Sun, Jun 21, 2015

Art & Auctions
Vintage watch sale fetches $12.5m

Timepieces spanning from 1760 to 2015 brought Sotheby’s its highest ever total for a various-owner watch sale of in New York, achieving $12.5 million (sale estimate $6.5-10 million) with a very strong 88.8 per cent of lots sold.

The centrepiece of the Important Watches auction held earlier this month was a magnificent private collection of 22 Swiss enamelled automata that achieved $6.1 million (collection estimate $2.3 million to 3.6 million). 

The collection offered the finest 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: “The 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, said: “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.”

Among the Swiss enamelled automata, a ‘Singing Bird Scent Flask’, made for the Chinese market and attributed to Jaquet-Droz & Leschot (Geneva, circa 1785) sold for $2.53 million, well over its estimate of $800,000-1.2 million.

The result set an auction record for any timepiece by Jaquet-Droz.

The flask was purchased by famed Swiss collector Maurice Sandoz in 1942 from the New York dealer, A La Vieille Russie, for $2,997, and entered its most recent collection in 1957. The automaton features an articulated ivory bird measuring just 12 mm tall which is accompanied by a highly intricate,miniature organ to replicate the bird’s song. The superbly decorated and constructed scent flask is covered in enamel and jewels, centered by a recessed medallion with a magnificent scene that showcases varicolored gold sculpture representing a branch with leaves with the singing bird automaton perched atop.

Among vintage watches, a 1951 Patek Philippe Pink Gold Ref 605 ‘Heures Universelles’ with an enamel dial and carrying an estimate of $200,000-400,000 sold for $982,000 setting an auction record for a world time pocket watch by the manufacturer.

Connoisseurs of vintage Patek Philippe watches seek complicated and scarce models, prizing cloisonné enamel dials above nearly every other variation, and the present example ticks every box for a discriminating buyer. 

A similar example with serial numbers differing in only one digit (mvt 931073 case 683466) belongs to the Patek Philippe Museum Collection -- in fact, the two examples differ only in that the cities in the museum's example are listed in French, whereas the present example lists the cities in English. With its unbroken provenance, stunning condition and the sheer rarity of such an example, the present piece is a true trophy, says Sotheby’s.

Among modern watches, Richard Mille’s 2013 ‘Yohan Blake’, which carried an estimate of $200,200-300,000, sold for $478,000.

Named after the famous Jamaican sprinter, the RM59-01 is a fascinating case study as presented the unique challenge to create an exceptionally aerodynamic piece of absolute lightness and ruggedness to withstand the challenges of the track and not interfere with its wearer's speed. 

To that end, Richard Mille incorporated nearly weightless carbon nanotubes into the case, which absorb shock.

Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). 

Today, Sotheby’s presents auctions in nine different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris, and Sotheby’s BidNow program allows visitors to view all auctions live online and place bids from anywhere in the world.

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