Time was on one anonymous buyer’s side on Tuesday: After a six-minute bidding war among eight parties, the Swiss-based collector is now the lucky owner of an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that belonged to Gérald Genta, a.k.a. the “Picasso of watchmaking.”
Hammering down for $2.1 million, more than seven times the low estimate for the watch, it is now the most valuable vintage Audemars Piguet sold at auction, according to Sotheby’s. The previous record for a Royal Oak was set just a few days ago, when one dubbed “The A2” sold for almost $1.1 million.
“The magnitude of this record-breaking sale is a tribute to the continued influence of, and respect for, Genta’s far-reaching and historic contribution to the watchmaking industry,” Mikael Wallhagen, the head of Sotheby’s watches in Geneva, said in a statement. “One could not dream of a more exciting and important provenance for a Royal Oak, an Audemars Piguet or even any wristwatch.”
The Royal Oak, launched by Audemars Piguet in 1972, was the very first luxury sports watch to be made of steel, and it features an octagonal bezel with eight screws. It was designed overnight by Genta, who was inspired by a childhood memory of seeing a man being sealed into a diving suit near Geneva’s Mont Blanc Bridge.
This specific model stands out because of its 18-karat-gold bezel, which Genta produced and added himself. Inside is a Calibre 2121 automatic movement. The timepiece also holds the honor of being the first Genta-owned watch to ever come to auction.
“All of these elements set this very watch apart from any other, making it a true grail piece,” Wallhagen added. “Over the course of my career, rarely have I ever seen such an emotional response to any horological object, both by connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike, making today’s result all the more rewarding.”
The Royal Oak is just one highlight from Sotheby’s Icon of Time series, in which 100 designs from Genta’s personal archives are being auctioned off. The final sale in the series will take place in New York next month, and will include some of the most valuable Disney watches that Genta made.
“Gérald was an artist before all else, and I feel like Icon of Time demonstrates the ongoing influence Gérald’s creative genius has on watchmaking today,” Evelyne Genta, Gérald Genta’s life and business partner, said in a statement. We certainly can’t argue.