Christie’s “Passion for Time” is a Single-Owner Watch Auction with Over 110 Rare Lots

An array of rare timepieces from an Omani collection cultivated over four decades.

Auction houses often invest significant effort into curating a diverse assortment of intriguing watches from various collectors, all for the singular purpose of creating an auction catalog. However, there are exceptional cases, such as Christie’s latest “Passion for Time” sale, which unfurls as a 113-lot auction – a rare spectacle as every piece hails from the private trove of a singular collector, Mr. Mohammed Zaman, whose home is in Oman, a country in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Mohammed Zaman
Mr. Mohammed Zaman

The fact that a prominent auction house is orchestrating a dedicated auction for a solitary collector speaks volumes about the collector’s character and the uniqueness of the collection. The upcoming sales catalog, in this instance, lives up to the heightened expectations. The 113-lot offering provides a miniature snapshot of the contemporary wristwatch collecting universe. Its genres and themes are strikingly diverse, encompassing historically significant timepieces, captivating jeweled sports watches, and cutting-edge independent watchmaking creations.

This diversity emerges as a natural consequence of Mr. Zaman’s journey through watch collecting, which embarked in the 1980s and traversed over four prolific decades. Over these years, he witnessed the ebb and flow of the watch collecting cycle, a dynamic that accounts for the broad spectrum of timepieces featured in the catalog. It’s noteworthy that the current catalog represents just a fraction of Mr. Zaman’s once-500-piece collection.

In our exploration of the catalog, we’ve identified eight remarkable highlights that not only deserve the attention of collectors but also offer a glimpse into Mr. Zaman’s discerning taste and profound knowledge of watches. These timepieces range from a 1940s Patek Philippe Split-Seconds Chronograph ref. 1436 with its surreal “pink on pink” palette, to the rare pair of Harry Winston Opus Ones crafted by F.P. Journe. And, of course, the collection includes the landmark Philippe Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie Minute Repeater No. 1.

The “Passion for Time” auction will be a live event held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Geneva on November 6th at 10 AM CET. The full catalog and registration for bidding can be accessed here.

 

In addition, a dedicated online auction of a further selection of watches from the collection is available for bidding from 7–21 November.

Kicking off our list of highlights is a true titan of independent watchmaking: the George Daniels Anniversary. Unveiled in 2009, the Anniversary timepiece commemorates the 35th anniversary of Mr. Daniels’ groundbreaking invention in horology, the Co-Axial escapement. Adding an emotional depth to this horological masterpiece is the fact that Mr. Daniels personally entrusted the project to his student and successor, Roger Smith, resulting in a creation that’s nothing short of remarkable.

Fashioned in line with Mr. Smith’s Series 2 design, notable for its symmetrical layout featuring a small seconds subdial, date display, and a power reserve indicator, the Anniversary watch represents a continual commitment to innovation in timekeeping. Its distinction lies in Mr. Smith’s revision of the Co-Axial escapement, departing from the initial two-piece escape wheel in favor of a single-piece version. Essentially, it embodies the legacy transmitted from one generation of independent watchmakers to the next.

Notably, the specimen within Mr. Zaman’s collection is far from ordinary, even among the exceptional Anniversaries. Instead of the more common yellow gold model, of which only 35 were ever produced, this timepiece boasts a rare platinum case – one of just four ever made. Adding to its uniqueness is the “N.00” engraving on the movement, a distinctive mark absent from all other specimens in yellow, pink, white gold, and platinum.

Having last sold at Phillips in June 2022 for approximately CHF 2.15 million, the platinum Anniversary watch continues to command strong interest despite market fluctuations, with a high estimate of CHF 2.4 million.

Shifting our focus from independent watchmaking, we now introduce a standout timepiece from a horological giant – Patek Philippe. There’s little need for a grand introduction, as we’re about to present one of the Genevan watchmaker’s flagships: the Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph, specifically, the ref. 5004J. This particular model holds the distinction of being the last to house the esteemed Lemania base movement.

