Opened in 2006, Vacheron Constantin's Les Cabinotiers department is something of a world apart. It renews with the tradition of bespoke watches and one-of-a-kind pieces, offered as a service to collectors.
The first exhibition to be jointly curated by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and the Michelangelo Foundation, both of which recently relocated to a historic building in downtown Geneva, highlights rare crafts and the "singular talents" who perpetuate these skills.
Between 2000 and 2004, at the behest of a private collector, the Manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates made a number of wristwatches in titanium whose reference numbers were never revealed outside a small inner circle. This extraordinary collection will now appear in public for the first time when it comes under the hammer at Sotheby's.
Auctions are an opportunity for clock and watch museums to add to their collections with pieces that rarely become available elsewhere. Yet despite these noble intentions, a museum is a bidder like any other, and must be prepared to pay the price for the lots it wishes to acquire.
The spring session of sales, though rather lacklustre, still managed to establish five record prices: three Patek Philippe, one Panerai and a Rolex whose dial, in cloisonné enamel, raised serious doubts as to its authenticity.
A museum quality marine chronometer, a Patek Philippe minute repeater from 1927, commissioned by Henry Graves, and two Rolex equipped with a Beta 21 quartz movement are expected to be the highlights of the four auctions, beginning May 10th.
Sotheby's and Antiquorum held sessions in Hong Kong for one, New York for the other, with mixed fortunes. While the former realised a more than satisfactory total, the latter can rank this among its least memorable sales… some might even say flops, given the numerous lots that went unsold.