Antiquorum set the ball rolling for these three days of autumn sales. Over two afternoons, 515 of the 643 timepieces (sell-through rate of 80%) changed hands for a total CHF 7,000,000 (€ 5,131,980). The sale had its high and low points with a number of lots selling below their low estimate. Bidding was slow, particularly on the first day.
A surprise announcement on Sunday revealed that the five Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches which had been consigned for sale by Lady June, widow of Sir Edmund Hillary, had been withdrawn. A high court in Sir Edmund’s native New Zealand had ruled that the watches were of national cultural importance and must therefore be returned to the country. A blow for Antiquorum, although lot 621, the Rolex which the expedition’s photographer Alfred Gregory wore to 350 metres from the summit was bought, along with five photos and an ice axe, by a Lebanese collector for CHF 145,300 (€ 106,525), making five times its high estimate.
The quarter-repeating navette-shaped ring watch, a gift to Napoleon I (lot 466), went for CHF 92,500 (€ 67,815) (est. CHF 68,000 / € 49,855). Lot 89, a basket-form enamel watch from 1810, was purchased by an Asian bidder for CHF 25,000 (€ 18,330) (high estimate CHF 7,500 / € 5,500). In contrast, the Louis Moinet Jurassic Tourbillon (lot 622), manufactured in 2010, sold for just CHF 170,500 (€ 125,000) (est. CHF 200,000 / € 146,630) while the highlight of the sale, a Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 Third Series in pink gold with perpetual calendar and moonphases (lot 643) went for CHF 1,082,500 (€ 793,625) (est. CHF 800,000-1,200,000 / € 586,510-879,765).
Sotheby’s 8pm Evening Sale has become a key fixture in the auction calendar, and the sale on November 14th was no exception. In exactly four hours and five minutes, and with characteristic flair, Geoffroy Ader brought the gavel down on 243 lots and realised CHF 7,920,100 (€ 5,806,540) (205 lots sold, 87%). It was standing room only at Hotel Beau Rivage with an attendance of some four hundred people, with more bids relayed online and over the telephone. Sotheby’s again distinguished itself as the specialist in enamel pocket watches, in particular early nineteenth-century European watches made for the Chinese and Turkish markets. The sale also offered Geoffroy Ader’s selection of vintage and modern watches, 38 Rolexes and 49 Patek Philippes, certain of which commanded unexpectedly high prices.
The evening took a sensational turn when, after a fierce bidding battle, the 1969 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Paul Newman in steel (lot 104 – est. CHF 60-80,000 / € 43,990-58,650) was sold to an Italian client who paid CHF 464,500 (€ 340,545), almost six times the high estimate. “This watch was given to me by its owner who found the cost of having it repaired too high. It is an exceptionally rare piece for its highly collectible brown dial and inverted Rolex Cosmograph Oyster inscription which possibly makes it a unique item in a very limited series,” Geoffroy Ader commented.
This Rolex stole the show from the automated caterpillar (lot 138) whose decoration and astonishingly lifelike undulations were greatly admired. Made circa 1820 for the Chinese market, it returned to Asia after commanding the second-highest price of the evening of CHF 404,500 (€ 296,555). Only four other automated caterpillars are known to exist. The auction confirmed strong interest in pocket watches which achieved CHF 2,266,500 (€ 1,661,660), over a third of the sale’s total result. Note also the very good performance by lot 135, a pair of gold, enamel and hard stone centre seconds watches by William Ilbery. The subject of fierce competition by five bidders, they went for CHF 266,500 (€ 195,380) after an estimate of CHF 80-120,000 (€ 58,650-87,975). They will go on display in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. The extremely rare chronometer watch with date indication, made circa 1830 by Auguste Courvoisier and depicting the Cemetery of Eyüp in Istanbul, realised CHF 62,500 (€ 45,820) (est. CHF 15-25,000 / € 11’000-18’330). Another surprise among the evening’s vintage watches was the 1969 Rolex Daytona Paul Newman, which at CHF 254,500 (€ 186,585) tripled its pre-sale high estimate.
Aurel Bacs began his “show” on Monday November 15th at 9.30am sharp, at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. As impressive and efficient as ever, he presided over an audience of collectors who had travelled from around the world, and were prepared to spend considerable amounts in exchange for the finest quality, origin and rarity. While Asian collectors are ever more numerous, Europeans and particularly Italians, always great admirers of Patek Philippe and Rolex, were the stalwarts of the sale. Coming under the hammer were 120 Patek Philippes, 52 Rolexes, 12 Omegas, 10 Cartiers, 10 Audemars Piguets… 388 lots in all of which no fewer than 358 (95%) found takers. Some excellent results were achieved by “Chinese” pocket watches, even though these aren’t one of Christie’s specialities. The sale realised an impressive result of CHF 21,572,000 (€ 1,5815,290) when the pre-sale high estimate didn’t exceed CHF 17 million (€ 12.5 millions).
Shortly after 11 o’clock the tension began to mount with lot 109, a 1952 yellow gold Patek Philippe Ref. 3651, “never mentioned in literature,” which went for CHF 243,000 (€ 178,150). Then came the star of the sale, the Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 World Time in pink gold, 1953, (lot 114), with two crowns and a magnificent blue enamel dial signed “Gobbi Milano.” This was the first time this rare watch, described by Aurel Bacs as “a must for any true collector,” had come to auction in the past fifty years. Estimated between CHF 1,500,000 and 2,500,000 (€ 1,100,000 and 1,800,000), in just five minutes it was sold to an Asian collector for CHF 2,675,000. As for lot 328, a yellow gold Patek Philippe Ref. 1563 chronograph wristwatch with two-tone pulsation dial, one of the ten timepieces offered as Part III of A Connoisseur’s Vision, it sold for CHF 1,107,000 (€ 811,585) (est. CHF 600,000-1,000,000 / € 439,885-733,140).
The Patek Philippe Museum was a serious contender for lot 149, an impressive pocket watch signed “Daniel Vaucher en la Cité à Paris”, made in 1783 for the Turkish market and weighing 710 grams, in blue enamel set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. The Museum dropped out of the bidding at CHF 580,000 (€ 425,220), leaving a European collector to make the winning bid of CHF 699,000 (€ 512,465). Lot 303, a Rolex ref. 4157, 1948, in steel, made a surprising result: estimated between CHF 4,000 and 6,000 (€ 2,930 and 4,400), it went to a California-based Chinese collector for an astonishing CHF 80,000 (€ 58,650). The excitement continued with the stunning “chimera” watch (lot 380), also by Rolex, in yellow gold with a cloisonné enamel dial. Fiercely disputed by Italian bidders, it finally went for CHF 171,000 (€ 125,365) (est. CHF 60-80,000 / € 43,990-58,650).
* € 26.9 million