Fancy Yourself A Gentleman? This Christie’s Auction Curates The Finer Things In Life
The auction house’s latest roundup, “The Gentleman: Watches, Whiskies and Accessories,” takes a holistic approach to offering the things we love, overlapping audiences and uncovering some gems in the process.
Starting last Wednesday, June 24th, and running through Thursday, July 2nd, Christie’s is taking a step back from the typical watch auction by adding in its audience’s adjacent passions. The lots in “The Gentleman: Watches, Whiskies and Accessories” move in waves from watches to bags & luggage, rare whiskies, cufflinks, and back to watches. The digital event finds common ground among several Christie’s departments and adds some welcome permeability to the horological niche.
Gold, Diamonds, And Complications
Let’s first look at the watches. Of the 133 lots on offer, 75 are timepieces. So despite the expanded array of items in the mix, “The Gentleman” auction is still a watch auction at its core.
The estimates for this auction are first listed in Hong Kong Dollars and then in US Dollars. This is a telling detail that sets the tone for many of the items in the catalog. Are there the Daytonas, GMTs, and Nautili that one would expect from the typical watch auction? Sure, there are a few. But the bulk of the timepieces featured here are firmly outside of the sports watch camp.
A quick scroll of the lots will show a strong prevalence of precious metals, particularly yellow and pink gold. These take the form of Rolex Day-Dates (lots 11-15), tourbillon models from Breguet and Daniel Roth (lots 64-66), perpetual calendars from Breguet and Vacheron Constantin (lots 68-71), and various Cartier timepieces (lots 123-128).
Another commonality in this auction? Diamonds. The collective brilliance of all the diamonds adorning the watches is so luminous you’ll need to turn down the brightness on your computer screen. From lot 107 to the final lot 133, diamonds run the show on pieces by Franck Muller, Roger Dubuis, Cartier, and some fully iced out watches from Piaget. Even a Richard Mille Flyback and aforementioned Rolexes are positively dripping.
Finally, a handful of enamel dials dot the landscape with pieces by Cartier and Piaget adorned with Asian iconography of snarling dragons and the birds and flora commonly found in the watercolor works of artists like Pu Ru.
Care For a Drink?
Starting with lot 26, the first whisky section of the auction is home to some fantastic bottles by Macallan. On the (relatively) lower end of the Macallan spectrum are bottles in the 15, 17, and 18-year ranges. Estimates for these start around $1,000 and top out around the mid-$3,000 range and include examples bottled in the early 1990s and even the early 1980s.
These are followed by 25-year bottles including two Anniversary Malts (lots 36 and 37) and The Macallan 25 Year Old Decanter 1979 in a beautifully engraved crystal decanter from 1860s Ireland.
The mac daddy Macallan on offer – if I may use such a casual term – is lot 38’s The Macallan Fine & Rare 37 Year Old 1937. This shining example in its original wooden case was first bottled in 1974 (37 years after 1937, of course) and rebottled in 2002. With an estimate ranging from roughly $25,000 - $38,000, we’ll have to see if it was worth the wait.
Leaving the Western Hemisphere for a moment, we should also note the dozen or so bottles by the well-regarded, but not quite household name, Karuizawa (lots 92-106). This Japanese distillery gained notoriety for its intense, sherry-casked whiskies before halting production in 2001. The various 30-year-old bottles on offer represent some of the few remaining examples of the finite work from one of Japan’s great craftsmen.
Dressing Up And Going Out
The final category covered in “The Gentleman” auction is cufflinks, which like the watches on offer, feature no shortage of precious gems. The examples from the likes of Tiffany & Co. (lots 74 & 91), Tom Ford (lot 76), and Bulgari (lot 80) should appeal to the executive set and perhaps serve as a nice consolation prize should you miss out on the perpetual calendar you had your eye on.
We’re curious to follow the results from this auction for a few reasons. The first being that this varied approach of lots is not one commonly seen on the global stage. Its success could encourage other auction houses to take a broader, perhaps even more algorithmic approach with more intermingled categories.
Second, given that the watches featured here are considerably different than those in the mainstream, intense bidding could point to a gradual seachange away from the popular stainless steel sports models of today, or at least prove that the pendulum does sometimes swing in favor of the dressy and the precious.
Finally, as the world slowly recovers from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19, Christie's “The Gentleman: Watches, Whiskies and Accessories” auction will provide another set of data for gauging economic vitality and enthusiasm in our niche.
This will also, by providing top-billing to estimates in Hong Kong Dollars, provide clues on the strength of the much-needed Asian market, which opened up sooner than its counterparts in the West. And of course, we will see whether the online auction format will once and for all gain the upper hand over the traditional IRL way of doing things.
As they say, only time will tell.
Christie’s “The Gentleman: Watches, Whiskies And Accessories” auction is open for bidding from June 24 - July 2, 2020. For more information, click HERE.
(Images provided by Christie's)