Our Favorite Independent Pieces From The Upcoming Geneva Auctions
Independent watchmakers are attracting more attention than ever. While some are usually not accessible to the mass market, auction houses offer a second chance to acquire these treasures of watchmaking.
By independents, I mean those watchmakers who have established their own brands pursuing their spirit of freedom and their deep love of achieving the highest standards.
Speaking of rarity
While browsing the auction catalogs, you will come across the word rare many times, and that might be confusing. Indeed, speaking of a "rare Rolex" is necessarily not the same than speaking of a "rare Voutilainen.” Enter any Rolex Boutique in the world, and you'll be able to purchase a Rolex. The purchasing process for Voutilainen is slightly different. Indeed, you will most likely need to meet him personally to place an order and then join the waiting list before you can receive your customized watch, probably 2 to 3 years later. At this point, you will own a so-called "possibly unique" timepiece in the auction world as it will be a handcrafted watch with a personal touch. No two Voutilainen's are the same. (see lot 144 at Phillip's auction)
If you don't feel like waiting this long and have no clue on how you would like your watch to be designed, you can go through the fast lane and purchase directly from auction whenever a watch becomes available.
F.P. Journe is among the very few independents that appear on a regular basis at auction. There are two main reasons for that:
1. A sufficient number of watches were produced
2. The brand is attractive to the market (otherwise the auction houses would not take risks to include it in the sale)
Out of the six watches spread across the Geneva fall season sales, the highlight is offered at Phillip's (lot 14 – estimate CHF 120'000 – 180'000) with the Tourbillon Souverain numbered 16/20. This subscription watch, reminding of Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of François-Paul Journe's inspiration, was aimed at financing the creation of his own brand founded in 1999.
A selection of the finest
Out of them all, Thomas Prescher is probably the most discreet. I had the privilege to visit his workshop on Lake Biel's shores a decade ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. The triple axis flying tourbillon available at Christie's (lot 32) represents the pinnacle of his work around the tourbillon. Thomas Prescher is undeniably part of a small circle of watchmakers who could sublimate the original invention of Abraham-Louis Breguet.
An alternative tourbillon timepiece, if your taste is more classical but your expectations just as high comes with the Laurent Ferrier with tourbillon and black onyx dial (lot 29).
At a halfway between the independents and the groups, the impressive Richard Mille Falcon that Sotheby's managed to secure (lot 228 – estimate CHF 800'000 – 1'200'000) shall attract all the flashlights.