Looking back over the past couple of weeks’ worth of watch auctions, there seems to have been more records than an HMV Megastore in 1997. Indeed, we seem to have moved through the era of the virus that must never be mentioned. But with the war in Ukraine and financial instability being felt across the globe, many dealers were concerned that the watch market was heading into a time of correction. It’s far too early to say what the short and medium term impact of the recent auction results may be, but it is clear that quality and rarity are still important and when the two collide…the bidding goes insane! Aside from super rare and high quality vintage selling extremely well, another trend was the prominence of independent watchmaking and the parallel incredible prices. Oh, and there was that Cartier Crash…
The most important sale that kicked the season off was Monaco Legend Groups sale towards the end of April at the Hotel Meridien. Davide Parmegiani and his son Andrea curated a strong sale, including key pieces from the John Goldberger collection and a collection of Stella dial Rolex Day-Dates. As the nomadic tribe of collectors and dealers came out of their winter hibernation, the first destination as Monaco. Parmegiani’s business partner Claude Cohen is the house’s auctioneer, and the atmosphere was electric as lot after lot was sold with some exceptional prices realized.
Highlights from the weekend included a stunning pink gold Rolex 6062 Oyster cased triple calendar with moonphases. Dating to 1953 these watches are one of the most desirable Rolex watches ever made and the rarity and condition of this watch were unparalleled. The watch sold for €2,106,000 which highlights the relevance of the condition of this watch. Similarly rare and beautiful was a white gold Patek Philippe “Padellone” perpetual calendar that was the property of horological Godfather John Goldberger. The reference 3448 was again in stunning condition and is incredibly rare and sold for €747,500.
Since the release of the Oyster Perpetuals (OP) with bold coloured dials in 2020, the interest in Rolex’s vintage Day-Dates with Stella dials has risen considerably. They have always been popular, but with the news that Rolex was discontinuing the majority of their “Stella” OPs this year and the timing of the sale, the results were super strong for the vintage pieces. MLG concluded their sale with a run of eight vintage Stella dial Day-Dates, the last of which was a yellow gold reference 18038 with yellow Stella dial. Yellow has arguably always been one of the most prized of these vintage lacquered dials, and Lot 272 sold for an astonishing €650,000.
No Crash in Sight
One of the most remarkable results this month…well, in fact for a long time, was the Loupe This sale of a Cartier London Crash. The watch came from the original owner’s family, and it transpired to be the earliest known example dating to 1967. The London Cartiers are some of the most desirable watches from the brand, but the Crash still remains the collector’s favorite. Says Loupe This founder Eric Ku, “From its debut in the 1960s to the various limited edition runs Cartier has produced since then, the Crash has a reputation as a sought-after watch that isn’t released by Cartier often. With its mysterious origin story and extreme rarity, it has quickly become every Cartier connoisseur’s favorite timepiece to fawn over.”
And fawn over it indeed they did, with the final price being a whopping US$1.6 million! The watch was part of Loupe This’s Cartier week and a later Paris Crash from 1991 sold two days after the London Crash for over US$300,000. It is these later watches that are now being seen on the wrists of celebrities such as Kanye West, Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator.
Sticking with the 1990s Crash, Christie’s had a Cartier London Crash from 1990 signed Cartier, London with Jacques Cartier ‘JC’ Mark and London hallmarks for 1990. It was Lot 133, and it sold for CHF 819,000 showing that the Crash might be the hottest watch of 2022.
The weekend witnessed some record-breaking sales that were dominated by Phillips, who held two sales over three sessions. The first was The Royal Oak 50th, a tightly curated sale of 88 examples of Audemars Piguet’s most iconic sports watch, the Gerald Genta-designed Royal Oak. Expectations were high, and the sale prices were accordingly outstanding. My personal favorites included Lot 8 “The A2”, which was the second steel 5402 to ever be made. It sold for CHF 1,058,500 and dated back to the very first run of watches made in 1972. Over the different series, the 5402 was made in 6050 examples, but the most coveted are these early pieces.
Lot 10 was known as the “Royal Oak Jubilee,” a 20th anniversary model in platinum with blue Tuscan dial. It sold for CHF 804,400 and had one of the nicest dials I’ve seen in a Royal Oak. One of the hotly anticipated watches in the sale was Lot 40, which was the “Asprey Perpetual Calendar.” A platinum perpetual calendar ref 25654 with brown dial retailed by Asprey, the caseback of the watch was engraved No. 1. and it sold for CHF 1,022,200. Another watch that garnered a lot of pre-sale interest and that sold well was Lot 52, the“RO Jumbo Khanjar.” A steel A Series Jumbo 5402 is a rare beast in itself, but one bearing the Sultan of Oman’s Khanjar insignia and diamond hours takes it to the next level. It sold for CHF 756,000.
My favorite watch in the sale was Lot 88, know as the “Karl Lagerfeld.” Again, another 5402 steel Jumbo, this watch was PVD-coated and once belonged to fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. I have always a fondness for black-coated watches, back in the early days of Project X and Bamford & Sons, and have noticed an uptick in interest in these pieces recently. The Lagerfeld Royal Oak is a well-known watch and I always loved the way the coating had worn away on the edges, showing cool patina and a life well lived. It seemed a lot of people loved it too, and it sold for CHF 937,500.
Another fascinating sale was at Sotheby’s with the sale of Gerald Genta’s personal Royal Oak that he acquired from Audemars Piguet in 1978. The watch is a Jumbo 5402 with unique yellow gold bezel. The brand has confirmed the provenance, and it sold accordingly for CHF 2,107,000.
