Ten Watches Worth Knowing About at Phillips’ Hong Kong Watch Auction

Highlights from the November 28 sale.
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After having set several record prices at its recent auctions, with Paul Newman’s Paul Newman that sold for US$17.5m in New York and a prototype Omega tourbillon wristwatch in Geneva, Phillips is holding its last watch auction of the year in Hong Kong.

The first sale led by Thomas Perazzi, the newly minted Head of Watches in the region, The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Five is a compact, 167-lot sale, but one that still offers an impressive diversity.

Amongst the highlights for bona fide watch nerds are a Rolex Beta 21 quartz in white gold, as well as the Breguet perpetuelle pocket watch no. 9, both tremendously historically important. Mainstream vintage watch enthusiasts will be satisfied with the selection of Paul Newmans and vintage Patek Philippe, while those after contemporary haute horlogerie can look forward to a Philippe Dufour Simplicity, Vianney Halter Goldpfeil as well as the rare Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst.

Here’s a hands-on look at highlights from the auction, which takes place on November 28, 2017 at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. The preview exhibition is from November 23 to 27 at the same location. The full catalogue and online bidding is available here.


Lot 807 – Vianney Halter Goldpfeil*

One of the underappreciated gems of modern independent watchmaking, the Vianney Halter Goldpfeil was part of the Seven Masters, a series of watches made by seven notable watchmakers for German leather goods maker Goldpfeil. After Goldpfeil went bust, the watches were mostly forgotten, leaving them known only to those in the know.

Vianney Halter Goldpfeil 1

Of the series, Vianney Halter’s creation was the best and also the expensive, retailing for over US$65,000 at the time, a consequence of the elaborate work on the case and movement. Inspired by a vintage camera, the case is hand decorated with hundreds of tiny dimples created with a hammer, meant to recreate the textured leather wraps on vintage rangefinders.

Vianney Halter Goldpfeil 2

Vianney Halter Goldpfeil 3

The enormous, intricate crown is modelled on a camera’s winding knob, while the case flanks resemble its base. Even the double-flap buckle is based on the loading mechanism for a roll of film.

Vianney Halter Goldpfeil 4

Halter conceived the movement himself, and made most of it in-house. Time is displayed via jump hour in the window at 10 o’clock, with the minutes and seconds just below. The moon phase display at two o’clock is tiny but one of the most accurate in a wristwatch, deviating by a day in 139 years, instead of the 122.5 years of most timepieces.

Vianney Halter Goldpfeil 5

The estimate on this is US$15,000 to US$25,000.


Lot 811 – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 25th Anniversary Tourbillon

This factory fresh Royal Oak tourbillon was made for the 25th anniversary of Gerald Genta’s iconic octagonal design in 1997, which seems almost like a lifetime ago (in fact, its bigger brother the Offshore is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year).

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon 25th ann. 1

Several models were introduced for the occasion, but the tourbillon is arguably the most interesting. Only 46 were made in total, and of those only 25 were in steel, as this is. The case is 40mm in diameter, and devoid of a visible winding crown, which is instead hidden on the case back.

The cal. 2875 inside is based on the first self-winding tourbillon ever produced, which Audemars Piguet unveiled in 1986. Besides the back-wind crown, its other distinguishing feature is the hammer automatic with the rotor in platinum.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon 25th ann. 3

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon 25th ann. 4

The tourbillon cage at six o’clock sits in its very own Royal Oak frame, while the dial is a pleasing salmon.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon 25th ann. 2

Complete with all original packaging as well as the protective stickers applied by the factory, this carries an estimate of US$25,000 to US$50,000.


Lot 848 – Patek Philippe ref. 2499 third series

The Patek Philippe ref. 2499 is a grail watch for many, and often mind-bogglingly expensive. A third series 2499 in pink gold, almost identical to this example save for the metal, sold for over US$2.5m last year. This particular ref. 2499, on the other hand, is relatively affordable, as such things go.

The primary reason for that is the fact that this is a third series model, which is less sought after than the preceding series, because the third (and fourth) series are more plentiful than the first or second, and are also more modern looking.

Patek Philippe 2499 third series yellow gold 1

Patek Philippe 2499 third series yellow gold 2

Nonetheless it is still a ref. 2499, with the same Valjoux-based cal. 13-130 inside the largish 37.5mm case. The case is yellow gold, the most common metal for the watch, but in excellent condition.

Patek Philippe 2499 third series yellow gold 5

All the lugs still retain the characteristic concave fluting along their lengths, while the hallmarks on the case are still crisp. Similarly, while the dial exhibits minor wear, it is well preserved.

Patek Philippe 2499 third series yellow gold 3

Patek Philippe 2499 third series yellow gold 4

The estimate is US$250,000 to US$450,000.


Lot 873 – Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Seconde Incline “Jean-Claude Biver”

Now the boss of the LVMH watch division as well as chief executive of TAG Heuer, Jean-Claude Biver is a watch industry legend while being a tremendous watch collector.

Last year he decided to sell certain portions of his impressive watch collection, including various vintage Patek Philippe and several custom Greubel Forsey tourbillons. Some of those were sold in past Phillips auctions, and this is the latest to hit the market.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 1

It’s a Tourbillon 24 Seconde Incline in white gold, which is self-explanatory: the tourbillon cage sits at an incline and rotates at a speedy 24 seconds per revolution. Intended to better combat the effects of gravity on timekeeping, the inclined, high-speed tourbillon is accommodated by a signature bulge on the side of the case.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 2

Like all of Mr Biver’s other Greubel Forsey timepieces, this has his initials “JCB” on the movement, as well as the date of completion of the watch engraved on the case back. And the watch is practically new – Mr Biver noted during an conversation earlier this year he had never worn any of them – and complete with all its accessories and packaging.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 3

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 4

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 5

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Jean-Claude Biver 6

Already a bargain relative to its retail price, this is enhanced by its provenance. The estimate is US$87,500 to US$150,000.


