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No great excitement at Christie’s
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No great excitement at Christie’s

Monday, 21 November 2016
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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

Despite a well-curated catalogue, the auction house ended its sale with the most unsold lots of the weekend (15%). The most surprising result was for a Patek Philippe pocket watch dated 1864, which went for almost twenty times its estimate.

The moral of the story at Christie’s last November 14th seemed to be that the best catalogues don’t always make for the most successful sales. The auction house put up 323 lots at its Geneva saleroom, with the inevitable Patek Philippe (95 lots) and Rolex (69 lots) representing half the watches proposed. Christie’s selection also included some fifty antique timepieces and pocket watches, alongside some nicely made vintage and modern pieces. Despite this careful selection, it suffered the highest proportion of unsold items (15%), compared with Sotheby’s (11.5%) and Phillips (7%). Those lots that did find a buyer often came in at their low estimate or below. Even so, the sale ended with a result of CHF 14.7 million, which was the weekend’s second highest total after Phillips (CHF 27.5 million).

Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon
Patek Philippe, Ref. 5002P Sky Moon Tourbillon, 2010. This watch with 12 complications sold at Christie's for CHF 1.15 million (lot 146, est. CHF 950,000-1,500,000).
A rare Sky Moon Tourbillon

Unsurprisingly, the top-selling lot was a Patek Philippe Ref. 5002P Sky Moon Tourbillon. This was, at the time of its launch, Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatch and its first to incorporate a double dial. The twelve complications include a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and a tourbillon. A celestial chart on the reverse side shows the movement of the stars. Introduced in 2001, only two were made per year which makes this an extremely rare watch. The example sold at Christie’s was manufactured in 2010 and went for CHF 1.15 million (lot 146, est. CHF 950,000-1,500,000). At the time of its launch, this platinum version was priced CHF 990,000 at Patek’s Geneva boutique.

Continuing the numbers, the ten highest-selling lots comprised no fewer than eight Patek Philippe, one Rolex and an Audemars Piguet. The latter, a unique platinum minute repeater from 1960, fetched CHF 397,500 (lot 39, est. CHF 250,000-500,000) and ranked fourth highest. This “top ten” accounted for CHF 4.6 million or a third of the sale total.

Patek Philippe Nautilus en platine
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700/031 in platinum set with 128 Top Wesselton Pure diamonds, sold for CHF 631,500 (lot 322, est. CHF 500,000-800,000).
The legend that is Nautilus

Christie’s took advantage of the day to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Patek Philippe Nautilus with a showcase of ten pieces. This carried on from a selection sold in Dubai in October, with more to come in Hong Kong and New York. Just over forty years ago, the story goes, in 1974, Gérald Genta sketched the Nautilus in a few deft lines over lunch at the Basel watch fair. Known by collectors as the Jumbo, in reference to its protruding “ears”, this was Patek Philippe’s first ever sport watch in steel. Water-resistant to 120 metres, it took its official name from Captain Nemo’s submarine in Jules Verne’s novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. A story not unlike that of the no less famous Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet, released four years earlier and designed by a certain… Gérald Genta.

Répétition Minutes Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet minute repeater in platinum, unique piece from 1960. Sold for CHF 397,500 (lot 39, est. CHF 250,000-500,000), the fourth highest-selling lot.

The highest bid for this special selection was also the second-highest overall. Lot 322 was a “possibly unique” (!) piece in platinum set with 128 Top Wesselton Pure diamonds. It garnered CHF 631,500 (est. CHF 500,000-800,000).

Montre de poche Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe "cabriolet" pocket watch with reversible case and fusee-and-chain transmission, made in 1864. Sold for CHF 259,000, almost 20 times the high estimate (lot 207, est. CHF 10,000-15,000).

The result obtained by a pocket watch manufactured in 1864 warrants special mention, even for a Patek Philippe. The hammer came down on the stroke of CHF 259,000 at almost 20 times the high estimate (lot 207, est. CHF 10,000-15,000). This “cabriolet” watch is distinguished by a reversible case which can be opened to show the dial or closed to display the movement. Such a strong price no doubt owes much to research which revealed only nine other watches of this type from Patek Philippe, this being the only one with a fusee-and-chain transmission.

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