Rise of the Indies
The weekend’s watch results showed pretty clearly that independent watchmaking is seriously hotting up. Journe, De Bethune, Voutilainen and Urwerk all highlighted that collectors are looking in new directions, and the prices are accordingly taking off!
Phillips had some great pieces including Lot 165, a Urwerk UR-CC1, a unique AlTiN coated white gold wristwatch with linear time display. Made in 2010, the King Cobra was a homage to a Patek Philippe prototype created by Louis Cottier that now resides in the Patek Philippe Museum. It sold for CHF327, 600, which was ten-times the low estimate. De Bethune is another watchmaker that has been taking off recently. The DB27 Titan Hawk, aka Lot 205, a unique blued titanium wristwatch with Eastern Arabic numerals, date, six-day power reserve, certificate and presentation box sold for CHF226,800. At Christie’s, Lot 55 De Bethune ‘A Kind of Blue’ reference DB28 from 2020 sold for CHF 176,400. The mirror-polished blued titanium lightweight wristwatch with ‘floating lugs,’ three-dimensional spherical moon phase, power reserve came with a certificate of origin and box.
Back at Phillips, Lot 297 was a piece unique by Voutilainen in white gold and was a decimal minute repeater with power reserve certificate and presentation box. As the catalogue states, “Voutilainen created the world’s very first decimal minute repeater wristwatch, a horological feat and a very intuitive way of chiming time where the movement chimes the ten minutes and no longer the quarter hours contrary to all repeating wristwatches available at the time. For example, if the time is 6.47 then the decimal repeater will strike 6 low tones representing the hours, 4 sequence tones representing 40 minutes, and 7 high tones representing 7 minutes.” This very special watch sold for CHF516,600.
F.P. Journe has been achieving incredible results at auction for some time now. There were a number at Phillips over two days, with a highlight being a pink gold chronometer, Lot 228, with a black mother-of-pearl dial, double escapement, certificate of authenticity and presentation box that was part of a limited edition of 10 pieces. It sold for CHF441,000, which was significantly over double the high estimate. Another interesting F.P. Journe was Lot 300, a unique pink gold automatic wristwatch with date, month and zodiac sign indication, power reserve indication, certificate of authenticity and box that was made in 2005 for Children Action. It sold for CHF804,400, which was an amazing result as the proceeds were again being donated to Children Action.
Vintage Rarity and Quality
When it comes to vintage watches, the importance is very much on rarity and condition. Stone dials sold strongly in the neo-vintage sector with sodalite-dialed white gold Daytonas selling well. Lot 220 at Phillips was a reference 116519 with sodalite dial and applied Arabic numerals that sold for CHF 126,000. Lot 151, also at Phillips, was a Rolex Daytona white gold 116589 with sky blue sapphire bezel and sodalite dial that sold for CHF 327,600. Christie’s also had some strong results on stone dial in-house Daytona with Lot 14, a Rolex 116509 white gold Daytona on white gold bracelet fitted with chrysoprase green ‘Beach’ dial that sold for CHF 201,600.
Vintage Patek Philippe was also strong — again, the emphasis being on rarity and quality. My highlights were Lot 212, which was an historically significant and very rare Patek Philippe ref. 1503 stainless steel wristwatch with black gloss dial and Breguet numerals, originally owned by Simon Wiesenthal and one of two examples known in this configuration that sold for CHF 1,361,000. Lot 213 was an incredibly rare and very important reference 1518, nicknamed “pink on pink” in a pink gold case with perpetual calendar, moonphases and pink dial. It sold for CHF 3,297,000. Lot 280 was a steel Patek Philippe reference 565 with Breguet numerals, luminous dial and hands, retailed by Asprey that sold for CHF 428,400.
Moving on to Christie’s vintage there were some spectacular pieces with equally impressive prices. Daytonas were powerful with Lot 38, a Rolex 6269 18K gold chronograph with diamond-set bezel and pavé diamond and sapphire-set dial dating to 1985, selling for for CHF 1,614,000. There was also Lot 129 a Rolex 6264 18k gold chronograph with ‘tropical lemon Paul Newman’ dial from 1970 that sold for CHF 1,254,000. Vintage Daytonas sold strongly as well under the gavel of the Bacs and Russo team at Phillips, with the highlight being a possibly unique Rolex reference 6239 in yellow gold with Pulsation scale. Formerly the property of Eric Clapton, Lot 116 sold for CHF 1,724,000.
As Sotheby’s closed out the season, they had some very strong results including a special Rolex Oyster from the 1950s and a very cool Dutch Football Daytona. Lot 17 was an Oyster Oyster Royal, reference 6444, in stainless steel with very unusual and rare Eastern Arabic numerals dating to 1958. It sold for CHF 126,000. One of my favurite watches from the whole week was Lot 32, a very rare Rolex 116509 white gold Daytona made for the Dutch Football team for the 2010 World Cup. There were 15 of these watches made alongside 15 116519s on leather straps and the watches had factory made special orange accents on the dial and a caseback engraving. Sotheby’s sold the watch for CHF 441,000! And revisiting the importance of independents, Sotheby’s Lot 35 was a Piaget watch created by François-Paul Journe. The Gouverneur Grande Sonnerie was made in pink gold with minute-repeater with visible hammer, power-reserve and day/night indication from 1997. It sold for CHF 226,800.