The latest Important Watches auction by Sotheby’s New York has shown that demand for classic timepieces is stronger than ever.
The auction smashed its pre-sale estimate of $6.5 – $10 million) with an on the day total of $12.5 million.
Almost half the total was achieved by a collection of 22 Swiss enamelled automata that sold for $6.1 million.
The collection was a rare opportunity to acquire exceptional examples from the golden age of Swiss watchmaking during the Industrial Revolution, when noted makers such as Jaquet-Droz and Piguet & Meylan married technology and artistry to create miraculous objects in miniature.
Katharine Thomas, Head of Sotheby’s Watch Department in New York, commented: “Today’s sale offered top-quality examples from every category driving today’s watch market, and collectors responded enthusiastically from all corners of the globe. From the collection of historically important Swiss automata created at the turn of the 19th century, to incredibly rare vintage timepieces by iconic firms like Patek Philippe, to ultra-modern watches embracing 21st century innovation, it was a well-rounded offering and we are thrilled with the benchmark results.”
Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division, added: “It has been a great privilege to discover, study and present the magnificent collection of automata that highlighted today’s auction. This magical group embodies the very best of Swiss watchmaking, and it has been exciting to see horological history resonate with a new audience this spring.”
The most exceptional single item was The Singing Bird Scent Flask automata attributed to Jaquet-Droz and Leschot in Geneva, circa 1785, which sold for $2,530,000.
The automaton features an articulated ivory bird measuring just 12mm tall, which is accompanied by a highly intricate, miniature organ to replicate the bird’s song. The scent flask is covered in enamel and jewels, centred by a recessed medallion with a magnificent scene that showcases vari-colored gold sculpture representing a branch with leaves with the singing bird automaton perched atop.
Among a raft of fine and rare watches, the star lot was a Patek Philippe pocked watch, The Pink Gold Ref. 605 ‘Heures Universelles’ with Enamel Dial made in 1951. It smashed its pre-sale estimate of $200-400,000 to achieve $982,000.
Among modern watches, a Richard Mille ‘Yohan Blake’ Ref. RM59-01, No 44/50, circa 2013, sold for $478,000.