Hands-On with Highlights from Phillips “The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three” (Part One)

We take a look at the tops picks from Phillip's upcoming watch auction in Hong Kong.

Phillips’ third Hong Kong watch auction hit the headlines two months ago when the auctioneer revealed not one, but two, Philippe Dufour Simplicity wristwatches in the sale line-up. The rest of the 300-lot sale represents the grand diversity of watch collecting, ranging from avant-garde independent watchmaking to remarkably fine miniature enamel pocket watches, even including an intriguing Greubel Forsey IP1 that’s the property of Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of TAG Heuer,

The sale takes place on November 29 in Hong Kong, just two weeks after Phillips’ Geneva office brings the hammer down on what will likely be the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction.

Here’s the first part of our look at key watches from the sale. Stayed tuned for part two on Friday. The full catalogue is available here.

Lot 1093*: MB&F HM4 “Thunderbolt” – Arguably the most striking timepiece designed by Maximilian Büsser, the eponymous founder of MB&F – short for Mr Büsser and his friends – the Horological Machine No. 4 (HM4) is less a watch than a mechanical sculpture on the wrist.

Phillips HKWA3 MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt 1

Phillips HKWA3 MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt 3

Made entirely of titanium, the HM4 is made up of two conjoined pods, with vertical dials on the end of each. One shows the power reserve and the other, the time. It’s powered by a hand-wound movement constructed to fit the unusual case shape, resulting in a movement that’s shaped like Star Trek‘s “Starship Enterprise”.

Phillips HKWA3 MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt 2

Only 100 of the HM4 were made, with this specimen being one of the first produced, numbered “18”. Past examples of the HM4 had sold for handsome sums at past auctions, including a handful that exceeded the original retail price, like the one-off yellow gold HM4 that went for just under US$250,000 at Sotheby’s last year.

The estimate on this HK$800,000 to HK$1.6m, or US$100,000 to US$200,000, and it’s accompanied by an offer of a free service and one-year guarantee from MB&F.

Lot 1094: Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1 in platinum – Visually arresting and perhaps the most interesting watch Greubel Forsey has made, the Invention Piece 1 (IP1) was the first in the series of exotic tourbillon watches with avant-garde styling. It’s essentially a variant of the Double Tourbillion 30°, the first tourbillon introduced by Greubel Forsey that features a double axis tourbillon inclined at a 30 degree angle.

Phillips HKWA3 Greubel Forsey IP1 platinum JCB 1

Phillips HKWA3 Greubel Forsey IP1 platinum JCB 2

Phillips HKWA3 Greubel Forsey IP1 platinum JCB 3

Practically unworn and wonderfully impressive to behold, this IP1 is one of 11 produced in platinum (a further 11 each were made in white and pink gold),but what makes it exceptionally unusual are a handful of significant details unmentioned in the catalogue.

The production date of August 28, 2009 is engraved on the case back, as are a pair of illegible characters that might be initials.

Phillips HKWA3 Greubel Forsey IP1 platinum JCB 5

The relief micro-writing that is found on many Greubel Forsey timepieces

Most significant of all is “J-C B” on the dial, just under the power reserve, where the serial number is usually engraved. They stand for Jean-Claude Biver, the head of LVMH’s watch division and chief executive of TAG Heuer, a fact confirmed by the great man himself.

Known as an eminent collector of vintage Patek Philippe watches, Mr Biver has professed his admiration for Greubel Forsey in the past, and owns several of them.

Phillips HKWA3 Greubel Forsey IP1 platinum JCB 4

A relatively soft market for Greubel Forsey’s watches of late means this IP1 is, relatively speaking, well priced compared to what it cost in the past. The estimate is HK$1.6m to HK$2.4m, which is US$200,000 to US$300,000.

Lot 1104: Patek Philippe enamelled pocket watch decorated with Egyptian deity – A strikingly decorated timepiece that is possible unique, this pocket watch was produced in 1900 but sold in 1922 – the very year King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Egypt pocket watch 1

A craze for all things Egyptian dominated the 1920s following “King Tut”. This pocket watch is quintessential of that era, with the back featuring Egyptian god Geb, often depicted with a goose. Usually associated with vegetation and agriculture, Geb is shown here oxen, plants and farmers.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Egypt pocket watch 3

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Egypt pocket watch 5

The design is executed in cloisonné enamel, with gold wires framing the elements, on a background of rich and translucent blue flinque enamel. The blue enamelling continues on the bezel around the dial, which is white enamel with remarkable striking blued numerals and markings. Astoundingly well kept for something over a century old, the enamelling and dial are free of cracks and imperfections.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Egypt pocket watch 4

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Egypt pocket watch 2

The estimate is HK$500,000 to HK$1m, or US$65,000 to US$130,000.

