The first post-pandemic live watch auction sees collectors return in full force, with a Patek Philippe timepiece setting a new world record
Over the weekend, the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI marked the return of the live watch auction – the first since the global COVID-19 crisis. Originally meant to be held in May – a typical ‘spring sale’ for auction houses – it was postponed to end-June. The move proved to be the right choice for Phillips, given the number of bidders and bidding intensity. With 210 lots on offer, the auction experienced energetic bidding from buyers across more than 67 countries, with sales totalling approximately S$64 million.
The two-day sale, conducted by Phillips auctions in association with Bacs & Russo at the Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva, was held for a limited number of live buyers supported by more than 2,000 collectors bidding via phone or online.
As watches could not be presented for previews as part of the usual global road shows, Phillips had been conducting virtual one-on-one virtual previews with potential clients, in addition to producing videos for the most popular products.
As far as individual sales, Patek Philippe claimed all three spots on the podium with the premiere lots from the private collection of Jean-Claude Biver – a recognisable force of the Swiss watch industry. Here, the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph from 1941 claimed top spot, its moonphase in pink gold and extremely rare pink dial fetching SwF 3.4 million (S$5 million).
In second was the Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 Perpetual Second Series Calendar Chronograph with moonphases, from 1957. Only 20 known examples of this model – with its yellow gold batons are known to exist, making it a highly sought-after piece. And with nine bidders competing for the watch, it soared to a final price of approximately SwF 2.6 million (S$3.83 million).
In third was a Patek Philippe Ref. 1579 from 1946, in platinum. Recognisable for its ‘spider’ lugs and blue enamel graphics, it is believed to be one of only three models of this reference with a platinum case, and of those, it is the only watch with a blue scale and markers. As such, the one of a kind piece commanded a SwF 1.94 million (S$2.86 million) sale price. A similar piece, from 1955 in yellow gold was sold for SwF 187,500 (S$276,000).
Despite Patek Philippe’s dominance across the auction block, the action wasn’t limited to the venerable Swiss brand. The earliest F.P. Journe watches ever made both sold well above their estimates at prices of SwF 1.4 million (S$2.06 million) and SwF 1.04 million (S$1.51 million) respectively.
In late May, Phillips Hong Kong held a cross-department online sale, with more than 50 timepieces up for auction. All pieces were sold.