Ineichen Auctioneers ‘La Vie en Rose’ AuctionBy Jeremiah Chan
After the past two years of disruptions brought about by the pandemic, Zurich-based Ineichen Auctioneers is looking forward to better days with their rose-gold themed auction, aptly named after Edith Piaf’s song “La Vie en Rose.”
Indeed, life is sweet — in a manner of speaking — for the big three (Phillips, Christie’s and Sotheby’s) what with the furor of records being broken in 2020 and 2021. Ineichen, a boutique auction house, similarly broke two world records in 2020 with the sale of two limited edition F.P. Journe watches made for Milan-based watch retailer Pisa Orologeria.
Their upcoming auction on March 12 is set to highlight independent watchmaking once again and could very well be a runaway success with some incredibly rare, pretty-in-pink pieces on offer. Here are our top three lots, although we should probably give ample forewarning that these are unlikely to be the record breakers. Heck, our last pick has the third lowest high/low estimate out of all 40 lots on offer. But each one is a horological powerhouse in its own right and reflects perfectly the genius of its creator. No hype here, guys and gals, just pure watchmaking.
Let’s dive in…
Lot 31: Konstantin Chaykin Levitas Luna Nascosta Unique Piece
Konstantin Chaykin may not be a household name like some of his Swiss contemporaries, but the Russian master watchmaker has had a strong cult following since the founding of his manufacture in 2003. He is probably most famous for his series of completely outrageous Joker watches, but his current Levitas Art collection for women is bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful. Every production piece is unique, as his dial maker uses the Florentine stone mosaic technique which cannot produce two identical dials.
This is the star of the auction by the fact that it’s the very definition of a barn find: a one-of-one, pre-production prototype of the Levitas collection, and it’s coming directly from the factory, having never been serially produced in this configuration. The Levitas Luna Nascosta is an amalgamation of Latin and Italian, and roughly translates to “lightness hidden moon.” Chaykin eventually decided to release a 44mm men’s collection with moonphase and the aforementioned women’s collection in 40mm sans phases de la lune.
This 40mm prototype’s claim to fame is that the ratio between the diameter of the transparent dial and that of the movement is the largest in the whole industry. The dial occupies approximately three quarters of the caliber K03-0, a 33mm-diameter movement that is a mere 5.5mm in height. The dial has a level of transparency that not even the sublime Cartier Mystérieuse watches can match.
The estimate on this piéce unique is CHF 20,000 – CHF 30,000. Now all we need are two very keen bidders to give this watch the recognition it deserves.
Lot 28: Harry Winston Opus V
Let’s get one thing straight. Every time an Opus appears in an auction, it gets our vote — no questions asked. Especially if it’s one of the early ones. There are currently 14 Opus watches in Harry Winston’s collection, but it’s Opus I–V that have just that little bit more tinsel on them. Why, you ask? Because before founding MB&F, Max Büsser was appointed managing director of the Harry Winston Rare Timepieces division from 1998 to 2005. It was his grand artistic conception of collaborating with the rising stars of independent watchmaking at the time, to reimagine the way time was portrayed on a watch dial, that gave birth to free-flowing horological creations never before seen. It also saved the flagging Harry Winston from certain bankruptcy.
You may know their names now, but back then most of the following influential independents had just started their fledgling companies, unsure of the future ahead. It was F.P. Journe (Opus I), Antoine Preziuso (Opus II), Vianney Halter (Opus III), Christophe Claret (Opus IV) and Felix Baumgartner (Opus V), that lent their collective technical prowess to the endeavor. Opus V was launched in 2005, and it was the last under Büsser’s management as he left to start MB&F that very same year. The success of this watch helped catapult Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei’s Urwerk into popularity.
Baumgartner used the Opus V as a proof of concept of Urwerk’s satellite display system, a triplet of rotating, numbered hour cubes (satellites) attached to a rotating platform, with a retrograde pointer at the end to indicate the minutes. The caliber HW1026 is able to run for five days straight on a full manual wind and there is even an indicator on the back to inform the wearer when the watch is in need of a service. To the right of the service indicator sits an index adjustment screw which allows rate adjustment to fine-tune accuracy without the need for removing the movement from the case. The crown at three o’clock is protected by a spring-loaded hood that opens like the scissor doors of a Lamborghini.