The ref. 5004 is celebrated for its exquisite design and the harmonious fusion of complications. However, the apex of the ref. 5004 collection is exemplified by its special dial configurations. Presented here is a bespoke creation commissioned by Michael Ovitz, a prominent figure in 1980s and 1990s Hollywood. To begin with, the watch conveys timeless elegance, thanks to its black dial and yellow gold case.

What sets this ref. 5004 apart are four noteworthy features: the substitution of the typical seconds track with a tachymeter scale, the addition of an applied Roman numeral “XII” marker at the 12 o’clock position, the inclusion of luminescent markers and hands, and the discreet “MSO” insignia delicately positioned at six o’clock.

The ref. 5004J-017 was last auctioned at Christie’s Hong Kong a year ago, achieving a price of approximately CHF 666,800. Today, it is estimated to be valued between CHF 400,000 and CHF 800,000.

Yet another Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph, this one a pure rendition without added complications, stands as a heavyweight in the realm of vintage timepieces. Introduced in 1938, the ref. 1436 was available in both yellow and pink gold, with the latter boasting a mere nine recorded pieces.

In the world of the ref. 1436 collection, the pink gold case edition with a matching pink dial stands out as the most distinctive. The charm of this combination is evident – the pink-on-pink palette, together with the classically designed dial and hands, creates a truly dreamy ensemble. According to Christie’s, it’s estimated that less than half of the nine pink gold ref. 1436 watches included a pink dial, making this version exceptionally scarce.

The exact same watch, with identical case and movement numbers, was sold at Phillips in 2019 for CHF 536,000. Before that, it was last traded at Christie’s in 2013 for CHF 389,000. The dial’s condition has remained consistent over the past decade, indicating that no significant restorations have been performed. The estimated value ranges from CHF 300,000 to CHF 500,000.

On the topic of vintage Patek Philippe watches, one timepiece that merits special mention is the Calatrava World Time ref. 96J HU. Although it may not immediately command the same visual presence as the preceding watch, this timepiece stands out due to its remarkable rarity and historical significance.

Made in 1937, the ref. 96J HU stands as one of the earliest wristwatches produced by Patek Philippe to feature Louis Cottier’s world time system. Alongside a small number of other variants, this model represents an almost experimental phase, serving as a prototype for the brand’s first mass-produced world-time wristwatch, the ref. 1415, which was introduced in 1939. In this regard, the ref. 96J HU holds great historical importance.

Now, let’s consider its rarity. The present example is one of only two ever created, with the other residing in perpetuity within the hallowed halls of the Patek Philippe museum. As a result, this watch represents a unique opportunity for collectors, as it will be the sole piece to exchange hands within the collector community. To underscore its allure, this watch was once part of Jean-Claude Biver’s collection.

In 2020, Mr. Biver decided to revamp his collection, and the watch was sold at Phillips, achieving CHF 387,500. Interestingly, this amount was less than its previous sale at Christie’s in 2011, where it reached CHF 411,000. Given this context, the current estimated value of CHF 250,000 to CHF 450,000 is a compelling opportunity, considering the watch’s historical significance and genuine rarity, especially when compared to watches that have seen substantial price increases.

Turning to another respected Swiss brand, Audemars Piguet, we come across an intriguing highlight – the early Royal Oak Quantieme Perpetuel ref. 25654 featuring a possibly unique green dial. The ref. 25654 was in production from 1982 to 1993, with approximately 315 steel pieces made. It’s known that during this period, Audemars Piguet fulfilled special requests for distinct dials, and the present example serves as a testament to this practice.

