Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Antiquorum all have upcoming watch auctions in May, however the Christie’s catalogue is absolutely astounding with no less than eight watches with upper estimates over A$500,000 and four watches with upper estimates over the million dollar mark.
Here are four unique and highly interesting watches from the Christie’s May auction as well as a few affordable options for everyone else out there that doesn’t have millions to burn.
1) Patek Philippe Platinum Minute Repeater – CHF 1,200,000 to CHF 1,800,000If you have the money, then this watch is a must have grail watch for any collection. The previous owner of the watch was none other than Henry Graves Jr, a wealthy banker and watch collector who was famous for his competition with James Ward Packard to own the most complicated watch. The title ultimately went to Graves who’s Supercomplication was sold by Sotheby’s in 1999 for a record US$11,000,000.
Besides from the provenance, the watch itself is unique and a highly important example of a pure minute repeater made by Patek in the 1920s. What makes the watch so special from a technical standpoint is that the minute repeater complication is housed in an extremely small movement measuring 24mm in width giving the total watch a width of 29mm which is just down right crazy. Other features include the Graves family emblem and motto on the case back of the watch as well as beautiful Breguet numerals on the dial.
To top it off, of the four minute repeaters that Graves owned, two are currently owned by the Patek Museum in Geneva, with a third sold by Sotheby’s in 2012 for just under US$3,000,000. This is likely to be the last time a Graves minute repeater comes to the market for a while and I wouldn’t be surprised if the final price is much higher than the estimate, although collector sentiment in Asia may dent bidding.
2) Breguet No. 1176 – CHF 600,000 to CHF 1,000,000This pocket watch would be the star and centre piece of any auction, but it is somewhat overshadowed by the Graves minute repeater. However, any watch with a tourbillon made by Abraham-Louis Breguet demands attention and this is a very special four minute tourbillon made by the inventor of the tourbillon complication. The tourbillon (French for whirlwind) was invented by Breguet to compensate for the effects of gravity on the escapement and balance wheel of a watch.
This pocket watch was the first four minute tourbillon made by Breguet (typically tourbillons run on a full revolution every 60 seconds) and only the third tourbillon ever made by Breguet. Besides from the origins of the pocket watch and its extreme rarity, it has a beautifully finished dial and gold case.
3) Patek Philippe Calendrier Perpetuel Ref 1518 – CHF 500,000 to CHF 800,000The Ref 1518 was the very first series produced wrist watch with a perpetual calendar and chronograph complications combined and it’s the first in what became a series of perpetual calendar chronographs made by Patek including the Ref 2499 (arguably one of the best watches ever made by Patek), the Ref 3970, the Ref 5970 and the Ref 5270. While the Ref 2499 typically sells for more at auction than the Ref 1518, this Ref 1518 is very unique.
At the top of the watch above the day and month window sits the ‘Calendrier Perpetuel’ designation. This Ref 1518 is the only Ref 1518 to show this text which makes it extremely rare and the only watch out of 281 examples to carry this designation. Christie’s isn’t sure why Patek made this particular Ref 1518 with the inscription, however one theory presented is that it may have served a marketing purpose for the fact that this was the first series produced perpetual calendar chronograph.
4) Rolex Wristwatch with Star Numerals and Cloisonné Enamel Dial – CHF 500,000 to CHF 1,000,000Rolex is known for making great tool watches, so it’s rare to see Rolex make a pretty dress watch with a cloisonné enamel dial. It is believed that this Rolex is the earliest known Rolex with a cloisonné enamel dial and the only watch to also be fitted with the rare star numerals. The watch itself is well proportioned at a relatively modern 36mm while the cloisonné enamel dial was made by Marguerite Koch a famous artist from Geneva who also made dials for the likes of Patek and Vacheron.
Cloisonné dials are extremely time-consuming to make and involve very thin gold strips to form the shapes required to produce the cloisters. Once set, each cloister is filled with the selected glazes before being fired in a kiln.
Other Watches we like
Besides from the ridiculous expensive watches above and a number of other rare Pateks and Rolexs, the Christie’s auction does have a few interesting and relatively (compared to the watches above) affordable options out there for the average Joe.
Firstly, lot 41 is a fine and clean-looking example of a yellow gold Patek Ref 570. The case looks to have received some light polishing, but overall the condition of the watch would be pretty good considering it’s going for around A$10,000 to A$15,000. Secondly, lot 388 is a very attractive yellow gold Vacheron chronograph. The watch was manufactured in 2002 and comes with documentation as well as fitted presentation box and outer packaging. At 35mm it’s a great dress chronograph and far more accessible than a comparable Patek Ref 5170. Estimate between A$10,000 and $15,000. Finally, lot 399 is a very interesting FP Journe platinum wristwatch. FP Journe watches aren’t for everyone; however they are superbly made with gold mechanical movements and a very modern and distinct look. This watch is very well sized at 38mm and is simple in comparison to other FP Journe watches. Expect this watch to go between A$18,000 and $30,000.