On 13th May, 2015 serious watch collectors should head out to Hôtel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, where Sotheby’s latest auction of Important Watches,‘Captivating Complexity is going to be held. Auctions have always been a great way to recycle old wealth, rare collectibles deeply coveted, one of a kind luxury, available again for a price, and Sotheby’s has done its bit in uniting the collectors.
A very impressive collection of timepieces, ranging from ole to new, antique pocket watches, vintage wristwatches with fascinating histories, and modern chronographs illustrating the most innovative complications of today have been lined up. Look out for some prestigious names in haute horology, such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Breguet, Cartier and Vacheron Constantin.
Patek Philippe’s unique open-faced watch in yellow gold appearing at an auction for the first time, is the Pellaton style one-minute tourbillon “Bulletin d’Observatoire”, which was made in 1929 but only encased in 1984. This extraordinary watch passed the rigorous 40-day evaluation of the Geneva Observatory 11 times, and was twice awarded the ‘A’ rating. (LOT 135, estimated sale price – CHF 150,000 – 250,000 / US$ 154,000 – 256,000).
In 1925, the 20th century’s most celebrated musicians: the Swiss-French classical pianist, Alfred Cortot made the world’s first-ever electrical recording of classical music. The boutique L’Emeraude, in Lausanne crafted specially for him, this rare ultra-slim open-faced minute repeating pocket watch in white gold, with perpetual calendar and moon phases. (LOT 186, estimate : CHF 15,000 – 20,000 / US$ 15,400 – 20,500).
American railway entrepreneur Theodore P Shonts (1852-1919), who was handpicked by President Theodore Roosevelt to lead the construction of the Panama Canal, and later played a key role in the development of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), better known as the New York City Subway system, was the owner of this Patek Philippe packet watch. Dated 1909, this yellow – gold open-faced minute repeating split seconds chronograph watch is a beaut. (LOT 127, estimate : CHF 35,000 –45,000 / US$ 35,800 – 46,000).
Rare Vintage Wristwatches
In production from 1950 onwards, Geneva watchmaker Patek Philipe’s produced only 349 examples, averaging just nine watches per year. Collectors will be excited to discover an extremely rare example of this reference in yellow gold, with perpetual calendar and moon phases. This exceptional piece was delivered in 1972 and has never been offered at auction before; it also stands out thanks to the signature of iconic Italian retailer Gobbi on the dial – the only example from the third series of this famous model with this feature (LOT 332, estimate : CHF 200,000 – 300,000 / US$ 205,000 – 307,000).Rolex’s celebrated chronograph wristwatch, “Jean-Claude Killy”, is a rare example in stainless steel, with triple calendar, day date and registers. Dating from 1952, it is named after the celebrated ski champion and Rolex ambassador, who grew up in the Alpine resort of Val d-Isère – it is said to be his favourite Rolex (LOT 285, estimate : CHF 80,000 – 120,000 / US$ 82,000 –123,000).
Modern Watches with Storied Provenance
Did you know that legendary guitarist Eric Clapton was an avid watch collector? This exquisite and possibly unique pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases was in production for only six years, in contrast with the Geneva manufacturer’s previous three models, whose production averaged 20 years. The unique dial, featuring Breguet numerals and the gold brick bracelet were both probably special requests from Clapton. According to our research, this is the first time a 5970 with this configuration is offered at auction. (LOT 200, estimate : CHF 120,000 – 220,000 / US$ 123,000 – 225,000).
This Rolex Submariner is a rare stainless steel centre seconds wristwatch specially developed for COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise), a company specialised in underwater engineering and deep-diving operations. Sotheby’sresearch suggests that only around 300 examples of the Sea-Dweller reference 1665 with gas escape were supplied to COMEX (LOT 90, estimate: CHF 40,000 – 60,000 / US$ 40,900 – 61,500).
Rolex had a long-standing relationship between the brand and the British army’s elite regiments. This special-order centre seconds wristwatch was made for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR), a special forces unit of the British Armed Forces. This Rolex Submariner is one of just 66 delivered by Rolex to the regiment. (LOT 94, estimate CHF 15,000 – 25,000 / US$ 15,400 – 25,600).
Sensational High-Complication Modern Wristwatches
Among standout examples is Patek Philippe’s rare platinum and pink gold automatic minute repeating semi-skeletonised perpetual calendar wristwatch, with retrograde date, moon phases and leap year indication. Launched in Basel in 2006, it is unlike any other wristwatch produced by the manufacturer: it is Patek Philippe’s only grand complication with the movement visible through the dial (LOT 316, estimate: CHF 450,000 –550,000 / US$ 460,000 – 565,000).
Patek Philippe’s rare and important platinum minute repeating instantaneous perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch took the brand’s topcalibre engineers five years to develop. It features an impressive movement composed of 549 parts (LOT 123, estimate: CHF 570,000 – 670,000 / US$ 585,000 – 685,000).
Patek Philippe’s fine and rare white gold automatic astronomical wristwatch with sky chart phases and position of the moon, known as the “Celestial”, ranks among the most important complications ever developed, and allows the owner to gaze at the progression of stars in the northern hemisphere, relative to the passage of Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky. This example of the highly sought-after reference is in excellent condition, and has never been offered at auction before (LOT 122, estimate: CHF 150,000 – 250,000 / US$ 154,000 – 256,000)