Long before Aurel Bacs picked up his gavel, we knew this auction would be EPIC. After all, Phillips had spelled it out for us in the auction’s title. Epic, because of the content of the sale. Epic also, because of the auction’s gamble on brands that are less well known to the public. Eterna, Cyma, and Junevia are not names you would expect to hear during
the Geneva auctions. Nevertheless, there they were, next to the big
boys, the Paul Newmans of the world and other incredibly rare stainless-steel Patek Philippe watches.
How would the collecting community react to these newcomers? Well, incredibly enthusiastically, according to the results of the sale. All 88 pieces were sold, for a rare 100% auction, the second time Phillips reaches that magical number, following last year’s Rolex Day-Date. Oh, and Eterna, Cyma and Juvenia? They more than pulled their own weight, with results above the CHF 15K mark.
One wristwatch stole the show though. It was the poster child of the sale, and it did not disappoint in that role. However, it still managed to surprise us. In fact, an audible gasp could be heard in the auction room when a famous collector (one armed with the #1 paddle, appropriately enough) broke the CHF 2 million mark to outbid an online collector for the very rare reference 4113 Split Seconds chronograph (final result: CHF 2,405,000). The last time it was presented in an auction, the watch hammered in at $1,161,436. That was only three years ago.
Another big moment was the sale of Lot 31. Sold for CHF 1,985,000, this stunning “Paul Newman Oyster Sotto” with a homogeneous “Chocolate” brown dial was identified by John Goldberger as one the most desirable watches in Start Stop Reset auction. Someone certainly agreed with him.
If the auction will be remembered for those two exceptional results, it was also defined by the success of the smaller, more affordable lots. The sale confirmed a few things tonight. First, that collectors, seasoned or new to the auction market, are open to watches that do not have the words “Rolex” or “Patek Philippe” on their dials.
Notable examples include the Tiffany & Co. Antimagnetic, which sold for more than double its high estimate (CHF 32,500) and the sublime oversized Universal 22’560 with a Valjoux 55 movement (CHF 197,000). (Note, all results include the commission, or buyer’s premium, charged by Phillips.)
Secondly, we see that a younger generation of collectors continues to make its presence felt. According to several Phillips experts I spoke with tonight, the sale attracted bids from new and younger collectors who were keen to buy their first auction piece (I do not know if these were winning bids though).
There were a few lots that performed under what many expected, though I certainly wouldn’t describe as “disappointing” a lot sold for more than half a million dollars. But the Patek Philippe “Anse a Ragno” had nourished dreams of seeing another seven-figure watch, and it fell well short at CHF677,000.
All in all, however, tonight was a huge success. It would be a lie to say the room was not tense before the start of the
auction. Phillips knew they were taking a pretty big gamble. Perhaps
even an epic gamble. But it paid off – to the tune of CHF 16.5 million.
And so begins another Geneva Auction Week. Tune in tomorrow to find out if the Geneva Watch Auction: Three is just as successful.