Opus V was produced in a limited edition series of 100 pieces with 45 in rose gold (of which Lot 28 belongs to), 45 in platinum, seven in platinum set with round and oval cut diamonds and a final three in platinum set with baguette diamonds.
The estimate on this historically significant piece is CHF 50,000 – CHF 100,000, and the last one sold at auction that we could find was also a rose gold piece (No. 34 of 45), which was Lot 1057 at the Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction XII in June 2021.
Lot 20: Daniel Roth Académie Ellipsocurvex Papillon
Our last pick comes from a former Audemars Piguet and Breguet alum, Daniel Roth. Daniel Roth, the watchmaker, was an integral part of the plan to revive Breguet during the 1970s when Parisian jeweler Chaumet decided to purchase the company from Englishman George Brown. Brown’s grandfather Edward had acquired the company from the last living descendants of Abraham-Louis Breguet, whose focus had already shifted from fine watchmaking to developing electrical apparatus for telegraphy, railroad signaling and physiology.
After Roth was hired by the Chaumet brothers, Jacques and Pierre, he took it upon himself to study, for a year, everything about A.-L. Breguet — the man, his techniques and innovations. Starting from 1973, and together with director of Breguet, François Bodet, he helped crystallize the design language of the Breguet we know and love today: guilloché dial, coin edge case and those Breguet hands instantly recognizable from across any room.
The Chaumet brothers were forced to sell Breguet to Investcorp in 1987 under a cloud of scandal, and Daniel Roth left a year later to start his eponymous brand. He took those Breguet dial design elements he helped develop and incorporated them into his distinctive double-ellipse Ellipsocurvex case, a shape both round and rectangular at the same time.
Lot 20 has none of those Breguet design elements to speak of. The self-winding caliber DR115 that powers it has a jump hour complication, a retractable minute hand display and a central seconds hand. It is itself based on the caliber DR113, a movement developed by Daniel Roth to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the brand in 1999. This was also the last design creation Daniel Roth was personally involved in before the company was sold to Bvlgari in 2000. The original caliber DR113 was called “papillon” for the butterfly-shaped opening of the minute display.
Bvlgari launched the Académie Ellipsocurvex Papillon in 2005, an homage to Roth’s original creation, in a limited edition of 500 pieces: 210 in rose gold, 210 in white gold and 80 in platinum. Unlike the original, the upper half of the dial is enclosed with a polished cover with window cut-outs for the jumping hours and central seconds hand. The center cut-out also reveals the retractable, double minute hands which is the party trick of the papillon complication.
This lot represents an opportunity to own a complication developed by the brilliant mind of one of the best living master watchmakers, whose eventual difficult career in no way diminishes his original contributions to the canon of watchmaking. The estimate on Lot 20 is an absolutely criminal CHF 5,000 – CHF 10,000, so you would be getting more bang for your buck on this one.
And here are the rest…
Now if we have left anyone out in the cold with our off-beat picks, fear not, this auction also has on offer the watches with strong market interest that are guaranteed to bring in the big bids, including Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and F.P. Journe. The two Journes (Lots 24 and 25) in particular are likely to blow everything else out of the water, given the meteoric rise in secondary market prices for all things Journe in recent times. They are a limited edition of 10 pieces each, made for Singapore watch retailer Sincere Fine Watches, with Lot 24 being an Octa Calendrier and Lot 25, the insanely popular Chronomètre à Résonance, F.P. Journe’s signature complication.
The Ineichen “La Vie en Rose” auction is scheduled on March 12, 2022, at 1pm CET. You can bid by telephone, online, leaving an absentee bid or in-person at Saal Metropol Zurich Stadthausquai 11-13, CH-8001 Zurich. Click here to view all 40 lots on offer.