The 12/11/12 sale set to be exceptional auction event

Last spring, Christie’s already met the CHF 15 million mark in Geneva, although with 420 lots. Aurel Bacs, who heads the watchmaking department of the famous auctioneering house, had noted at the time that collectors showed a clear preference for quality rather than a good deal : rare lots in perfect condition were highly sought-after, even at prices higher than their estimates, whereas the more common objects preserved in normal condition elicited little interest, even at extremely affordable prices. While the November 12 sale naturally continues to feature a broad range of historical watches, including both pocket watches and wristwatches, as well as modern timepieces from several major brands (Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, etc.), three flagship lots are clearly stand-outs.



3 flagship lots

For the first time, three platinum Patek Philippe watches of exceptional quality are making their appearance on the auction market, including a 1984 Ref. 2499/100 previously owned by Eric Clapton. The famous musician and watch collector had acquired this model ten years ago from a private vendor, who had himself won the bidding at the 1989 auction held by Habsburg Feldman (which later became Antiquorum). It is one of only two such platinum-made examples of this legendary model, the other one being safely preserved in the Patek Philippe Museum. Its rarity and its prestigious origin are further enhanced by its exceptionally fine condition, resulting in an estimate of between two to four million Swiss francs. In the same price range, while even more exceptional, the mid-20th century platinum Patek Philippe ordered by a Texan billionaire who wanted a truly one-of-a-kind creation is as original as one could possibly imagine. It houses a 30 mm, 13-ligne calibre with an extremely large Guillaume balance-wheel created by famous chronometer-maker André Zibach with the aim of taking part in the Geneva Observatory precision timing competition in the 1950s. Already the owner of the world’s first self-winding watch, this excellent Patek Philippe client had asked to acquire this movement and have it fitted in a platinum case with his name engraved on the dial : “Champion”. There is only one other known specimen of this highly accurate calibre with small seconds at 9 o’clock, housed in a yellow gold case and now kept in the Patek Museum. The third and somewhat less extravagant 3rd flagship lot in the November 12th sale is the 1946 Ref. 1579 with its superbly patinated dial, which also comes from a private collection. Only two other Patek Philippe simple chronographs in platinum have been identified to date worldwide, of which one sold in Geneva last year for CHF 1.987 million. The low estimate for this model is thus around 1.5 million Swiss francs.



Enamelled collection

Divided into 15 lots, the set of 20 or so enamelled watches made in Geneva for the Chinese market was patiently assembled by its former European owner, who was passionately interested in decorative arts, during his travels to Asia from the 1950s to the 1970s, and then stored in a safe. Their quality and their diversity are thus further enhanced by an absolute remarkable state of conservation, which connaisseurs will appreciate even more in that this is their first public appearance. Crafted in the first half of the 19th century, they bear the signature of the grand names in the genre, such as Bovet, Piguet & Meylan and Vaucher, and all benefited from maintenance service performed by Louis Cottier – a watchmaker from Carouge (Geneva) who invented the world-time system. Their sheer variety is interpreted in many different and sometimes amazingly small sizes. A pair of Piguet & Meylan minute repeater watches features an enamelled painting ascribed to Lissignol and radiating truly extraordinary finesse. An authentic treasure !



Modern watches also in the spotlight

Among the commercially sold models that will punctuate this autumn sale, around 40 come from two private collections built up with great patience and care. Firstly, that of the cultural patron Alessandro Grassi, an art and watch collector who passed away in 2009, and spread into two sales : 34 modern watches by many different brands in November ; and the second set in spring 2013.Composed exclusively of Patek Philippe models, the 2nd collection is entitled “A Gentleman’s Pursuit of Excellence Part 1” and will be offered in three stages, of which the first in November will highlight seven exceptional items. Its special nature lies in its former owner’s determination to systematically obtain the most beautiful model on the market for each of the references he was seeking, either at auction or over the counter, starting with References 3448 in white gold, 350 in yellow gold, 1,463 in rose gold, and possibly even a pocket watch or tourbillon. Watch this space in autumn 2013.

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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