Patek Philippe well feted for its 175th anniversary

Excluding the Henry Graves Supercomplication, which went for an astounding CHF 23.2 million, this November’s Geneva sales realised CHF 25.4 million with Patek Philippe alone. Antiquorum, Christie’s and Sotheby’s closed their autumn sessions on a total CHF 78.6 million.

It would be an understatement to say that Geneva’s salerooms paid a vibrant tribute to Patek Philippe this November for its 175th anniversary. Of course there was the headline-grabbing sale of the Henry Graves Supercomplication at Sotheby’s for CHF 23,237,000, making it the most valuable timepiece ever in auction history. This sparkling finale was, however, far from being the only moment when the Genevan watchmaker stole the show. Christie’s had its celebration planned too, with a thematic sale of 100 lots for which bidders packed the room. It totalled CHF 19,400,000 in three hours. In all, 340 Patek Philippe watches were put on the block between November 8th and 11th, representing a fifth of total lots. They garnered – minus the Graves Supercomplication – CHF 25,400,000 or 32% of takings. Add the Supercomplication and figures rise to 62% of the CHF 78,600,000 total.

A historic moment

Patek Philippe claimed the top spot at every sale over the course of this extraordinary weekend, beginning with Sotheby’s, of course. Shortly before 6.45pm on November 11th, a buzz ran through the audience that had filled the room at the Beau-Rivage hotel. As though acting on cue, hundreds of mobile phones were held aloft, including by members of staff. Lot 345 had just appeared on the screens behind Tim Bourne, Worldwide Head of Latest Omega Replica Watches. Such a historic moment had to be captured with a photo.

At the back of the room, a well-known watchmaker from La Vallée de Joux, there to  Replica Cartier Watches this incomparable timepiece make its second auction appearance, spent the opening minutes of the session recounting the rivalry between Henry Graves Jr., a fabulously wealthy New York banker and the original owner of this Patek Philippe n° 198.385, and the industrialist James Ward Packard who made his fortune in automobiles. Legend has it that the two men, both enthusiastic collectors, went dollar-to-dollar in a battle to own the most complicated watch ever made. An urban legend, it transpires. As journalist Alan Downing wrote in Watch Around magazine in 2013, Packard took delivery of his most expensive Patek Philippe in 1916, whereas Graves only became interested in fine watches in 1919. When he travelled to Geneva to order his Supercomplication in 1928, his rival, whom he probably never met, had been dead for several months.

Suspense at its height

From a starting price of CHF 9 million, bids quickly climbed to 13 million, in steps of one million, then rose to 17 million before tantalisingly long minutes at CHF 18,750,000. Two men in the room weren’t using their mobile phones to take photos. Rather they were talking to the bidders on the other end who were gauging the full measure of the amounts at stake. Raising his gavel, Tim Bourne was about to put an end to the suspense when a hand was raised: 19 million! Applause from the public, more tension for the bidders. “Well fair, last chance!” Three more times the gavel hovered ominously over the block and three more times bidding resumed: 19.95, 20.5, 20.6… The hammer finally came down amidst general commotion. Just time to hang up, and the two intermediaries threw their arms around each other. Buyer’s premium and tax included, final price came to CHF 23,237,000. An unprecedented figure. The watch had been estimated at CHF 15,000,000.

Talk has it that a Russian oligarch, close to political power, is behind the winning bid. One thing is for sure: the Patek Philippe Museum won’t be adding this trophy to its collection. Perhaps it consoled itself with Reference 3974, a Perpetual calendar minute repeater with moon phases, manufactured in 1991 in yellow gold, which at CHF 329,000 took second place on the rostrum (lot 344, est. CHF 230,000-350,000)? Or with Reference 3448, a perpetual calendar with moon phases made in 1972 in white gold, featuring a unique engraving of the emblem of the Sultanate of Oman. It fetched CHF 311,000 (lot 359, est. CHF 270,000-400,000)? Huge amounts which nonetheless pale in comparison.

CHF 200,000 on average

While Sotheby’s did an admirable job keeping interest in the Supercomplication high throughout the weeks preceding the sale, with a final total of CHF 31,600,000 it in fact came second to Christie’s which closed its session on an impressive CHF 34,100,000. Much of this was courtesy of the Patek Philippe anniversary sale during which no less than nine world records were broken. The 125 seats in the room were reserved days in advance, while 320 bidders from around the world registered to take part. An exploit for this type of session.

The highlight of the sale was Reference 2499 in pink gold. Manufactured in 1951 and part of the rare first series, this perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases went for CHF 2,629,000 (lot 59, est. CHF 1.6-2.6 million). A year earlier, the same model, this time made in 1957, sold for CHF 1,985,000, also at Christie’s. The first three watches on the block exceeded CHF 2,000,000, when the average sale price came to CHF 200,000.

Some rare historic pieces

This thematic sale was something of a warm-up for the traditional session, held the following day, with 370 lots up for grabs. The Breguet Museum in Paris left with two gold pocket Best Quality Replica Omega  Watches, including an exceptionally rare quarter repeater fitted with the first free escapement with natural lift ever made by Abraham-Louis Breguet (n° 1135). This timepiece is an important discovery both from a technical and a historical point of view. Workshop records show that it took almost four years to manufacture.

Lastly Antiquorum, which scheduled its session over the two days of the weekend. It dispersed close to a thousand modern and vintage timepieces for a total CHF 12,900,000. Two items clearly stood out. The first was a heart-shaped quarter repeater with automata, made circa 1820 and attributed to Isaac Daniel Piguet. Produced for the Oriental market, it is richly decorated with pearls and embellished with an enamel miniature depicting two children on a see-saw, a lady playing guitar and a windmill; all three are automated. It tripled its low estimate at CHF 303,750 (lot 579, est. CHF 100,000-200,000). The second was an exceptional cage clock with a singing bird that jumps from one perch to another. Manufactured circa 1785 and attributed to Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Jean-Frédéric Leschot, it went for CHF 291,750 (lot 578, est. CHF 200,000-400,000).