It is hard to picture the immutable Philippe Dufour reaching any level of hysteria over recent prices being paid for his rare and exquisite timepieces.
The idea that one of his Grande et Petite Sonnerie watches would sell for $7.63 million must boggle the mind as much as it delights the watchmaker.
A combination of extreme scarcity, exceptional craftsmanship and artistry and the fact that Mr Dufour will not be making watches with his own hands for very much longer, is driving collectors to seize on any opportunity to buy one of his pieces as if they were buying a Da Vinci at a time when the Renaissance artist was nearing the end of his working life.
Following the sale earlier this month of the Grande et Petite Sonnerie by A Collected Man, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo has revealed it will be selling four Philippe Dufour creations at this autumn’s The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV.
Never before seen at auction, the watches are coming from a single private collector and include an example of each of the four timepieces that Philippe Dufour has made in his own name.
“This set of four Philippe Dufour timepieces has been an epiphanous moment for us. Offering his four creations — the Grande & Petite Sonnerie pocket watch, Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch, Duality and Simplicity — is truly humbling. Dufour is a living icon and his creations are as coveted as oeuvres by the greatest artists of our time,” say Aurel Bacs, senior consultant Bacs & Russo and Alexandre Ghotbi, head of watches, Continental Europe and Middle East at Phillips.
Philippe Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch in yellow gold
The quartet of watches includes the very first in a series of five white enamel dialed Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatches made by Mr Dufour and the only piece in yellow gold.
It has been given an estimate of CHF 1million to 2 million ($1,090,000 – $2,180,000).
“How awe-striking that we are offering the very first Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch ever made,” Mr Bacs and Mr Ghotbi continue. “We are honored to have been entrusted with this collection from an owner who had the vision and passion to patiently assemble a collection like no other. Dufour’s lifetime output is smaller than paintings by masters such as Modigliani and Mannet and for any Dufour connoisseur, this collection represents the Grand Slam of Dufour collecting.”
Philippe Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie pocket watch
Along with a Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch, Phillips is also selling a version of a pocket watch Mr Dufour first made for Audemars Piguet.
He never felt he was properly credited for the pocket watch’s creation, which triggered his decision to start up under his own name. His first creation was his own version of the pocket watch that he made in the late 1980s. The example offered by Phillips is number 1 and the only Dufour Grande & Petite Sonnerie pocket watch with his name on the dial.
It is offered with an estimate of CHF 400,000 to CHF 800,000 ($436,000 to $872,152).
Completing the set are examples of Philippe Dufour’s Duality and Simplicity watches.
Philippe Dufour Duality
Mr Dufour’s inspiration for the Duality came from a few 1930s school pocket watches from the Vallée de Joux watchmaking school – the school from which he graduated.
These pocket watches had a single gear train delivering power to two balance wheels through a differential. Once again, like with his sonnerie wristwatch, Mr Dufour shrunk the mechanism to wristwatch size and launched it as the Duality in 1996 as the world’s first wristwatch incorporating a double escapement.
Featuring two independent balance wheels compensated with a central differential gear, the mechanism improves accuracy while also countering the effects of gravity.
He initially planned to produce 25 but only nine were made including an example with movement number 00 that sold in 2017 for close to $1 million.
The example at The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV is one of only three produced in pink gold.
It has an estimate of CHF 800,000 to CHF 1.6 million ($872,152 to $1,744,520).
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
Last, but by no means least, is a 37mm Simplicity, numbered 57, Philippe Dufour’s three-hand watch that he used to express himself though hand finishing and decoration.
Although there are more Simplicities than any of Mr Dufour’s other watches, fewer than a dozen are produced per year.
Phillips has given its example an estimate of CHF 250,000 to CHF 500,000 ($272,581 – $545,176).