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Geneva auctions: Christie’s
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Geneva auctions: Christie’s

Wednesday, 02 November 2011
By Danièle Chambas
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Danièle Chambas

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4 min read

With a selection that includes 129 Patek Philippe and 65 Rolex, representing 45% of the total 427 lots, Christie’s and Aurel Bacs, the auction house’s International Head of Watches, can look forward to a blockbuster sale and, who knows, perhaps even pulverise the record CHF 23 million achieved in May 2010.

The superb selection of vintage and modern wristwatches, pocket watches and Cartier clocks that fill the pages of the magnificent catalogue will leave collectors and cognoscenti eager for the sale to commence. Despite the fragile state of the global economy right now, fine watches are still considered a “safe haven” for investors. Indeed, the number of collectors continues to grow, particularly in Asia. Aurel Bacs is counting on bidders’ confidence, and on the emotion and admiration which these exceptional timepieces inspire. “Passion isn’t linked to the stock market,” he declares.

Four Patek Philippe at a million Swiss francs

A good one hundred lots warrant attention although four in particular, all Patek Philippe of course, stand out. First among them is lot 88, a legendary Ref. 3448 in pink gold from 1968. Described by Aurel Bacs as “the most significant discovery in the world of vintage wristwatches this year,” it is certain to start an epic bidding war. It is probably unique as, until today, specialists had only ever encountered the 3448 in yellow gold, white gold or platinum. Purchased by its present owner in 1970, it has the signature of Freccero, a Montevideo retailer, on its dial. Offered in pristine condition, it comes with its original box and warranty certificate, and is expected to leave its CHF 500,000-1 million estimate (USD 560,000-1.1 million/€420-830,000) far behind. It will be followed by a superb platinum pocket watch with complications and tourbillon (lot 89). It was made in 1932 as a special commission for the New-York collector Henry Graves Jr. whose name is engraved on the case back. It also comes with the original box. Henry Graves Jr. ordered thirty complication pocket watches from Patek Philippe. Thirteen of the fifteen to have since appeared on the market now belong to the Patek Philippe Museum. This lot 89 is one of the remaining two (the other was sold at auction in the United States). A far more complicated piece, it is estimated at CHF 800,000-1.4 million (USD 890,000-1.6 million/€670,000-1.2 million).

Lots 141 and 252 are both complication watches. Only three of each were ever made. Estimated between CHF 1 and 1.5 million (USD 1.2-1.7 million/€840,000-1.2 million), they have every chance of outperforming their high estimate. The first, Ref. 1579 (1946) with a tachymetre scale in miles, is the only chronograph in a platinum case, a fact which Aurel Bacs qualifies as “madness” for that period. The second, Ref. 3449 in yellow gold with perpetual calendar, moon phases and multi-facetted bezel, is a highly important piece, being the first of three watches in an experimental series, another of which belongs to the Patek Philippe Museum.

Lot 141 : Patek Philippe chronograph Ref. 1579 from 1946 © Christie’s
Lot 141 : Patek Philippe chronograph Ref. 1579 from 1946 © Christie’s
James Bond's watch

The Rolex selection includes what is certainly one of the most famous watches ever seen on screen, as it was worn by Roger Moore in Live And Let Die. It is an Oyster Perpetual Submariner Ref. 5513 in stainless steel, manufactured in 1972 and engraved “Roger Moore 007” on the case back (lot 182, the last in the morning session). The film’s artistic director Syd Cain had the watch “customised” for the film, with the addition of a saw-tooth edge bezel and a hyper-intensified magnetic field that could deflect a bullet. A dream come true for James Bond fans, estimated at CHF 200-400,000 (USD 230-450,000/€170-340,000). Also one to keep an eye on, Ref. 8382 from 1953 (lot 179) is an exceptionally rare and delightful yellow gold wristwatch whose cloisonné enamel dial depicts Neptune (est. CHF 120-180,000/USD 140-200,000/€100-150,000).

Among the many fine pocket watches in the sale, we can note the magnificent Lange & Söhne Ref. 28218 in pink gold (lot 162) from 1889, with eight complications including a perpetual calendar, minute repeater and single button double chronograph. The watch has remained in the same family for 102 years and is offered in remarkable condition, hence its estimate of CHF 300-500,000 (USD 340-560,000/€ 250-420,000).

Viewing: November 11-13, 10am-6pm.
Sale: Monday November 14th, 9.30am (lots 1-182) and 2.30pm
Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues, 33 Quai des Bergues, Geneva.
>  E-catalogue

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