sales, Antiquorum strikes out alone with a sale this Sunday March 16th at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva. Clearly with energy to spare, it already held a session on February 22nd, this time in Hong Kong, which garnered some HKD 41,975,000 (CHF 4.75 million) in total, selling 80% of the 250 lots proposed. This Sunday, no fewer than 383 items will be looking to change hands, including a rare Vacheron Constantin Ref. 4261, a fine collection of Japanese pocket watches by Patek Philippe, and an unusual table clock with thermometer, signed Antide Janvier.

Audience clock made by Antide Janvier in 1801, with a Réaumur thermometer (est. CHF 55,000-75,000).

Antiquorum, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary, traditionally does the honours with the first watch sale of the season in the Swiss city. “There is strong demand in Geneva, and this early session is a chance for those who can’t wait to pick up something they like,” says managing director Julien Schaerer. Particularly noteworthy among the modern and vintage pieces – the majority of items on the block – is the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 4261 Minute Repeater in yellow gold, manufactured in 1945. It has been in the original owner’s family for almost 70 years and comes under the hammer in exceptional condition. It appears that only ten examples of this model without subsidiary seconds were ever made (lot 383, est. CHF 130,000-180,000).

A slice of France's history

Equally rare, the Patek Philippe “Poissons des Caraibes” Pendulette Dome clock is expected to spark some lively bidding among collectors. Made in 2004, this solar-powered table clock – the photoelectric cells are in the dome – is decorated in stunning detail with tropical fish in polychrome cloisonné enamel (lot 347, est. CHF 90,000-130,000).

Another unusual piece is the audience clock, made in 1801 by Antide Janvier (1751-1835). A master clockmaker from the French Jura region, and horologist to King Louis XVI before embracing the French Revolutionary cause, Janvier was also an accomplished astronomer and a specialist in the production of planetariums and other timepieces with celestial complications. However, he became best-known for a series of “pendules d’audience”, inspired perhaps by his egalitarian principles. As its name suggests, this clock is intended to measure time allocated for an audience before a lawyer or a high-ranking official. The supplicant had generally just ten minutes to make his case. Accordingly, a large central minutes hand makes one revolution of the dial in ten minutes. An aperture at 12 o’clock shows the hour, this time revolving over twelve hours. Beneath the main dial, a Réaumur thermometer proposes a scale of “Ice”, “Temperate”, “Summer Heat” or “Senegal”. This is certainly a slice of history and a museum-worthy piece (lot 312, est. CHF 55,000-75,000).

Lastly, a dozen Patek Philippe pocket watches, sold to Japanese customers, could attract attention. “The Japanese have a unique sense of preservation,” notes Julien Schaerer. “They enjoyed owning watches without ever wearing them, hence the optimal condition.” Lot 372 for example (est. CHF 2,000-4,000), sold on March 10th 1913, is offered in its original box with a certificate from the Patek Philippe Japan Service Center.

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