Independent Watchmaking Highlights at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Auction

From Christopher Claret to R.W. Smith.
Sothebys Hong Kong auction spring 2018

Sotheby’s upcoming Hong Kong watch auction that takes place on April 2 has a strong line-up of timepieces by independent watchmakers, being typical of auctions in the city where high-end modern watchmaking is desirable.

The catalogue includes the first ever F.P. Journe Vagabondage III to hit the auction market, and also a Roger W. Smith with a one of a kind dial. Here’s a look at some of the highlights at Sotheby’s, which just got its own watch department Instagram account.


Lot 2670 – Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 

It was a big deal back in 1989 when Ulysse Nardin introduced its first minute repeater with automaton, the San Marco jacquemart, which was also the first of its kind on the market.

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 1

Ulysse Nardin relied on Christophe Claret for the movement, allowing Claret to establish himself as a pioneering complications specialist. Though Claret has now evolved into its own brand, it still supplies movements to Ulysse Nardin.

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 2

That’s exactly the case for the Genghis Khan minute repeater, which was a limited edition of 30 in platinum with an aventurine dial. It’s a Westminster chime minute repeater with four sets of hammers and gongs, as well as a tourbillon regulator, and automatons on the dial.

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 4

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 5

When the repeater is activated, the Mongolian warrior figures on the dial move to the striking of the chimes.

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 6

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 7

Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan minute repeater 3

It is a lot of watch for the money, literally. The case is 42mm and correspondingly heavy.

With an original retail price of US$700,000 or so, this is a relative bargain. The Genghis Khan has an estimate of  HK$1.2m to HK$1.8m, or US$154,000 to US$231,000.


Lot 2854 – Roger W. Smith Series 2

This particular Series 2 is in white gold, with a dial that is “possibly unique”. While the stock Series 2 dial is heavily reminiscent of an 19th century English pocket watch – think silvered chapter ring with engraved Roman numerals – this example has a distinctly more modern look.

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 1

The Roman numerals are applied, and made of blued steel naturally, onto a dial is entirely engine-turned with a crosshatch motif. Not only does it look more contemporary, it also leaves the watch feeling slightly larger, though the case is the standard 40mm.

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 2

While similar examples of the Series 2 are known, not are exactly similar, differing either in case metal or guilloche pattern.

The hands remain Smith’s signature spade shape, beautifully shaped and made of blued steel.

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 3

The movement is also a higher-spec version of the Series 2 calibre, having an engraved barrel bridge and balance cock. The most straightforward versions of the movement have a frosted finish instead.

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 4

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 6

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 10

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 7

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 8

“MMXV” on the base plate indicates this is a 2015 watch

Peering deep into the movement reveals the lubrication-free Co-Axial escapement invented by Mr Smith’s late mentor George Daniels, and later further improved.

Roger Smith Series 2 white gold custom 9

The Series 2 has an estimate of HK$1.0m to HK$2.0m, or US$128,000 to US$256,000. That’s in the same ballpark as the official retail price, but with a two year or so waiting list, the Series 2 typically sells at or above retail on the secondary market.


Lot 2857 – MB&F LM1 Alain Silberstein

This is the most recent collaboration between MB&F, arguably the most successful avant-garde independent watchmaker of today, and Alain Silberstein, who had the same title in the 1990s.

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 1

It’s based on the MB&F LM1, but face-lifted by Mr Silberstein, giving it his signature quirky style that emphasises geometric shapes and bright colours.

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 2

Amongst the most notable features are the wide sapphire balance bridge, as well as the vertical power reserve.

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 4

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 3

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 7

The back view is more classical, with the movement having been styled by Kari Voutilainen and constructed by Jean-Francois Mojon of Chronode, both of whom have signed the centre wheel bridge. The flowing shapes of the bridges are meant to evoke 19th century pocket watch movements, since the Legacy Machine series was Max Büsser tribute to historical watchmaking.

