Rubies and diamonds were a big part of the Christie’s $18.8 million Important Watches/Ruby Collection sale in Hong Kong, including more than 20 jewelry watches and a collection of seven unique ruby-encrusted Patek Philippes. Several Pateks broke auction-sale records.
The top lot, a first-series Patek Philippe Ref. 3448 white gold perpetual calendar, made in 1966, smashed the record for that reference at $1.2 million. Introduced in 1962, it was, at the time, the first self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch. Only 586 examples were made, the majority in yellow-gold cases. Only about 130 were issued in white gold—only 25 in the first series. Two in platinum and one in pink gold are known to exist to date.
Next in line was something you don’t see from Patek Philippe every day: a one-of-a-kind open-worked grand complication, with minute repeater perpetual calendar with retrograde date that sold for $1.5 million. The Ref. 5103P, made in 2004, is believed to be a prototype for the later Ref. 5104.
Patek Philippe continued to take home the gold for Christies with seven of the eight ruby-set Patek selling for a combined total of $3.9 million. The top lot was a unique 1945 Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph in yellow gold with ruby hour markers and a whimsical three-minute phone call countdown feature. It was created as a special order for Patek Philippe’s co-owner at the time, Charles Stern, to be his personal wristwatch. It was later worn by his son, Henri Stern. It sold for $1.12 million.
Another ruby piece, the Patek Philippe Ref. 3974 minute repeater perpetual calendar with ruby indexes, sold for $919,189. In 1989, when the Ref. 3974 was launched, it was the world’s most complicated wristwatch. With only around 160 examples made in total, it’s not only one of the rarest, but one of the most technically sophisticated Patek Grande Complications of the period. An unusual ruby-encrusted Aquanaut, one of Patek Philippe’s most accessible models, sold for $632,023. The inner dial is set with a dozen baguette-shaped rubies. It had been in a private collection for 23 years. Also in the top 10 was a $437,555 Ref. 6104 astronomical watch set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds.
Two Richard Mille pieces were among the top 10 lots in the sale. A Ref. RM52-01 Asia limited-edition tourbillon skull model made in 2014 sold for $810,286. The highlight of the watch, number 3 of 6 examples made in white ceramic and 18-karat pink gold, is the tourbillon bridge made in the shape of a skull. Another Richard Mille, an RM008 titanium split-seconds chronograph, sold for $453,760.
The sale included an impressive number of ladies’ jewelry watches, proving that gem content still drives the sale of women’s pieces at auction. A diamond and emerald Panther watch by Cartier was the showstopper, with the panther, Cartier’s signature motif, wrapped around the dial. It sold for $227,000.
A Rolex Yacht-Master “Candy” set with blue, orange, pink and yellow sapphires and eight green tsavorites sold for $90,000. A Boucheron diamond watch, possibly unique, sold for $78,000, and a Vacheron Constantin 18-karat white gold, diamond and sapphire watch sold for $10,000.