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Mixed fortunes for the year’s first auction in Geneva
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Mixed fortunes for the year’s first auction in Geneva

Thursday, 20 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

Rolex took two of the top three spots. Historic items failed to spark enthusiasm. Only 69% of lots found buyers.

There was a mixed reception for the lots proposed by Antiquorum on Sunday March 16th, when the auction house kicked off a new season of watch sales in Geneva ahead of the pack. Of the 383 items on the block, just 264 sold (69%) for a total CHF 3.38 million. Sparring between bidders nonetheless pushed the price of five lots, including two by Rolex, above the CHF 100,000 mark. “It’s a good market for exceptional items. For the rest, the price has to be right,” emphasised Julien Schaerer, managing director of the auction house in Geneva.

Among the top lots, two Rolex watches claimed first and second place in the sale, which drew 477 online bidders in addition to collectors in the room and on the telephone. The first, a rare steel Submariner from 1954, Ref. 6200, with Explorer dial went for CHF 183,750, over twice its high estimate (lot 187, est. CHF 50,000-70,000). The second, a platinum Day-Date from 1977, Ref. 1831/1850, with diamond-set bezel and indexes, believed to have been ordered by the Shah of Iran for his dignitaries and previously unknown to the market, garnered CHF 165,750, well in excess of its CHF 25,000-45,000 estimate (lot 189).

Patek Philippe Ref. 96 from 1903, with luminous Observatory dial, sold for CHF 111,750 (lot 382, est. CHF 20,000-40,000)
Vacheron Constantin in the top three

The third highest price was achieved by the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 4261 Minute Repeater in yellow gold from 1945. It went for CHF 123,750, falling short of its low estimate (lot 383, est. CHF 130,000-180,000). This can be seen as a disappointing result, given that only ten of this model without subsidiary seconds exist. “There’s no obvious reason,” commented Julien Schaerer. “Is it because it’s the first sale in Geneva, or is it the economic climate? The fact remains that estimates must be extremely conservative to spark enthusiasm among collectors.”

Two Patek Philippes completed this royal flush. Reference 96, made in 1903 with a luminous Observatory dial, one of the five known to the market according to Julien Schaerer, reached CHF 111,750, well above its high estimate of CHF 40,000 (lot 382). As for the “Poissons des Caraibes” Pendulette Dome clock, a solar-powered table clock decorated with aquatic scenes in polychrome cloisonné enamel, it sold on-target at CHF 105,75 (lot 347, est. CHF 90,000-130,000).

Fierce competition among bidders.
Surprises and disappointment

A singing bird box made in 1910 and decorated with hand-painted landscape scenes sparked fierce competition among bidders. It ultimately went for CHF 35,000, five times its high estimate (lot 114, est. CHF 4,000-6,000). In contrast, there was relative disappointment when a pair of late eighteenth-century Chinese bronzes representing “mirror image” elephants supporting two English clocks sold for CHF 37,500 (hammer price CHF 30,000), at the low end of the pre-sale estimate of CHF 30,000-50,000 (lot 127). “Only the Chinese show interest in this type of piece,” rued Julien Schaerer. Similarly, the 1801 audience clock by Antide Janvier (see Antiquorum sets the ball rolling in Geneva) failed to perform as expected. It found a buyer at just CHF 65,000 (hammer price CHF 52,000, lot 312, est. CHF 55,000-75,000). “This is a fair reflection of the market today,” concluded Julien Schaerer. “The new generation are no longer interested in this type of clock.”

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