Christie’s Rare Watches May Auction Featured a Patek Philippe Nautilus Tiffany Blue, Gérald Genta with Royal Provenance, F.P Journe Resonance, De Bethune and Much More
There were many surprises in the Christie’s Rare Watches auction in Geneva on May 13. Some satisfying, some disappointing. At a preview held by Christie’s in late March and early April during the Watches & Wonders show in Geneva, I was able to see and examine several lots in detail.
Lot 41: De Bethune DB29 Virtus Ref. CS127 No. 000, circa 2016. Estimate CHF 60,000–120,000, sold for CHF 75,600
Perhaps the highlight of the entire preview was the one-of-a-kind De Bethune DB29 Virtus, lot 41. This is the simplest DB29 in terms of complications, featuring just a power reserve indicator on a white enamel dial.
Other members of the DB29 collection that are very rarely seen at auction include the Tourbillon Maxichrono and the Tourbillon, which have more complex calibers, but in my opinion, there’s no DB29 model more attractive than the DB29 Virtus.
The lack of major complications on the DB29 Virtus allows you to focus on the main statement: This is an extremely rare De Bethune wristwatch made in the spirit and style of a pocket watch. The rose gold case feels puffy, as you’d expect from a classic mid-19th century pocket watch turned wristwatch – assuming it really existed. It’s perfectly rounded, polished, and has a hinged ‘officer’s caseback’.
If we imagine a wristwatch like this made during World War I, it would be a watch for a general. It’s not thin and I I really like thin watches, but this is the moment when I want to say, “To hell with thinness, let this DB29 look like it’s an important pocket watch from the 19th century on your wrist, by both its weight and its tall, gently rounded case”
My attraction is further enhanced by the classic white enamel dial and the blued Breguet steel hands. Plus the discreet arc indication of the power reserve from 11 to 1 o’clock and the characteristic design of the caliber, which is revealed when the cover of the officer’s caseback is opened. Moreover, this watch is even more special because it’s is a unique piece.
Lot 84: Patek Philippe Nautilus Tiffany Blue l, sold for CHF 2,223,000)
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Tiffany Blue sold for CHF 2,223,000, topping the list of most expensive lots at Christie’s Rare Watches.
Lot 96: F. P. Journe, Tourbillon Souverain Ruthenium Edition, No. 06/99-01T, circa 2003. Estimate CHF 250,000–450,000, sold for CHF 529,200
Among the independents, the popular limited edition F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Ruthenium Edition received the highest bid. This Journe fetched a very good price, which is in line with the good performance of this brand on the secondary market, which we already observed at Christie’s The Art of F. P. Journe auction the day before.
F.P. Journe’s success in the secondary market also contributes to the good results of its first collaboration, a very rare watch from the Harry Winston Opus One series.
One of the six unique Harry Winston Opus One Chronomètre à Résonance watches (lot 96) surfaced at Christie’s Rare Watches and sold for CHF 252,000. That was below the estimate, but well above another Opus One Chronomètre à Résonance that sold at Christie’s five years ago for around CHF 70,000.
When it comes to independent watches at Christie’s Rare Watches, the three early watches Gérald Genta (lot 63), Andersen Genève (lot 39) and Bovet Fleurier (lot 103) were perhaps the most pleasing discoveries. These watches were truly rare and remarkable.
Lot 63: Gérald Genta, No. 4491, made for His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco, circa 1980. Estimate CHF 10,000–20,000, sold for CHF 163,800
I’d call it a seminal event when an early Gérald Genta, a white gold Metier d’Art watch with coral dial and twisted bracelet made around 1980 for His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco, appeared at auction.
This is typical of Gérald Genta – he did a lot of work for royalty and celebrities. The Gérald Genta collection from the early years of the brand until 2000, when it was acquired by Bulgari, is very heterogeneous.
There are great pieces, both in terms of design (what we expect most from a Gérald Genta watch) and complications, and then there are ordinary watches. This piece is exactly what we expect from Gérald Genta – bright, flashy and eye-catching, but harmonious. What really touches me is the fact that this is a really small watch, -only 22 mm in diameter. I’d really like to know if these miniature watches ended up on the hand of the monarch himself or if they were meant for a female wrist.
Lot 39: Andersen Genève, Montre à Tact Date Discrete, No.0, circa 1999. Estimate CHF 10,000–20,000, sold for CHF 20,160
From the perspective of a collector of watches created by Svend Andersen, one of the leading independent watchmakers and co-founder of the AHCI Academy, Lot 39, Andersen Genève Montre à Tact Date Discrete is a very important watch.
Christie’s mentions in their essay that the present watch is the watchmaker’s first ‘Montre à Tact’ and is numbered 0/0.
Svend Andersen is the inventor of many fascinating concepts, and one of them is the Montre à Tact, his own interpretation of an invention by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Except that this isn’t a tactile watch by Breguet, but a polite watch with a hidden date display mounted on the side of the case between the lugs.
The very first Montre à Tact Date Discrete impressed with its two-tone white and rose gold case and its crisp and beautiful rose gold guilloché dial – that alone deserves the highest praise. Unfortunately, this watch didn’t attract the active attention of collectors and achieved a very modest price of 20,160 CHF.
Lot 103: Bovet Fleurier No.1 circa 1992. Estimate CHF 10,000–20,000, sold for CHF 20,160
The same is true for an early watch of the independent brand Bovet Fleurier, which was sold for the same amount. It’s one of the earliest watches of the brand relaunched in 1990s, made as an imitation of the design of the historic pocket watches that Bovet produced for the Chinese market in the 19th century.
Christie’s states in the essay that this watch was made around 1992 and is number 1 of a limited edition of 10 watches. This refers to a period in the brand’s history when it was sold by Michel Parmigiani, which I believe happened in 1990. However, Christie’s suspects that the automatic movement, a refined and metiers-d’art version of the Frédéric Piguet caliber 71, was finished and decorated by Michel Parmigiani himself.
Given the obvious contradiction, I’d like to get reliable information on this subject from the first person, namely Michel Parmigiani, because almost all available sources report that the production of watches of this revived brand started in the second half of the 1990s, after the Bovet brand name was acquired by Thierry Ouelevay and Roger Guye in 1994. The year most often cited is 1997, and I personally first saw the Bovet Fleurier of the modern era at an exhibition in Geneva in 1998 or 1999. The early Bovet watches were just like the current one, both in terms of design and the excellent Frédéric Piguet caliber 71 in the charismatic ‘Chinese’ version.
However, all these circumstances don’t diminish the value and appeal of this timepiece, as it’s obviously one of the earliest watches of the revived brand with a wonderful design and an excellent movement. Therefore, the final price at Christie’s, which was 20,160 CHF, seems very low and attractive for a collector. I thought that it was an excellent investment in independents.
You can check out all the auction results at www.christies.com/en/auction/rare-watches-30011/
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