International collectors still remember Christie’s Geneva auction in May 2010, when 360 lots garnered CHF 23.1 million (€ 18 m/USD 24.7 m). Among the timepieces coming under the hammer was the one Aurel Bacs, International Co-Head of Christie’s Watch Department, dubbed the “twentieth century’s Mona Lisa” – the exceptional Patek Philippe Ref. 1527. This unique yellow gold watch from 1943 with chronograph, moonphases and perpetual calendar went for CHF 6.2 million (€ 4.8 m/USD 6,6 m). It can now be admired at the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva.
This fabulous timepiece was part of the Patek Philippe collection sold as A Connoisseur’s Vision Part II, which a wealthy Milanese collector consigned for sale by Christie’s in four auctions held in November 2009, May and November 2010, and at a forthcoming sale on May 16th 2011. The hammer came down on 14 of these watches in May 2010, realising CHF 9.7 million (€ 7.5 m/USD 10.4 m) (est. CHF 4-6 m) and representing 40% of the total for the sale. The November 2010 auction fetched CHF 21.5 million (€ 16.7 m/USD 23 m) with 358 lots changing hands. The highlight was a 1953 Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 in rose gold with a blue enamel dial signed “Gobbi Milano.” Having a pre-sale estimate of CHF 1.5-2.5 million, it finally changed hands for CHF 2.6 million (€ 2 m/USD 2.8 m), setting a world record for this reference.
Patek Philippe leads the way
Patek Philippe has swept the board in Geneva for the past 20 years, as well as topping sales in Hong Kong, New York and Dubai (see chart), and looks set to go on dominating the wristwatch segment. Of the nine top lots sold by Christie’s in 2010, eight were by Patek Philippe and six went to Asian, mostly Chinese, buyers. Entire collections have come on the auctioneer’s block, which has contributed to pushing up prices, particularly when the collection has historical significance. Notable examples are A Connoisseur’s Vision in Geneva, The Millennium Collection in Hong Kong, and in New York some one hundred timepieces having belonged to the actor Anthony LaPaglia.
Aurel Bacs, who has been with Christie’s since 2003, describes the future of Fine Watch auctions as “extremely promising. The global fascination with mechanical watches has made them a safe haven for investors as well as testimony to our culture.” Erring on the side of caution – we live in an unpredictable world – but still extremely optimistic given that watches have grown faster than any other sector, he adds: “Extremely rare objects are almost impossible to find and there is a huge appetite among buyers, particularly in China. However, we aren’t forgetting our European or American clients, who are at the heart of our development.”
Patek Philippe Ref. 1527, 1943. Estimate CHF 1.5-2.5 m, sold CHF 6.2 m (€ 4,8 mios/USD 6,6 mios)
Patek Philippe Ref. 2523, 1953. Estimate CHF 1.5-2.5 m, sold CHF 2.6 m (€ 2 mios/USD 2,8 mios)
Patek Philippe Ref. 2499, 1957. Estimate CHF 800,000-1.2 m, sold CHF 1.2 m (€ 932’408/USD 1,3 mios)
Patek Philippe Ref. 50002P, Sky Moon Tourbillon. Estimate HK$ 6.5-10 m, sold HK$ 8.6 m (€ 800,443/USD 1.1 m)
Patek Philippe Ref. 3974, 1994. Estimate HK$ 4-5.5 m, sold HK$ 5.5 m (€ 511,911/USD 705,874)
Patek Philippe Ref. 5029, 1997. Estimate HK$ 3.2-4.5 m, sold HK$ 4.8 m (€ 446,759/USD 616,036)
Patek Philippe Ref. 5016, 2008. Estimate USD 500,000-800,000, sold $602,500 (€ 436,942)
Piaget Ref. GOA19599, 1999. Estimate USD 200,000-300,000, sold $602,500 (€ 436,942)
Patek Philippe Ref. 5016, 1993. Estimate USD 350,000-550,000, sold $434,500 (€ 315,106)