Geneva’s May sales saw 940 timepieces change hands for CHF 45.8 million, of which CHF 30.3 million for Christie’s, which realised its second-highest result for a watch sale and scored two-thirds of sales in three days dominated by Breguet.
Nine in the morning on Monday May 14th, and Aurel Bacs steps up to the podium for a show that will last seven and a half hours, in the Grand Salon at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, before an attentive and impatient audience. The tifosi are out in force, eager to bid for Patek Philippe, Rolex but, most of all, two Breguet masterpieces.
Christie’s: a record price for Breguet These unique and historic pocket watches, the work of genius inventor Abraham-Louis Breguet, were last-minute additions to Christie’s catalogue. They had spent more than 150 years in the hands of a European noble family, and were being offered for sale for the very first time. Two exceptionally rare lots, then, which sold in minutes to the Breguet Museum in Paris for a total CHF 6.886 million (EUR 5.715 m / USD 7.431 m), to thunderous applause. The first, No. 2667 (lot 230), was a fine and elegant precision watch in yellow gold, with two movements and two independent dials, manufactured in 1814. It fetched CHF 4,339,000 (EUR 3,601,370 / USD 4,68,120) after a pre-sale estimate of CHF 800,000-1.4 million. A world record price for a Breguet watch at auction.
The second masterwork, No. 4111 (lot 232), was a half-quarter repeating watch with equation of time. This grande complication piece in gold and silver, dated 1827, sold for CHF 2,547,000 (EUR 2,114,010 / USD 2,750,760). “These two exceptional watches which made their mark on the history of fine watchmaking are the most expensive ever purchased in Breguet’s history,” said the Breguet Museum and its president Marc Hayek of Swatch Group. Also in the running, Philippe Stern, honorary president of Patek Philippe, sportingly pulled out of bidding faced with the Paris museum’s clear determination, while Jean-Claude Biver, chairman of Hublot, chose not to bid.
Three other Breguets with the same provenance went to private collectors. They were No. 979 (lot 231), a simple watch in yellow gold from 1803 which fetched CHF 68,750 (EUR 57,250 / USD 72,930 / est. CHF 40-60,000); lot 233, a slim lever watch with à tact device and outer detachable case in yellow gold, dated 1818, selling for CHF 87,000 (EUR 72,200 / USD 93,900); and lot 234, a minute repeating watch with jump centre seconds dated 1817, also in yellow gold. It went for CHF 483,000 (EUR 402,208 / USD 512,410 / est. CHF 400-700,000).
Three other world records were set on this auspicious day for the auction house, including by the very beautiful Patek Philippe Ref. 864 “The Mosque” (lot 186) in yellow gold, dated 1974, with perpetual calendar and moon phases. It is embellished with an enamel miniature signed by the acclaimed Geneva enamellist Suzanne Rohr, depicting the Mosque adjacent to the College at Wattayah in the Sultanate of Oman. After some competitive bidding between Italians, this unique pocket watch sold for CHF 723,000 (EUR 600,090 / USD 780,840). Lot 87, a Patek Philippe World Time pocket watch manufactured in 1950 (Ref. 605), in yellow gold with cloisonné enamel dial showing a map of North America, was sold in two minutes to a telephone bidder for CHF 687,000 (EUR 570,210 /USD 741,960), after a pre-sale estimate of CHF 200-400,000. The same collector acquired the next lot, number 88, a Patek Philippe World Time wristwatch in yellow gold (Ref. 2523) from 1955, also with a cloisonné dial of the North American continent, for CHF 2,771,000 (EUR 2,1307,495 / USD 2,939,770 / estimated CHF 1.6-2.6 million).
Rolex was also among the world records with lot 61, a fine stainless steel automatic triple calendar wristwatch with moon phases (Ref 8171) circa 1955. It went to a private collector for CHF 543,000 (EUR 450,690 / USD 586,440) after a pre-sale estimate of CHF 200-300,000. Equally noteworthy was a delightful quarter-repeating musical watch signed François Nicole, circa 1800, in yellow gold and polychrome enamel (lot 123). Sold to the Patek Philippe Museum, it exceeded its pre-sale estimate of CHF 200-400 000 by making CHF 591,000 (EUR 490,530 /USD 638,280). The sale fetched a total of CHF 30.3 million (EUR 25.1 m / USD 32.7 m) with 356 of the 405 lots selling. This is the second-highest result for a watch sale at Christie’s, exceeded only by the CHF 31 million generated on November 12th 2007.