Fall auctions suggest watch collecting community is growing and spending more


This is a year in which we have all felt like ships tossed around on stormy waters and we are all searching for solid anchor points we can trust until the devastation blows over.

Vintage and desirable contemporary timepieces have proven to be the sort of reliable assets the world needs, and that has been driving up auction prices to record levels.

They barely age, they rarely break, and the right models will almost certainly hold or increase their value over time in a way that cash in the bank or stock market investments may not.


This fall’s Geneva auctions are proving there are many more customers around the world looking to take refuge in fine watches, and bidding online is proving no barrier to spectacular prices.

Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo held two auctions over three days in Geneva this week that demonstrate how robust demand has become this year.

The Geneva Watch Auction: XII, which focused on rare vintage watches, brought in over CHF 25 million ($27.6m), exceeding the pre-sale estimate of CHF 12.8 to 24.2 million ($14.1m to $26.7m) and selling 97% by lot and 98% by value.

The star of the auction was a new world record set for an extremely rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2523/1 in rose gold with guilloche dial that sold to an online bidder in Germany for CHF 4,991,000 ($5.5m), the highest price every paid online in a Phillips auction.

Across the two auctions, Phillips registered a record 2,300 online bidders.

Retrospective: 2000 – 2020, which sold watches made in the last 20 years, sold 100% of the 95 lots for a total of CHF 13.5 million ($14.9m) against a pre-sale estimate of CHF 5.8 to 11 million ($6.4m to $12.1m) and set several new world records for models by independent makers including Philippe Dufour and F.P. Journe.

“In a near-lock down situation, with a classic saleroom with phone banks, online bidding and connections to remote salerooms in London, Hong Kong, Taipei and New York, but no in-room audience, it was the most unusual set-up we could not have imagined 12 months ago,” describe Aurel Bacs, senior consultant Bacs & Russo and Alex Ghotbi, head of watches, Continental Europe and Middle East, in a joint statement.

“Phillips’ ability to quickly adapt and innovate, alongside the huge amount of trust the watch community place in us, resulted in fireworks and numerous world records. It was a sale where any type of watch — vintage or contemporary, simple or complicated, sporty or dressy — was fiercely competed for, as long as the common denominator is the quality that Phillips is so proud of.

“The watch community continues to grow, and we have been incredibly humbled to welcome an unprecedented level of online participation. We also saw emerging new trends, alongside the habitual auction power players we have seen rising interest in watches from the 80’s to 2000’s, a period which saw the re-birth of mechanical watchmaking following the quartz crisis, as well as immense interest in the artisanal independent watchmaking that rose with the new millennium.”

Top 10 lots at Geneva Watch Auction: XII

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 2523/1, rose gold dual crown worldtime wristwatch with guilloché dial Pre-sale estimate:
CHF 2,000,000 – 4,000,000
CHF 4,991,000

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 3974, platinum automatic perpetual calendar minute repeating wristwatch with moonphases, 24 hours indication, original additional dial Pre-sale estimate:
CHF 700,000 – 1,400,000
CHF 1,421,500

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 2499, yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases Pre-sale estimate:
CHF 700,000 to 1,200,000
CHF 1,288,400

ROLEX, Ref. 6241, 14K yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with black “Paul Newman” dial and bracelet Pre-sale estimate: CHF 600,000 – 1,200,000 CHF 780,200

ROLEX, Ref. 8171, “Padellone” stainless steel triple calendar wristwatch with moonphases Pre-sale estimate: CHF 300,000 – 600,000 CHF 730,800

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 2499, yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases, box, original certificate of identity and invoice retailed by Beyer Pre-sale estimate: CHF 400,000 – 800,000 CHF 705,600

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 3700/11, white gold wristwatch with date and bracelet, certificate of origin, hangtag and second dial Pre-sale estimate: CHF 300,00 – 600,000 CHF 693,000

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 5020P, cushion shaped platinum perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases, salmon dial, diamond indexes and platinum bracelet Pre-sale estimate: CHF 350,000 to 700,000 CHF 585,900

ROLEX, Ref.6234, yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with luminous multi-scale dial Pre-sale estimate: CHF 250,000 to 500,000 CHF 554,400

ROLEX, Ref. 4537, rose gold chronograph wristwatch with multi-scale dial and bracelet Pre-sale estimate: CHF 250,000 – 500,000 CHF 504,000

Top 10 lots at Retrospective: 2000 – 2020

PHILIPPE DUFOUR, Simplicity 20th Anniversary model in pink gold wristwatch with hinged caseback, guarantee and presentation box, number 00/20 Pre-sale estimate: CHF 200,00 to 400,000 CHF 1,361,000

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 5531/1R, pink gold minute repeating world time wristwatch with miniature cloisonné enamel dial, bracelet, certificate of origin and presentation box Pre-sale estimate: CHF 500,000 – 1,000,000 CHF 1,191,600

F.P. JOURNE, Sonnerie Souveraine, minute repeating grande and petite sonnerie stainless steel wristwatch with power reserve, bracelet, box and guarantee Pre-sale estimate: CHF 300,000 – 600,000 CHF 680,400

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref, 5316/P, platinum minute repeating perpetual calendar enamel dial wristwatch with tourbillon, retrograde date, moon phases, additional caseback, certificate of origin and presentation box Pre-sale estimate: CHF 270,000 – 550,000 CHF 592,200

PATEK PHILIPPE Ref. 5207/P, platinum minute repeating instantaneous perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch with leap year indicator, day and night display, moon phases, additional case back, original certificate and fitted presentation box, double sealed Pre-sale estimate: CHF 350,00 – 700,000 CHF 567,000

RICHARD MILLE Ref. RM 038 “Bubba Watson”, magnesium tourbillon wristwatch with box, warranty and golf bag Pre-sale estimate: CHF 180,000 – 360,000 CHF 535,500

PATEK PHILIPPE Ref. 5711/1P a rare and platinum wristwatch with date, bracelet and Certificate of Origin, service sealed Pre-sale estimate: CHF 200,000 – 400,000 CHF 428,400

PATEK PHILIPPE Ref. 5959R a rare pink gold split seconds chronograph wristwatch with black dial and Breguet numerals and certificate of origin Pre-sale estimate: CHF 180,000 – 360,000 CHF 352,800

F.P. JOURNE, platinum Chronomètre à Resonance dual time wristwatch with double escapement, certificate of authenticity and presentation box Pre-sale estimate: CHF 50,000 – 80,000 CHF 352,800

PATEK PHILIPPE, Ref. 5951P, a very rare platinum cushion-shaped single button split seconds chronograph wristwatch with perpetual calendar, moonphases, day/night indication, additional case back, certificate of origin and presentation box Pre-sale estimate: CHF200,000 – 400,000 CHF 327,600



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