The last few days were high auction season in Geneva. Just one day after Phillips’s two-day sale that included the stainless steel Patek Philippe 1518, now the most expensive wristwatch ever sold, Christie’s offered nothing less than 320 watches, and with impressive results. At the end of the day, the Rare Watches sale had netted 14,702,500 CHF (approximately $14,864,227 at time of publishing), selling 88% of the lots. Both the best performing watches and the few unsold lots allow a number of interesting insights into the current state of the vintage market, some very much aligned with the main takeaways from the Phillips auctionÂ too.
Patek Philippe Pocket Watches Still Have Serious Appeal
This Christie’s sale definitely confirmed the strength of vintage Patek Philippe, as eight of the 10 top lots actually all came from the Geneva manufacture. But it was pocket watches in particular that outperformed expectations. One notable performance came fromÂ lot 143, a 1968 pocket watch bearing a reproduction of Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” painting on its case, which realized $312,982. The enameling is by the legendary miniaturist Susanne Rohr, who began working with Patek in 1967. The strongest relative performance actually came from another pocket watch from Patek Philippe,Â lot 207, a full-set chronometer from 1864 which sold for 20x its high estimate as it eventually reached $264,126. These two lots alone made it clear that there is still an enthusiastic market for exceptional pocket watches, from all periods.
The Nautilus Is Still A Fan Favorite
The top performers also included two rare Nautilus watches from the 40-lot thematic sale that Christie’s is hosting across its four auctions this season. The white gold Nautilus 3700G achieved the strongest performance, as it doubled its pre-sale estimate, fetching $374,052. Of the 10 Nautilus models offered as a part of this sale in Geneva, only the yellow gold 3700/1 with “Khanjar” dial failed to reach its reserve, and ended up unclaimed. All in, the nine Nautilus lots brought approximately $1,449,390 â this represents almost 10% of the total sale by revenue, while the nine sold lots are just shy of 3% of the sale by volume.
Uniqueness Still Commands A Premium
The fourth most expensive lot overall (and the most expensive non-Patek lot) was the Audemars Piguet minute repeater reference 3207 in platinum. It went for $386,266 as lot 39, squarely in the middle of the rather wide and high estimate. Given the very small number of minute repeaters ever made by Audemars Piguet, and this watch’s unique features and history, the result isn’t actually all that surprising. Unique, fresh-to-market pieces tend to be more exciting than well-known examples, which was reflected throughout Monday’s results at Christie’s.
The Daytona Market Isn’t Slowing Down Anytime Soon
After Patek Philippe, Rolex was the other king at this auction â note that these two manufacturers alone represented 60% of all lots offered, quite a revealing number for their respective importance at auctions. Among the 70+ Rolex watches offered, the two Paul Newman Daytonas both reached or exceeded their high estimates, demonstrating once again the infatuation collectors have with these exotic dials, in different case metals and pusher/bezel configurations. The yellow gold reference 6241 (with pump pushers and black bezel) reached $300,768, while the stainless steel reference 6239 (with the same pump pushers but a steel bezel) surpassed its high estimate and hammered at $196,950. We keep waiting to see if the market for these special chronographs will slow down, but it seems like we’ll be waiting a little longer.
Heuer And Omega Are No Longer Sleepers
Various Heuer and Omega chronographs, which had been placed together at the beginning of the auction’s line-up, had strong results as well. Most notable was the impressive final bid on a PVD-coated Heuer Autavia reference 113.603, which reached $63,614. Its military provenance obviously contributed here (the correct Israeli Defense Forces number was engraved on its caseback), but it is nonetheless unusual to see chronographs from the 1980s achieve such prices. Less surprising was the $82,699 that an early Omega Speedmaster fetched, as the condition of this reference 2915-3 from 1959 was fairly impressive.
Very Special Modern Watches Can Do Well Too
There was very low representation of modern wristwatches at this sale. Out of the 20 or so modern pre-owned pieces offered, all sold decently well, and even better in the case of a very rare Lange 1 in steelÂ that cameÂ with original box and papers and fetched $143,313. While the market for vintage is generally stronger than for modern pre-owned watches, special pieces still perform well when they’re available. Hopefully Phillips’s upcoming Hong Kong sale will provide some more insight here too.