While the auction market may seem chock full of sporty Rolex Daytonas and rare Patek Philippe “holy grail” references commanding astronomical prices, the top lot of this season’s Geneva watch auction sales was a handmade pocket watch—by a modern watchmaker no less.
George Daniels, considered to be one of the greatest watchmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries, began creating this masterpiece during the quartz crisis in the 1970s. Alexandre Ghotbi, Phillips’ head of sales in Geneva, called the George Daniels Grand Complication pocket watch, “the greatest horological invention of the last 200 years.”
The watch comes with Daniels’ famous co-axial escapement (an invention he would eventually sell to the Swatch Group), as well as an instantaneous perpetual calendar (his first) with a retrograde date, a minute repeater (another first), a thermometer, an equation of time, and a power reserve indicator. The pocket watch blew past its high estimate of CHF 1.5 million and achieved CHF 2,420,000 (including the buyer’s premium), by the time the hammer fell at Phillips. Swiss Francs and the U.S. dollar are worth roughly the same at current exchange.
In total, the Geneva watch auctions including Phillips, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Antiquorum achieved a total of approximately CHF 82.2 million in sales. Phillips reigned supreme, selling its watches for a total of CHF 25,800,625. Antiquorum followed with CHF 10,318,505, Sotheby’s sold CHF 9,089,126 and Christie’s raked in a total of CHF 5,598,062.
The top lots at the other houses included a Patek Philippe Ref. 2497 for CHF 980,000 at Sotheby’s, an 18-karat pink gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Stelline for CHF 975,000 at Christie’s, and a Jaquet Droz & Leschot clock for CHF 1,025,000 at Antiquorum. One surprise hit was a prototype Patek Philippe Aquanaut, also at Antiquorum, which sold for over five times its top estimate of CHF 80,000 for a hammer price of CHF 401,000.
Take a closer look at some of these lots below: