Christie’s is holding its first-ever evening watch sale in Hong Kong on May 22. The blockbuster “Legends of Time” auction boasts a total estimated value from $19,700,125 to $43,263,375, and includes three notable and rare Patek Philippe models, several rare Rolex Daytonas and some elaborate jeweled pieces.
The auction will be split into afternoon and evening sessions, with the evening session comprising the top 18 lots, estimated between $9.9 million and $25 million. The afternoon “Exceptional Season of Watches” sale, beginning at 2 P.M. Hong Kong Standard Time (GMT+8), is led by a one-of-a-kind, moonless perpetual calendar customized for a former Patek executive. The Ref. 3448J “Senza Luna” (“moonless” in Italian) is so-called because the moon phase indicator at 6 o’clock, a traditional feature of the 3448 perpetual calendar, was replaced with a subdial showing the date and leap year. The watch was manufactured in 1970 but modified by Henri and Philippe Stern in 1975 at the request of Alan Banbery, to whom the watch was gifted. Banbery worked for Patek Philippe for almost 50 years, joining the company in 1965 as director of sales for English-speaking territories. Over the years, he helped the Stern family preserve and collect historic Patek Philippe watches and other horological works. The collection culminated in the opening of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva in 2001. The center of the caseback of the Senza Luna is engraved with his initials. The special dial was produced by Stern Frères, the official dial-maker for Patek Philippe at the time. Interestingly, although other Senza Luna models exist, this is the only one that can be authenticated by Patek Philippe. The others, which can be counted on one hand, are thought to have been modified outside the factory. The Banbery watch is estimated to sell between $3.2 million and $5.162 million.
“This is a full custom-made watch, modified specially for Alan Banbery in celebration of his 10th anniversary with Patek Philippe,” says Alexandre Bigler, vice-president and head of watches, Christie’s Asia Pacific. “We can say without exaggeration it is one of the most legendary wristwatches associated with Patek Philippe. It is poised to set a world auction record.”
In the evening sale, beginning at 7 P.M Hong Kong Standard Time (GMT+8), is another one-of-a-kind Patek Philippe, the Gradowski Grande Complication, was made in 1890 for notable collector Jean de Gradowski. At the time, it was the most complicated watch Patek Philippe had ever produced. It has a unique minute repeater with a two-train grande-et-petite sonnerie with a keyless lever and an instantaneous perpetual calendar with indications for both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. There is also a moon phase and a chronograph with central 60-minute recorder. The Gradowski is estimated to sell anywhere from $517,000 to $1.549 million.
“The noble Polish family of Gradowski is originated from Gradow, near Sochaczew, in central Poland,” says Bigler. “Jean travelled widely and resided for a number of years in Geneva, where he started collecting watches and become an important collector. He had several Patek Philippe watches specially made for him.”
Patek World Times are hot right now (a rare rose gold Ref. 2523/1 sold at a Phillips auction last May for $5.5 million and sold a yellow-gold Ref. 2523 this weekend for a record-breaking $7.8 million), and there are three in this sale – all with the same estimate of $1 million to $3.1 million. The first is a pink gold version of Patek’s Ref. 1415 World Time, one of only two Ref. 1415s known to exist in pink gold. It has a polychrome cloisonné enamel dial.
The sale also includes the only platinum version of Ref. 1415, which some of you may have heard of—it caused a sensation in 2002 when, at the time, it became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction, hammering for 6,603,500 Swiss Francs (about $7.2 million), a record that remained unbroken for several years. This is its first reappearance at auction since then.
Rounding out the Patek Philippe World Times is an 18-karat yellow gold version of the Ref. 2523/1 with a gold mesh bracelet. Made in 1965, it is one of only 15 pieces produced in yellow gold and is also estimated at $1 million – $3.1 million.
But it wouldn’t be a major watch auction without the crown showing up. There are several Rolex Daytonas in the sale, including one of the hottest color combinations in watches right now: rainbow. The 18-karat pink gold Rainbow Daytona Ref. 116595RBOW has a gem-set bezel in gradient colors, and is estimated at $336,000 to $465,000. There is also a rare Daytona with a salmon dial in the sale, paired with white gold. “Only about 10 dials were made in this color with Arabic numerals,” says Bigler. “Rolex produced the salmon dial in the late 1990s, and while it is a shame the dial failed to make the grade for full production, their scarcity today makes them hugely desirable.” It is estimated at $194,000 to $388,000.
For those with a taste for more vintage Rolexes, there is a Milgauss Ref. 6541 made c.1959 with a tropical dial, estimated at $ 259,000 to $388,000; and a Submariner COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises, a professional diving company founded in France in the 1960s), made in 1978 with an estimate of $168,000 to $297,000.
Pieces made by independent watchmakers now routinely appear at auction, and the category has become dominated by F.P. Journe. There are two in this sale. One is platinum Chronomètre Souverain, presented as a tribute to George Daniel, Journe’s mentor, with an inscription on the caseback. It is estimated at $259,000 to $775,000. The other is a rare platinum tourbillon with power reserve and dead beat seconds, made in 2004, estimated at $181,000 to $310,000.
Jewelry watches will make an appearance in the evening sale, including an 18-karat gold diamond and ruby Piaget Aura, estimated at $84,000 – $155,000; and an extremely rare jeweled Chanel J12, in 18-karat white gold and black ceramic, set with 31.97 carats of baguette diamonds and ruby hour markers, also estimated at $84,000 to $155,000. Another Chanel, a Camelia Secret watch with a triple-strand pearl bracelet, is estimated at $45,000 to $64,000.
May the best hand win.