This particular watch features a guilloche dial, a signature element of Royal Oak timepieces. However, it diverges from the typical tapisserie pattern, instead showcasing a guilloche motif reminiscent of a blooming flower. What makes it even more intriguing is the dial’s captivating “emerald green” hue, as described by the Le Brassus watchmaker, complemented by diamond indices. Both the green dial and gemstone indices are in demand in modern watches, yet this particular configuration originates from 1997, almost three decades ago, demonstrating a design that was ahead of its time.

This watch was last auctioned by Christie’s a year ago, selling for CHF 529,200. It’s now estimated at a high of CHF 300,000, potentially a good deal for collectors.

Another watch with a fancy, eye-catching dial color would be the Harry Winston Opus 1, a collaboration between the jeweler and watchmaker F.P. Journe. Journe delivered three versions of the Opus 1, namely the Tourbillon Souverain, Chronomètre à Résonance, and Octa Réserve de Marche, which were the only three models in Journe’s catalog at the time. Six pieces of each model were made. They were a marriage of the Harry Winston Opus case and, of course, F.P. Journe’s movement and dial layout.

And it just so happened that two of them are up for sale here – the two more notable ones – both in a similar hue of turquoise or blue. The pair of watches in the similar color is intriguing because each of the six pieces of a model featured different dial color configurations. Here, two unique pieces match in colors.

The Opus 1 Tourbillon features a brighter turquoise shade and may be considered a “his” timepiece due to the absence of diamond markers. In contrast, the Opus 1 Chronomètre à Résonance stands out with diamond accents on the bezel, lugs, and tracks, making it an appealing “hers” choice. This rare opportunity allows collectors to acquire a matching pair of F.P. Journe watches within the intriguing framework of a Harry Winston collaboration.

The Opus 1 Tourbillon was previously sold at Phillips in 2021 for CHF 453,600. Today, it is estimated to be valued between CHF 200,000 and 400,000. The Opus 1 Resonance shares the same estimated value range.

In the realm of independent watchmaking, the centerpiece and the highlight of this auction unquestionably belongs to a creation by Philippe Dufour. However, it’s not the “typical” Simplicity model one might expect. Instead, it’s the Grande & Petite Sonnerie Minute Repeater, which etched its name in horological history in 1992 as the first wristwatch to house this combination of complications.

Perhaps about six of these Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatches were ever made, and the present example distinguishes itself by bearing the mark “N: 1” on the movement. The movement itself follows a classic design in both construction and finishing, reminiscent of the finest chiming pocket watch movements from the early 20th century, much like the ones admired by Mr. Dufour, including those crafted by Louis Elisee Piguet. This sets it apart from modern sonnerie wristwatch movements and imparts a more nostalgic aesthetic.

What truly sets it apart, however, is Mr. Dufour’s signature hand finishing. As a complex movement, it provides an excellent canvas for showcasing polished beveling, evident on the sinuous bridges and smaller components like the grande sonnerie-style winding click springs. Think of it as an enhanced version of the Simplicity, rich in both history and artistry.

Last sold in 2021 for approximately CHF 4.75 million, the Grand Sonnerie wristwatch carries a robust estimated value ranging from CHF 4 to 6 million. This underlines the robust market demand for genuinely unique and significant independent watchmaking pieces.

The final highlight is the Rolex Daytona ref. 6265 “Red Khanjar”, which beautifully reflects the Omani heritage of the owner. This watch was commissioned by Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman around 1974 through the Rolex retailer Asprey in London.

Christie’s found only about five ref. 6265 models printed with a red khanjar emblem. Notably, according to Christie’s research, this is a fresh addition to the market. Featuring a champagne “reverse panda” dial, the present example comes with a matching yellow gold case and bracelet, creating a warm and opulent appearance that perfectly complements the red khanjar placed just under the coronet at 12 o’clock.

The Ref. 6265 “Red Khanjar” has made its first appearance on the market with an estimated auction value ranging from CHF 300,000 to CHF 500,000.

These are the top highlights from Christie’s “Passion for Time” auction. A further selection of watches from the collection is available for bidding from 7th – 21st November.

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