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Vintage & Auctions

An arrogant wealth of the finest quality timepieces at auction

As opinion leaders are fiercely debating over the current crisis to determine its reach beyond the watchmaking industry, the selection of watches for this auction season is revealed and is a tad provocative. Like an answer to the debate, the quality is there, the prices are maintained and we can surely expect that the salerooms will be as dynamic as for the past auctions.

By Audrey Humbert

While Phillips seems to settle as the specialist for the most coveted Rolex and Patek Philippe timepieces, the other three auction houses seem to offer an even wider choice of brands than for the past auctions.

Rolex Ref. 6085 "The Dragon" - Phillips Auction (lot 157)

Audemars Piguet Minute repeater

For me the most exciting piece of the auction season is this platinum minute repeater signed Audemars Piguet (Christie's lot 39). Being described as a unique piece in the catalogue is no surprise to me. Have you often come across two vintage Audemars Piguet that look strictly identical? Until the Royal Oak was introduced, Audemars Piguet was highly focused on manufacturing complicated mechanism of the finest quality that would also be in most instances the thinnest of the market.

Audemars Piguet Ref. 3207 - Christie's Auction lot (39)

The process of assembling the finished movement with a purposedly chosen dial and case, also crafted according to the highest standards, is a reflection of the very artisanal process that saw the birth of every period timepieces by Audemars Piguet. On top of this, minute repeaters were produced only in a very limited number by Audemars Piguet.

Indeed, being one of the most coveted complication nowadays, a minute repeater is a delicate movement to assemble and tune. The flat dimension of this calibre 13'''JMV rendering this exercise even more delicate, the total production of this type of movement was highly limited by the availability of the most talented watchmakers who could achieve them. While the Audemars Piguet researches reveals that this is only one of two minute repeaters encased in platinum out of a total number of 7 movements manufactured with this function between 1945 and 1960, the other piece encased in platinum is fitted with calibre 12'''PMV. Added with the fact that this is the only piece known with a bracelet (out of only three minute repeaters that ever left the manufacture with a bracelet), this piece is not only completely unique but also highly desirable and exceptional. 

Audemars Piguet Ref. 3207 Mechanism - Christie's Auction (lot 39)

Enamel watches

Flipping through the pages of the catalogue, you will notice that the selection of enamel watches is quite remarkable as well. My attention was first caught by lot 158 (Antiquorum): a sparkling champlevé and painted enamel scene depicting "A grand view of the sea shore" attributed to Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841) and signed by the british watchmaker William Ilbery. Then I noticed that Christie's is also offering one of the finest polychrome enamel timepieces by the same makers under lot 80 along with a very delicate pendant watch by Patek Philippe (lot 205) which seems as it was crafted with the most elegant lady in mind. The « Milkmaid » after Vanmeer and depicted by Suzanne Rohr on a Patek Philippe pocket watch housing calibre 17-140 is also extremely fine. But with no doubts, the star among them all will be the Rolex ref. 6085 depicting « The dragon » and expected within the range of CHF 500k – 1000k at Phillip's. As for my personal favorite, it is probably the realistically designed musical harp offered by Sotheby's.

Ilbery Large Chinese Market Watch - Antiquorum Auction (lot 158)

Haute Horlogerie

For the demanding collectors who are carefully focusing on the horological technical achievement then here is the selection that I would recommend having a look at. 

For an historical reason, I will start with the Antide Janvier (1751 – 1835) empire mantel clock that represents a treasure from the early age of the watchmaking era. The clock is offered by Antiquorum under lot 452.

Antide Janvier "Empire Mantel Clock" Gilt Bronze - Antiquorum Auction (lot 452)

FP Journe, who has himself often quoted Antide Janvier as an inspiration for his work, is also well represented through Christie's lot 62 with a highly interesting construction featuring a dual-train movement with a one minute revolving tourbillon and a regulator type of display with off centered hour and minute display and the seconds below at 6 o'clock.

F. P. Journe Tourbillon - Christie's Auction (lot 62)

However, if you find that watching the revolution of the tourbillon is mesmerising , then I would recommend that you don't neglect the Lange Söhne Tourbillon pour le Mérite (Antiquorum lot 148) or the Lange 1 Tourbillon in pink gold (Christie's lot 172).

Unsigned Gold and Enamel Musical Seal Gold - Antiquorum Auction (lot 148)

Catalogues of the sales can be viewed online on each respective auction house websites.

Christie's auction: http://www.christies.com/salelanding/index.aspx?lid=1&intsaleid=26329&saletitle=&pg=all

Antiquorum auction: http://www.antiquorum.com/catalog/auctions/geneva-2016-11-13/lots

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