Top Lots: Ineichen Auctioneer’s Upcoming “Royal 50” Auction
Vintage & Auctions

Top Lots: Ineichen Auctioneer’s Upcoming “Royal 50” Auction

On Saturday, May 28th, Zurich-based auction house Ineichen Auctioneers is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak by hosting one of its signature theme auctions with 50 exceptional lots. Today, we share with you some of our favorites.

By Marco Gabella
Chairman & Executive Publisher

In 2021, Ineichen Auctioneers introduced the watch collecting world to its themed auctions that offer only fifty lots. The first was the “Shades of Grey” auction. Then there was the “Alchemy of Gold” auction, “La Vie en Rose,” and the most recent “Precious Blues” auction in April.

Interestingly, by eschewing the more traditional format of hosting semi-annual auctions with 200 or more lots in favor of hosting more frequent auctions with a maximum of 50 lots, Ineichen has reassured sellers their lots will sell and enticed collectors to bid more. All in one fell swoop. And now, in 2022, the Zurich-based auction house is poised to change the game yet again.

In a recent announcement, Ineichen has said that, starting with the upcoming “Royal 50” auction, it will no longer charge the traditional buyer’s premium for items sold at its auctions. It’s a first for the watch world, but times they are a-changing.

The “Royal 50” Auction

With the “Royal 50” auction, Ineichen Auctioneers selected a good cross-section of fifty desirable Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks. From early A or B Series models to an extremely rare Supersonnerie, the “Royal 50” auction catalog accurately represents the collection’s fifty years of excellence and audacity.

Fortunately, Watchonista recently had the privilege of spending an afternoon in Zurich exploring the “Royal 50” lots in the company of Ineichen’s CEO, Artemy Lechbinsky. So, let’s take a look at some of the pieces that Watchonista Senior Photographer Pierre Vogel photographed and gave us an emotional kick.

Lot 44: A Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Premier Limited Edition

The ten-piece Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Premier Limited Edition (Ref. 26530ST) is like a superlative hypercar: You know they exist, but you’ve never seen any on the road.

Beautifully contrasting the iconic Royal Oak shapes, the refinement of lot 44’s dial, with its haunting Moonstone-blue-to-black gradient color and tapisserie pattern, invite the viewer to admire the exquisite flying tourbillon. Overall, this watch is pretty much at the top of the list when it comes to what a watch connoisseur expects from such a radical limited-edition piece.

And with a hammer estimate between CHF 400,000 and CHF 500,000, lot 44 is already for sure on a few collectors’ radars. After all, it is not every day you can add a unicorn to your collection.

Lots 37, 12, & 28: A Trio of Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeletons

When collectors talk about the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeleton, the discussion always boils down to which reference is the best. From “the platinum is purer” to “yellow gold is back” to “rose gold is killer,” you’ll find defenders on all sides.

However, looking at lots 37, 12, and 28 (which we can all agree are definitive masterpieces), the answer becomes clear: All of them are the best. Why? Because there is no alternative against which you can judge perfection. It may seem like faulty reasoning, but it is inescapable: They are all the best Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeleton because there are no comparisons. All sides win by default.

Estimated to sell from anywhere between CHF 200,000 and CHF 250,000, lot 37 features a platinum Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeleton (Ref. 25829PT). And while it is similar to models that sold at recent Geneva auctions for CHF 250,000 to 327,000 (plus the buyer’s premium), lot 37 is also in near mint condition, so there is little doubt that this early specimen will garner attention.

Also estimated to be worth between CHF 200,000 and CHF 250,000, lot 12 features a rose gold Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeleton (Ref. 25829OR). Again, it will probably greatly surpass its estimate as this reference’s specific configuration includes an engraved and skeletonized rhodium-plated movement that contrasts the intensity of rose gold nicely and is more in line with today’s style and trends.

Finally, with the same estimated value as lots 37 and 12, lot 28 features a yellow gold Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Skeleton (Ref. 25636BA) to complete the trilogy.

Lot 35: A Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie

Another unicorn in the “Royal 50” auction is lot 35: an ultra-rare Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie (Ref. 26591TI) in mint condition.

Despite its 42mm size and imposing 14mm thickness to accommodate the minute repeater’s amplification, this example from the five-piece limited edition is a pure pleasure to wear due to its ultra-light (and ultra-resonant) case and bracelet made from titanium.

Plus, its unique dial execution, with a dark blue smoked gradient effect and small seconds sub-dial, makes lot 35 particularly enticing and explains its estimated value of CHF 350,000 to CHF 400,000. Like lot 44, we do not doubt that, given its rarity and mint condition, lot 35 will generate huge interest.

Lot 23: A Royal Oak Tourbillon Skeleton 25th Anniversary

In my opinion, the crown of the Royal Oak is one of those small details that blows my mind and makes the whole watch design a success. I mean, what other watch has a crown that is virtually identical to its case design?

However, putting aside my bias, the one-of-ten limited edition Royal Oak Tourbillon Skeleton 25th Anniversary (Ref. 25902PT), with its crown set on the sapphire caseback, is a delightful mystery to me. I can only surmise the brand included this incredibly rare complication to mimic traditional clocks.

But with its pre-auction value estimated between CHF 350,000 and CHF 400,000, a similar piece sold for CHF 465,000 (before buyer's premium) at an Antiquorum auction in Geneva earlier this month, so we expect big things from lot 23.

Lot 40: A Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Yves Klein

From an artistic perspective, the color blue was and still is the most complicated color to master. Yet, somehow, Yves Klein manages to create a shade of blue so beautiful that it looks like it came from the canvas of masters like Picasso or Van Gogh.

A perusal of the “Royal 50” auction catalog will reveal other Royal Oaks with “Bleu Klein” dials available during the auction. But for me, QPs like the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Yves Klein of lot 40 remain the most fantastic configuration for a Royal Oak. Estimated value: CHF 150,000 to CHF 200,000.

Lot 8: A Rose Gold Royal Oak Openworked 40th Anniversary Limited to 40

While the recently released 50th Anniversary Royal Oak (Ref. 16202) may be the “it” watch of the moment, the Royal Oak Openworked 40th Anniversary (Ref. 15204OR) of lot 8 is on another level and always will be.

Why? Because despite the “50th Anniversary” commemorative rotor that will come with all the Royal Oaks delivered in 2022, the Ref.16202 is a permanent release. In comparison, the skeletonized dial, almost identical design to the original “Jumbo” from 1972, and exclusivity of lot 5 (which has an estimated value of CHF 150,000 to CHF 200,000) makes this commemorative Royal Oak made from 18k rose gold such a collectible specimen.

An Auction for the History Books

In addition to the “Royal 50” being the house’s inaugural auction to dispense with the buyer’s premium, Ineichen CEO Artemy Lechbinsky told us that eliminating the buyer’s premium was just one strategy among many.

Lechbinsky explained that before the “Royal 50” auction, a special auction will be held featuring an NFT that reserves the right for the winning bidder to purchase 0.5% of total share capital of Ineichen Auctioneers.

It is an interesting (and ambitious) move that we will certainly ask about when we sit down with Lechbinsky for an interview. Whether this plan will pan out is too early to say, but what we can say for sure is that Ineichen Auctioneers isn’t scared to buck the establishment and change the rules.

Auction Details

The “Royal 50” auction is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 28th, 2022, at 14:30 CET. For more information or if you would like to register for the auction, visit the Ineichen website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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