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The world’s most complicated timepiece is auctioned at...
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The world’s most complicated timepiece is auctioned at Antiquorum

Friday, 13 November 2009
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

Autumn is auction season in Geneva, with the legendary Patek Philippe Calibre 89 totalling 33 complications coming under the hammer at Antiquorum. The Genevan manufacture is also in the spotlight at Sotheby’s, alongside Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, and two collections of enamel pocket watches.

Between CHF 4,500,000 and 5,500,000 is the estimate for the now legendary Patek Philippe Calibre 89 that will be sold at Antiquorum’s forthcoming sale in Geneva*. This exceptional lot will mark the 35th anniversary of the auction house, a pioneer in watch sales. “When this company was formed back in 1974, vintage collecting was in its infancy. Mechanical wrist and pocket watches were considered passé and the Swiss watch industry was struggling for survival,” explains Robert Maron who took over the company last year. “Thirty-five years later, what was once a niche hobby has evolved into a sophisticated multi-billion dollar global business.”

Antiquorum, which has sold 44 of the 62 timepieces to go for over CHF 1,000,000 at auction, is intent on keeping its place in this business, as demonstrated by the sale of the Calibre 89. “We are privileged to celebrate our 35th Anniversary by once again offering an amazing selection of exceptionally rare and important timepieces,” continues Robert Maron. “Certainly one of the most important and valuable timepieces ever offered by Antiquorum graces the cover of our catalogue. The yellow gold Calibre 89 by Patek Philippe represents the pinnacle of Swiss horology. First sold in 1989 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe, it is the most complicated timepiece ever made.”

New enthusiasm among collectors

Only four models of the Calibre 89, which totals 33 complications, were ever produced, one each in white gold, yellow gold, rose gold and platinum. The yellow gold model in question here comes from the Matsuda collection. It was previously sold by Antiquorum in its 1989 The Art of Patek Philippe sale to commemorate the Genevan manufacture’s 150th anniversary. Indeed, Antiquorum can claim to be on familiar terms with this exceptional timepiece, having sold the white gold model in April 2004, when the auction house celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Of the 364 lots, the Calibre 89 is not the only rare and valuable timepiece from the Patek Philippe workshops to come under the hammer. Joining it are an “Officier Répétition Minutes” (estimate: CHF 350,000 – 400,000), made as a limited edition of 10 in 1998 to commemorate the inauguration of the new Patek Philippe manufacture in Geneva; a Ref. 2497 with luminous black dial, perpetual calendar and moon phases, produced in 1995 and one of the lots with the highest estimate (estimate: CHF 270,000 – 320,000) alongside the Ref. 3979 Minute Repeater, produced in 1998 (estimate: CHF 250,000 – 300,000). Equally noteworthy are the Tourbillon RM003 by Richard Mille with dual time zone (estimate: CHF 120,000 – 180,000), an Audemars Piguet dress watch in white gold and enamel with perpetual calendar, minute repeater and split-seconds chronograph (estimate: CHF 100,000 – 150,000) and a Rolex Galion with cloisonné enamel dial, produced in 1952. With such exceptional lots as these, Antiquorum is poised to continue in the same positive vein as in previous months. “The remarkable results for both our September and October auctions are confirmation of the increased strength of the watch market. Collectors are once again enthusiastically bidding on rare and collectible timepieces,” concludes Robert Maron.

Coinciding dates

Collectors in Geneva this weekend can also visit Sotheby’s** for its sale of Important Watches. “We have been very busy collecting these watches from all over Europe and are extremely enthusiastic to share all our passionate work with worldwide collectors,” says Geoffroy Ader, newly-appointed European Head of Watches and auctioneer for the sale. “We are delighted with a wide variety of timepieces from enamel watches from the late 18th and early 19th centuries to a large variety of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin wristwatches including highly complicated pieces, namely perpetual calendars, chronographs and minute repeaters. We are also proud to present two historical watches appearing for the first time at auction.”

These timepieces are the “Negus watch” from 1893, which was a gift from “Sa Majesté Menelik II Empereur d’Ethiopie” to Léon Chefneux in recognition of his contribution to the implementation of Ethiopia’s first railway line, and the “Red Cross watch,” sold to Henry P. Davison as a Tribute to the League of the Red Cross, which symbolises the incredible achievements of the American Red Cross during the war for which Mr. Davison is best remembered as its Chairman.

Highlights of the sale include a Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with perpetual calendar and moon phases, produced as a limited edition for the renowned Zurich retailer Beyer (estimate: CHF 300,000 – 400,000), a Vacheron Constantin Minute Repeater in rose gold of which only a very few examples remain (estimate: CHF 160,000 – 180,000) and enamel watches made for the Chinese market, some with scenes inspired by old masters such as Teniers, Boucher and Fragonard.

*Antiquorum, Celebrating 35 Years of Making History in Time
First session – Saturday November 14th (lots 1 – 187), sale begins at 3pm
Second session – Sunday November 15th (lots 188 – 364), sales beings at 3pm
Grand Hotel Kempinski, Salon A, Quai du Mont-Blanc, 19, Geneva

** Sotheby’s Sale of Important Watches
Sunday November 15th, sale begins at 8pm
Hotel Beau-Rivage, Quai du Mont-Blanc 13, Geneva

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