A riveting weekend of high-value bidding at Phillips and Christie’s watch auctions in Geneva is evidence of the current skyrocketing value of the top independent watchmakers. At its Geneva Watch Auction: XVI, Phillips sold a George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon for $4,092,075, a record price for any George Daniels piece. Christie’s auctioned 17 pieces by Richard Mille at its Legendary and Unique Watches auction (a sale in which none of the lots had ever been sold at auction before), including one for the blockbuster price of $3,661,673 (CHF3,654,000)—for a limited edition Richard Mille ref. RM56-01, [representing a world auction record for a Richard Mille.]
The George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon is a manual-wound, yellow gold piece made by the watchmaker in 1992, and is one of only two wristwatches fully handmade by Daniels himself. The ingenious 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. According to an essay in the Phillips auction catalogue, Daniels “would often say ‘I bet you’ve never seen one of these before’ and then, triggering the button in the case, it would flip open to reveal the calendar and tourbillon.” To facilitate the action, the winding crown is positioned between the lugs.
Daniels reluctantly parted with the watch in 2005 after a friend eventually persuaded him to sell it and it was offered at auction for the very first time over the weekend. It was one of a trio of rare wriswatches in the sale made by George Daniels—who only made 141 watches bearing his name in his lifetime—including a yellow gold watch celebrating the 35th anniversary of his invention of the co-axial movement, with a calendar function and power reserve indicator;, which sold for $694,455; one of only 48 yellow gold Millennium watches created by Daniels, for $830,340.
At Christie’s, Richard Mille was the blockbuster with a limited-edition ref. RM56-01 hammering for $$3,661,673. The watch sports a sapphire and titanium case, a skeletonized tourbillon escapement and a power reserve indicator with torque indicator. It was one of 17 Richard Mille watches in the Christie’s sale, nine of which sold for over $1 million.
Christie’s sold several watches made by that other reigning star of the independent watchmakers, F.P. Journe, including the second-highest lot in the sale, a unique Grande et Petite Sonnerie, for $3,060,413 (CHF 3,054,000); and the sale’s third highest-priced lot, an F.P. Journe Centigraphe Ferrari edition, for $1,978,145 (CHF 1,974,000).
Stay tuned for more coverage of the Geneva watch auctions.