Standout Lots from the Spring Watch Auctions in Geneva
Vintage & Auctions

Horological Masterpieces: Standout Lots from the Spring Watch Auctions in Geneva

Over a span of just a few days, more than a thousand watches found new homes through auctions held by Phillips, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Antiquorum. Here are a few intriguing highlights that captivated me.

By Henri Lee

The four Geneva auctions held by Phillips, Antiquorum, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s that took place from May 10-14 marked the kickoff of the all-important spring watch auction season. Based in California, I found myself waking up early each morning to follow the auction results.

The fierce bidding wars didn’t disappoint many watch enthusiasts who, like me, were glued to live streams on their mobile phones. Now that the curtain has finally come down on the Geneva auctions, here are the lots that stood out to me.

Two Lots by Rexhep Rexhepi

Rexhep Rexhepi’s ascent to star independent watchmaker status began with his Chronomètre Contemporain (RRCC1), which won the GPHG Men’s Watch category in 2018. Only 50 pieces of the RRCC1 were made, 25 in a rose gold case and 25 in a platinum case.

While two examples of the rose gold case RRCC1 have been auctioned in the past, the example offered in Lot 58 of Phillips’ The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX was the first time a platinum case model had ever appeared.

The RRCC1 stands out with its impeccable movement decorations, utilizing classical techniques with hand finishing to the highest traditions of Geneva watchmaking. The stunning bridge layout presents perfect symmetry. It is a timepiece designed for top chronometric performance, accompanied by a fascinating zero-reset function.

This rare watch, number 3 of the 25-piece limited run of the RRCC1 with a platinum case and white Grand Feu enamel dial, was sold for a jaw-dropping total price of CHF 1,155,700, surpassing the high estimate by CHF 555,700 after a long bidding war between two determined collectors.

Fun Fact: The winning bid for Lot 58 was actually CHF 910,000, but after Phillips’ 27% buyer’s premium, the final price jumped to CHF 1,155,700.

Another watch by Rexhep on Phillips’ auction block, Lot 188, was his 5th creation, the Akrivia AK-05 Tourbillon Barrette Miroir, named for the mirror polish of the tourbillon bridge. The exquisite and symmetrical movement is decorated with sharp internal angles and black-polished surfaces.

This timepiece, which has been with its original owner since 2016, was sold at a total price of CHF 635,000. Notably, Akrivia has generously offered the winner a free servicing of the timepiece and a new certificate in their name.

Twin Tributes to Magellan by Vacheron Constantin

Starting in 2004 and continued with releases in 2008 and 2021, Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’Arts collection has included limited edition “Tribute to the Great Explorers” wandering hours watches featuring cloisonné enamel dial maps that depict the travels of renowned explorers.

Coincidentally, two early pieces honoring Ferdinand Magellan appeared simultaneously during this auction season. One was sold by Phillips, the other by Sotheby’s.

This piece’s enchanting enamel dial features a dual-layer construction. The upper layer showcases an ancient map of the Strait of Magellan, while the lower layer elegantly displays the retrograde minute indication.

Ingeniously concealed beneath the surface, the hour wheel is equipped with three arms, each bearing four hour numerals. As these hour numerals gracefully traverse the dial one by one, their positions seamlessly correspond to the minutes.

A Stunning World Timer by Kari Voutilainen

Continuing the travel theme, here is a world timer crafted by the esteemed independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, featuring a captivating image of the Earth as seen from the moon.

In addition to exquisite miniature painting and engraving, the dial is creatively adorned with Super-LumiNova. When in darkness, the entire dial illuminates with yellow and blue hues, accentuating the borders of continents and the lunar surface.

Powering this timepiece is the new world time calibre 216TMZ, which played a pivotal role in clinching a victory for the independent brand in the 2023 GPHG Men’s Watch competition. The main plates and bridges are meticulously hand-finished, boasting shining bevels and crisp internal angles.

After some fast and furious bidding, this unique piece was sold by Phillips with a hammer price of CHF 250,000. Factor in the 27% buyer’s premium we mentioned earlier, and the final price for this one-of-a-kind masterpiece was CHF 317,500.

Triptyque Vagabondage by F.P.Journe

A remarkable 3-piece set of wandering hours and jumping numerals watches, Lot 66 of Sotheby’s Important Watches: Part 1 auction was nearly two decades in the making. Let’s look at each watch one by one.

The Vagabondage I, introduced in 2004, combines jumping hours and wandering hours, with the position of hour in the aperture indicating the minutes.

Next, the Vagabondage II, unveiled in 2010, features jumping hours and minutes, accompanied by a subsidiary seconds dial and a power reserve indicator.

Finally, the Vagabondage III, revealed in 2017, boasting the world’s first jumping seconds and hours, an incredible achievement made possible by three discs.

Mr. Journe graciously offered collectors who owned Vagabondage I and II priority to acquire the III, maintaining the same series number. Thus, only the most seasoned, early collectors of F.P.Joune might achieve the feat of assembling a set with matching series numbers.

The Triptyque Vagabondage offered in this sale is from 2017, each with series number “09/69” and coming in a special presentation box, discovered a new guardian at the total price of CHF 762,000.

A Pair of Gifts Received by Michael Schumacher

Despite the auction house’s recent troubles, Christie’s Rare Watches auction went forward on Tuesday evening in Geneva. Among the many watches up for grabs, eight timepieces belonging to Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, including a pair of remarkable custom-made gifts from his friend and Ferrari team principal Jean Todt, were the marquee lots.

The first, Lot 130, was a white gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak chronograph featuring a prancing horse in one sub-dial and a Ferrari helmet in another. Its caseback bore the engraved inscription “J. TODT POUR M. SCHUMACHER NOEL 2003” (“J. Todt for M. Schumacher Christmas 2003”).

This piece hammered at CHF 330,000 (80,000 Swiss Francs above the high estimate) and fetched a total price of CHF 415,800.

The second piece, Lot 136, was another Christmas gift from Todt, which was a piece-unique Vagabondage I crafted by F.P.Journe. The dial dazzled with the Ferrari’s iconic racing red, adorned with the Ferrari emblem, a helmet, and symbols for victory. In contrast to the standard Vagabondage I, only the current hour is visible within this lot’s 12 o’clock aperture.

This exclusive timepiece hammered for CHF 1,200,000 (800,000 Swiss Francs below the high estimate) and is going to a new home for the final price of CHF 1,497,000.

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