Lot 1105: Patek Philippe ref. 530 pocket watch with miniature enamel by G. Menni – One of the leading contemporary enamel artists, G. Menni was active for two decades starting in the early 1980s. Considered one of the leading miniature enamelists of Geneva, Menni was responsible for some of the most notable enamelled Patek Philippe pocket watches of the period.

This particular pocket watch was produced in 1986 and reproduces in miniature enamel a portrait by French painter Jean-Antoine Gros. Now hanging in Moscow’s Pushkin Museum, the painting was completed in 1809 and depicts Prince Boris Yusupov, the young son of a Russian nobleman at the court of Catherine the Great.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Prince Yusupov by G Menni 1

One of the leading families in Imperial Russia, the Yusupovs were descended from Tatar conquerors, a heritage revealed in Prince Boris’ outfit. The exotic attire, notably the sabre, bow, arrow and boots, are Tatar in style.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Prince Yusupov by G Menni 2

Complete with all the original boxes and papers, this pocket watch is like-new and estimated at HK$800,000 to HK$1.5m, or US$100,000 to US$200,000.

Lot 1106: Patek Philippe ref. 865/103J pocket watch with miniature enamel by Suzanne Rohr – Perhaps the greatest miniature enamel artist today, Suzanne Rohr’s works are now synonymous with Patek Philippe, having worked exclusively for the Geneva watchmaker for several years now.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Suzanne Rohr pocket watch 1

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe enamel Suzanne Rohr pocket watch 2

Rohr painted completed this watch in 1988, reproducing Fire in the Steppe, an early 20th century watercolour by German artist Alfred Roloff. Vibrant with motion and energy, the painting depicts several wild horses galloping across the steppe. Typical of her work, Rohr signed the miniature enamel on the left bottom edge, while putting Roloff’s signature on the opposite edge.

The estimate on this pocket watch is HK$1.2m to HK$2.0m, equivalent to US$150,000 to US$250,000.

Lot 1131: Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 fourth series in yellow gold – This is a crisply preserved example of the Patek Philippe’s most sought after perpetual calendar-chronograph, large due to its rarity and largish, 38mm size.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 2499 fourth series 3

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 2499 fourth series 1

Produced in 1982, this example is accompanied by its original certificate. The fourth series, which was the last of the model, is distinguished from the third series by its sapphire crystal.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 2499 fourth series 4

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 2499 fourth series 2

This carries an estimate of HK$3.2m to HK$6.0m, equivalent to US$400,000 to US$800,000.

Lot 1128: Patek Philippe ref. 1526 perpetual calendar in pink gold – One of the earliest Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches, the ref. 1526 was introduced in 1945 and is typical of watches of that era. Just 34mm in diameter, the ref. 1526 shows the calendar indications in two, along with a pointer for the date.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 1526 perpetual calendar pink gold 4

Most examples of the ref. 1526 are in yellow gold; this particular specimen is one of the rare ones in pink gold. Produced in 1951, this pink gold ref. 1526 is in excellent condition, having been well preserved over the years, with the case showing a great deal of original detail.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 1526 perpetual calendar pink gold 1

The watch reveals much of the fine detail typical of high-end watches of the period, including the blue enamelled moon phase disc and champleve enamel text on the dial. And the hands are hand-made, evidenced by their thickness and rounded profile.

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 1526 perpetual calendar pink gold 3

Phillips HKWA3 Patek Philippe 1526 perpetual calendar pink gold 2

The estimate is HK$800,000 to HK$1.6m, or US$100,000 to US$200,000.

Sale details

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three takes place on November 29, 2016, at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. The public preview of the auction starts on November 24 and ends on the day before the sale.

Additionally, highlights from the sale will tour Asia in the weeks leading up to the sale.

November 5 to 6 – Singapore
November 8 to 9 – Shanghai
November 10 to 13 – Geneva
November 19 to 20 – Taipei

The full catalogue can be seen here.

This was brought to you by Phillips.

*The author of this article has an interest in lots marked with an asterisk.

Addition November 5, 2016: Link to catalogue added.
Update November 8, 2016: Included note on Jean-Claude Biver being the owner of the Greubel Forsey IP1.

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