Sotheby’s New York watch auction smashes previous record to fetch $9.1m

The Important Watches auction held last week at Sotheby’s New York fetched $9.1 million, marking the highest total achieved since 2016.

The sale, which included a variety of timepieces from singing bird boxes to vintage wristwatches, featured a total of 15 lots over $100,000.

The success of the auction strengthens Sotheby’s reputation across the globe, following impressive sales in Hong Kong, London and Geneva bringing the total for Sotheby’s watches spring season to $37.1 million.

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The sale was led by a pair of four-color gold and pearl singing bird snuff boxes by Frères Rochat, which reached a final price of $519,000 (estimate $300/500,000).

Separated for decades before being reunited by the owner, these automatons are believed to be the only known reunited pair of consecutively numbered bird boxes by the horological house to be offered at auction; one of the two boxes was formerly in the collection of Henry Ford II.

Audemars Piguet’s massive limited edition platinum tourbillon chronograph wristwatch with double power reserve indication and bracelet made its auction debut and attracted significant competition.

Expected to fetch $100/150,000, this Royal Oak Offshore from circa 2004 – a cornerstone of the company’s Tradition d’Excellence Collection – sold for a final price of $423,000.

Later in the sale, Richard Mille’s magnum opus, an impressive platinum tonneau form tourbillon split seconds chronograph wristwatch, achieved $423,000. Inspired by Formula 1 racing and composed of over 500 parts, the RM008 with power reserve and torque indication is one of the most complicated objects ever made.

The appetite for Rolex Daytonas remains robust, with all 10 chronographs sold for a total of $915,000.

The group was led by a rare stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with registers and bracelet, ref 6241 from circa 1967. In excellent condition, the crisp dial and defined numerals and indexes attracted over four bidders who pushed the final price to $200,000 (estimate $100/200,000).

Offerings by Patek Philippe were highlighted by a fine and very rare white gold cushion-form perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch, which sold for $250,000 (estimate $200/300,000).

Finally, a rare and early eight day octagonal boxed marine chronometer with twin barrels no. 106 by Breguet et Fils saw two collectors battled for the timepiece, bringing the final price to $81,250.

Daryn Schnipper, chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division, and Sam Hines, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Watches, commented:  We look forward to continuing this momentum driven by strong interest from clients around the world for vintage and modern wristwatches as well as unique timepieces from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries into our online-only auctions of timepieces this summer as well our fall auctions, kicking off in Hong Kong in October.”

Katharine Thomas, head of Sotheby’s Watches & Clocks Department in New York, and Nate Borgelt, head of sale for Sotheby’s Watches in New York, added: “From modern marvels by Audemars Piguet and vintage wristwatches by Rolex, to bird boxes by Frères Rochat and marine chronometers by Breguet, the sale of Important Watches represented the full spectrum of horology. We were delighted to see enthusiasm for these multiple disciplines throughout our sale of over five hours, including a record for a Mark 3 Double Red Sea Dweller, which totaled $9.1 million, the highest result in two years.”

Sotheby’s will continue its auctions of clocks & watches this summer with Watches Online, open for bidding 18 through 25 June. The sale will feature a diverse range of property, including modern and vintage wristwatches from a variety of brands.

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