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The Big 3 Auction Houses Sold $115 Million Worth of Rare Watches in Geneva This Month

George Daniels, Richard Mille, F.P. Journe dominated high-priced sales.

The Big 3 Auction Houses Sold $115 Million Worth of Rare Watches in Geneva This Month Sotheby's

The fall season of auctions by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips wrapped up this week with a final tally of about $114,645,809. The combined total of Christie’s “Legendary and Unique Watches” and “Rare Watches” auctions, both in Geneva, was $55,663,737. Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo ended its two-day sale at $45,073,827, and Sotheby’s “Important Watches” sale totaled $13,908,245. The sales were dominated by high prices paid for rare wristwatches made by independent watchmakers, including the top four: George Daniels, Richard Mille, F.P. Journe and Philippe Dufour, along with outstanding pieces by Cartier, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. Interestingly, all of these brands managed to overshadow Patek Philippe and Rolex this week, the usual top dogs of any watch auction.

George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon
George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon Phillips

The highlight of the Phillips “Geneva Watch Auction: XVI” was a George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon that sold for $4,092,075, a record price for any wristwatch by the British maker, and the second-highest price achieved by an independent watchmaker—a true milestone in the market. (Last year, a Philippe Dufour watch was sold for $5,182,109, setting the record for a watch made by an independent watchmaker.) Daniels, who died in 2011, is considered among the greats in the field of luxury mechanical watches. He made the manual-wound, yellow gold Spring Case Tourbillon in 1992, and it is one of only two wristwatches fully handmade by Daniels himself. The two-part case has an inner section holding the movement, which is hinged to the outer so that when released by a pusher in the band it springs open to reveal the reverse dial. It was one of a trio of rare George Daniels wristwatches in the Phillips sale. A Millenium watch, one of 48 made by Daniels, sold for $830,340—a world record for that reference—and a yellow gold watch celebrating the 35th anniversary of his invention of the co-axial movement sold for $694,455.

A. Lange & Söhne One-of-a-Kind 1815 Chronograph Hampton Court Edition
A. Lange & Söhne One-of-a-Kind 1815 Chronograph Hampton Court Edition Phillips

Several other world records were smashed at the Phillips auction, including the highest price ever paid for an A. Lange & Söhne, for a one-of-a-kind 1815 Chronograph Hampton Court Edition. It sold for $1,060,723, with proceeds donated to The Prince’s Trust.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity; Patek Philippe Ref. 5070G-014
Philippe Dufour Simplicity; Patek Philippe Ref. 5070G-014 Phillips

Also fetching a world auction record was a Philippe Dufour Simplicity in white gold, selling for $1,024,347. The watch has a case/dial configuration that has never been seen on the market before—the dial is slate gray, with pink gold Breguet numerals and pink gold hands. The top ten lots also included a Patek Philippe Ref. 5070G-014, a rare white gold chronograph with a salmon dial for $854,591 and a unique Zenith x Voutilainen x Phillips caliber 135-O wristwatch, with the sale price of  $315,662 going to charity.

Richard Mille RM 56-01
Richard Mille RM 56-01 Christie’s

Christie’s sale of Legendary and Unique Watches (in which none of the lots had ever been sold at auction before) totaled about $32 million (CHF 31,877,418). Combined with its $24 million (CHF 23,669,670) Rare watches sale, the total Geneva sales amounted to about $55.6 million. Seventeen lots sold for over $1 million. The Legendary and Unique Watches sale included 17 pieces by Richard Mille, including the sale’s top lot of $3,661,673 (CHF3,654,000), for a limited-edition ref. RM56-01. The watch, with a sapphire and titanium case, a skeletonized tourbillon escapement and a power reserve indicator, was one of 17 Richard Mille watches in the Christie’s sale, nine of which sold for over $1 million.

The sale also included several watches made by F.P. Journe, including a unique Grande et Petite Sonnerie, selling for $3,060,413 (CHF 3,054,000) and an F.P. Journe Centigraphe Ferrari edition, for $1,978,145 (CHF 1,974,000).

Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6263 with Lemon Dial Christie’s

The top lot in Christie’s Rare Watches sale was a Rolex Paul Newman Daytona in 18-karat yellow gold with a lemon dial, selling for $3,421,169 (CHF 3,414,000). The second highest lot was a highly coveted Patek Philippe/Tiffany Nautilus ref. 5711/1A-018, which sold for $3,180,665 (CHF 3,174,000). Another rare Patek Philippe, a Ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph, the only known example co-signed by Cartier, sold for $218,649 (CHF 2,214000). Also selling for over $1 million in the Christie’s Rare Watches sale was a sports-fan favorite: a Richard Mille RM27-01 Rafael Nadal watch, selling for $1,256,633 (CHF 1,254,000).

Patek Philippe x Tiffany & Co. Ref. 5711
Patek Philippe x Tiffany & Co. Ref. 5711 Patek Philippe

Sotheby’s Geneva sale of Important Watches totaled $13,908,245 (CHF 13,770,540). The top lot was an  F.P. Journe Résonance “Pre-production/Pre-Souscription”—one of 10 pieces representing the very first Resonance watches ever made from 1999. It sold for $1,081,710 (CHF 1,071,000).

F.P. Journe Résonance "Pre-Production/Pre-Souscription"
F.P. Journe Résonance “Pre-Production/Pre-Souscription” Sotheby’s

The second highest price paid in the sale, $763,560 (CHF 756,000) was for a platinum Patek Philippe ref. 5207P-001, a minute repeater perpetual calendar with tourbillon, moon phases, leap year and day/night indication, made circa 2014, ranking among Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatches.

Cartier Crash London
Cartier Crash London Sotheby’s

The Cartier Crash, the most famous of Cartier’s shaped-case watches, has been getting a lot of attention lately at auction, and there were two in this sale. A yellow gold model made by Cartier London around 1989 sold for $712,656 (CHF 705,600), and another, made by Cartier Paris in 1991, one of 400 pieces, sold for $216,140 (CHF 214,200).

Vacheron Constantin Ref. 4764 "Cioccolatone"
Vacheron Constantin Ref. 4764 “Cioccolatone” Sotheby’s

A vintage Vacheron Constantin ref. 4764 “Cioccolatone” (so-called because the case shape resembles a square of Swiss chocolate) sold for $665,280 (CHF 604,800). The platinum triple date wristwatch with moon phases, made circa 1958, is possibly unique. 

Next up: all three auction houses will hold watch sales in New York: Sotheby’s Important Watches December 9; Christie’s Important Watches December 8; Phillips New York Watch Auction: Seven December 10-11.

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