A unique opportunity to get your hands on one of the most coveted timepieces from one of watchmaking’s greatest living masters is coming up at Phillips’ “Retrospective: 2000-2020” sale on November 8 in Geneva. For the 20th anniversary of his famous Simplicity watch, Philippe Dufour has created 21 pieces (numbered 00 to 20) of the reference—a three-hand model famous amongst watch aficionados for its next-level finishing and decoration—and, in a major coup for Phillips, the auction house will be selling number 00. The rest will, of course, presumably only be available to those already tightly in Mr. Dufour’s fold of elite collectors. These pieces will be the last of the Simplicity model to ever be offered by the watchmaker.
“Rarely does a watchmaker singlehandedly and so perfectly represent a horological genre that has gone from being reserved to the cognoscenti to a category that is boxing in the same league as the power players: independent watchmaking,” said Alex Ghotbi, head of watches for Phillips in continental Europe and the Middle East, and Thomas Perazzi head of watches for Phillips in Asia, in a joint statement. “The present Simplicity offers a watch made of the same fabric as collectors’ dreams, it is an opportunity to obtain one of the rarest, most important and most sought after timepieces created by a living legend.”
That is no hyperbole. Dufour, like most of the greatest living watchmakers including F.P. Journe, began his career in the restoration of antique and vintage timepieces and since has made only 230 watches, by hand, in his lifetime. On average, he has produced just eight timepieces per year. Most of these were Simplicity models, while others included one-off high-horology pieces, including a grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie pocket watch.
First created in 2000, the Simplicity was his first series produced timepiece. Two hundred pieces were officially created between 2000 and 2014, although there are thought to be 205 in existence. They came in 34 mm or 37 mm in white gold, rose gold or platinum with white lacquer or silver guilloché dials. A platinum version sold at Phillips’ “Game Changers” auction in December 2019 for $325,000 (with an initial estimate of $150,000-$300,000). The new Simplicity models, including the one offered at Phillips which will be the first to hit the market, come in a 37 mm case with a few special tweaks including a hinged caseback and a crown marked with Dufour’s initials “PD”, which can also be found at the 12 o’clock marker. It comes with a gray dial and Breguet numerals in platinum, 18-karat rose gold or 18-karat white gold limited to 7 in each material. However, Dufour plans to keep one of the platinum models for himself so only 6 of that version will be available to collectors. The 00 model offered at Phillips comes in 18-karat rose gold with an estimate of CHF 200,000-400,000 or approximately $219,740-$439,480 at current exchange rates.
If this year’s sales of Simplicity watches at auction are anything to go by, Phillips 00 Anniversary model should fetch above its top estimate. At Sotheby’s “Important Watches” sale in Hong Kong on October 9th, a white gold version from 2004 sold for HKD 3,528,000 or approximately $455,210 and a platinum piece from 2005 sold for HKD 5,136,000 or approximately $662,694