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 5

MBF LM2 Silberstein red gold 6

Made in three editions of 12 watches each, the LM 1 Alain Silberstein has long been sold out, so this should be a strong performer. And it will be helped by the fact that like all MB&F watches sold at past auctions, the watch will be serviced for free by MB&F post-sale.

The estimate is HK$550,000 to HK$700,000, or US$70,500 to US$89,500.


Lot 2881 – F.P. Journe Resonance Black Label

Sold only at the ten F.P. Journe boutiques to existing owners of the brand’s watches, Black Label timepieces are limited to 10 pieces per boutique each year. Consequently, despite not being a limited edition, the Black Label Resonance is fairly uncommon.

FP Journe Resonance RT black label 4

More unusual is the fact that this is a Resonance “RT”, a second generation model with an asymmetric dial. Despite the leftmost sub-dial being almost impossible to read at a glance, it makes the watch visually interesting.

FP Journe Resonance RT black label 1

And Mr Journe has hinted on several occasions the Resonance is due to a revamp, which will make the “RT” versions relatively uncommon versus the earlier symmetrical dial models.

FP Journe Resonance RT black label 2

FP Journe Resonance RT black label 3

The Resonance has an estimate of HK$500,000 to HK$800,000, or US$64,000 to US$103,000.


Lot 2882 – Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb

By no means the creation of an independent watchmaker, the Academy Christophe Colomb nevertheless is unusual enough to bend the rules.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 1

Originally introduced in unadorned form in 2013, the Christophe Colomb combines both a chain and fusee constant force mechanism as well as a gyroscopic escapement. The gimballed escapement means the balance wheel is always flat and parallel to the ground, eliminating gravitational errors.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 2

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 7

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 6

Technical specifics aside, the Christophe Colomb was later decorated with Spanish conquistadors, Latin American revolutionaries, and this version that depicts natives and conquerors.

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 3

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 4

Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb Sothebys 5

While the political correctness of the watch might be lacking, in detail it is not. The decoration on the back is done in engraved relief that is then painted by hand.

Its original retail was approximately US$300,000. This is estimated at HK$600,000 to HK$900,000, or US$77,000 to US$116,000.


Lot 2887 – F.P. Journe Vagabondage II

The last two lots are a matched set of the F.P. Journe Vagabondage II and III, both in platinum and numbered “41/69”. While the Vagabondage is a trio, the latter two are arguably the true siblings, being almost the same size.

FP Journe Vagabondage II Sothebys 1

The Vagabondage II has jumping digital hours and minutes, with a symmetrical time display, albeit on an asymmetric dial bridge.

FP Journe Vagabondage II Sothebys 2

FP Journe Vagabondage II Sothebys 3

FP Journe Vagabondage II Sothebys 4

This has an estimate of HK$240,000 to HK$400,000, or US$30,700 to US$51,500.


Lot 2888 – F.P. Journe Vagabondage III

Announced only in January 2017 and delivered towards the end of last year, the Vagabondage III is a surprise lot in the sale. Practically unworn, this example is the first Vagabondage III to go on the block.

FP Journe Vagabondage 3 Sothebys 1

The “V III” is the most complicated of the Vagabondage trio, having digital jumping hours and seconds. The digital seconds, shown in two windows at six o’clock, are a first in the industry.

FP Journe Vagabondage 3 Sothebys 2

Because of the energy needed to turn the jumping seconds discs every second, the V III also has a remontoir d’egalite, a blade spring that is tensioned and released every second, providing the energy to turn the seconds discs without affecting the amplitude of the balance (and consequently timekeeping).

FP Journe Vagabondage 3 Sothebys 3

FP Journe Vagabondage 3 Sothebys 4

The Vagabondage III is estimated at HK$320,000 to HK$480,000, or US$40,900 to US$61,500.


Sale and exhibition information

All the lots will then be on show in Hong Kong from March 29 to April 1 at the New Wing of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai, Hong Kong.

Sotheby’s Important Watches Hong Kong auction takes place on April 2, 2018 in the same location. The full catalogue, along with online bidding, is available here.


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