Lot 874 – A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst

The very first watch from A. Lange & Söhne to have an enamel dial made in-house, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst was introduced in 2014 as part of the eponymous series of elaborated decorated watches (the latest in the Handwerkskunst line was just unveiled two months ago).

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst Phillips 1

The dial is black champlevé enamel: made of a gold base that was relief engraved with the markings and lettering, and then covered with black enamel. Once fired and set, the enamel was then polished down to give it a glossy finish and leave its surface flush with the engraving.

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst Phillips 2

On the back the view is even more extravagant. The movement has an open-worked three-quarter plate to reveal the double barrels and gear train, and also to show off the sharp, inward angles on the bevelled edges, a feat later repeated on the subsequent 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. The cocks and plate are hand-engraved, highlighting them against the grained finish of the German silver three-quarter plate.

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst Phillips 3

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst Phillips 5

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst Phillips 4

Only 20 were made and this is number 10, while also being the first one to be offered at auction. While the first version of the Lange 1 Tourbillon has generally soft resale, the Handwerkskunst iteration will be sough after. The estimate is US$160,000 to US$225,000.


Lot 902 – Rolex Beta 21 ref. 5100 in white gold

The first commercially available quartz movement produced in Switzerland, the Beta 21 was a combined effort by several Swiss brands to conquer the future of watchmaking. With the Beta 21 complex and expensive, the effort failed, and the Swiss were almost obliterated by the Quartz Crisis.

But the Beta 21 watches remain remarkably interesting historical artefacts, being available in various shapes and sizes from a variety of brands. Amongst the most unusual and attractive is the Rolex Beta 21, of which only 1000 were made.

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 1

Most of that number were in yellow gold, white gold models like this one are very much less common. An solid 39mm in diameter and imposingly chunky, the Beta 21 is typical 1970s watch design, from the angular case and integrated bracelet to the hash marks on the dial.

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 4

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 2

And like all Beta 21 watches this has its serial number hand-engraved on the case back, a flourish Rolex stopped practicing not long after.

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 3

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 5

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 6

Rolex Beta 21 white gold 7

While the watch shows minor signs of wear, it is in outstandingly original condition, retaining the edges, form and surface finishes it had when new. It’s estimated at US$44,000 to US$70,000.


Lot 940 – Patek ref. 5950A split-seconds chronograph

One of the more elegant of modern Patek Philippe “grand complications”, the ref. 5950A is a split-seconds chronograph in a stainless steel case.

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 6

It’s decorated with Art Nouveau-inspired flourishes on the dial, back and bezel, while the hands and applied Breguet numerals are legible blackened gold.

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 2

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 1

The cal. CHR 27-525 inside is small, thin and notably beautiful in its construction and finish. It exhibits a level of refinement and intricacy absent on the Patek Philippe’s other, larger split-seconds movement, which is why the ref. 5950A costs almost twice as much.

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 3

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 5

Patek Philippe 5950A Phillips 4

The estimate is US$160,000 to US$225,000.


Lot 942 – Philippe Dufour Simplicity

Strong prices have lured out sellers of the Philippe Dufour Simplicity – the all-time high price was reached almost exactly a year ago while a Duality almost reached a million dollars recently – and this example is the second one in the same auction season (the other is at Christie’s Hong Kong watch auction the day prior).

This is perhaps the most classical of all variations of the Simplicity, being closest to the archetypal 1950s Swiss wristwatch, the inspiration for the Simplicity according to Philippe Dufour.

Dufour Simplicity Phillips HKWA5 5

Dufour Simplicity Phillips HKWA5 4

Dufour Simplicity Phillips HKWA5

The pink gold case is 37mm, the larger of the two sizes offered, while the dial is a bright silver with a guilloche centre.

Dufour Simplicity Phillips HKWA5 2

Dufour Simplicity Phillips HKWA5 3

Numbered 161, this example is from late in the Simplicity’s original production run, having been sold in 2012. It is estimated at US$120,000 to US$180,000.


Lot 966 – Breguet perpetuelle no. 9

If the hand of God can be discerned in genius, then this watch is divine. Completed in 1791, it was produced in the workshops of Breguet while Abraham-Louis Breguet was still in charge, and probably as close as a collector can get to one of the greatest minds in watchmaking – ever.

One of the first ever automatic watches, the perpetuelle was invented by Breguet in 1780, named for the fact that it was self-winding, thanks to a platinum weight that swung back and forth.

Breguet perpetuelle no91

Breguet perpetuelle no93

Featuring an unusual white enamel dial, the perpetuelle no. 9 was one of the earliest made, having been ordered by Denmark’s ambassador to France, Baron de Blome, in 1787 and delivered four years later.

Breguet perpetuelle no92

Like most other perpetuelle watches, this has a power reserve indicator as well as a quarter repeater à toc, where instead of hitting a gong the hammer strikes the inside of the case to sound the time.

The large yellow gold case has an engine-turned back, which is well preserved and shows only minor wear to the guilloche. Similar the enamel dial is in good condition, with several minor cracks.

Breguet perpetuelle no94

Breguet perpetuelle no95

This is accompanied by an archive extract signed by Emmanuel Breguet, and estimated at US$120,000 to US$180,000.


This was brought to you in partnership with Phillips.

*The author has an interest in the lot.

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