Hands-On with Modern Watch Highlights from Christie’s Hong Kong Auction

Taking place at the end of November.

With over 300 lots in the catalogue, the upcoming Christie’s Important Watches & An Evening of Vintage Watches is typical of auctions in Hong Kong, being a fairly even blend of modern and vintage watches, as well as jewelled timepieces.

The contemporary watchmaking on offer is headlined by the usual Patek Philippe grand complications – carrying realistic estimates that offer significant savings over retail – as well as esoteric and unusual timepieces, including an early Franck Muller grand complication from a period where the man was still regarded as an independent watchmaker.

We take a look at eight picks from the sale (and watch out for the vintage highlights next week).

Lot 2299 – Glashütte Original Julius Assmann 3

Made by Glashütte Original and named after one of the founders of Glashütte watchmaking, the Julius Assmann 3 is a convertible wristwatch – the watch head can be transformed into a small pocket watch by unclipping it from the case frame.

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 6

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 1

The movement is a hand-wound, in-house calibre with a flying tourbillon constructed in typical Glashütte style. Finished and decorated in an elaborate manner, the movement is skeletonised and engraved, while possessing the hallmarks of Glashütte watchmaking, including jewels in gold chatons and blued steel screws.

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 3

The movement is, in fact, notably well finished, to a degree that’s significantly higher than current Glashütte Original watches, though today’s offerings are notably more affordable. The tourbillon cage, for instance, is fine and slender, while many of the steel parts inside the movement are black polished.

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 2

Unusually for a watch of the period – it was launched in 2003 – the case is a largish 40mm and hefty.

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 4

Glashutte Julius Assman 3 tourbillon 5

The Julius Assmann 3 was a limited edition of 25 watches, and is estimated at US$24,000 to US$39,000, which is probably as low as a skeleton tourbillon wristwatch can go, making it a strong value buy.

Lot 2311 – Franck Muller grand complication

Boasting five complications – minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar, equation of time and split-seconds chronograph – this early Franck Muller is a literally a lot of watch for the money.

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 2

The case is platinum, 42mm and weighty, done in the “Empire” style often used by Franck Muller for his early round watches. That means Breguet-inspired, with fluted sides and straight lugs tops with large screws, while the back is hand-engraved in large letters.

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 1

Obviously elaborately and expensively made, the dial is matched in style, decorated with engine-turning and matched with Breguet hands. More unusual are the Roman hour numerals, which are applied blued steel, rather than printed as is typical for such dials.

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 3

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 4

The movement is visually impressive, though recognisable as a contemporary Christophe Claret calibre, rather than a vintage ebauche from the likes of LeCoultre or Piguet that Franck Muller also used at the time.

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 5

Franck Muller 7002 grand complication 6

Notably, though it is not described in the catalogue, the tourbillon appears to have a constant force mechanism.

The estimate is US$110,000 to US$150,000.

Lot 2313 – Philippe Dufour Simplicity 37mm

Not a lot needs to be said about the Philippe Dufour Simplicity, which has come up for sale at auction on several occasions in the last year, thanks to the strong demand and values for the watch.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 1

It’s simple on the front and lustrous on the back.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 3

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 4

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 5

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 6

This example is a 37mm model in pink gold, but with an unusual grey dial that is rare though not unique. It’s numbered 171 and was originally sold in 2009.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity Sothebys Nov 2017 2

The estimate is US$130,000 to US$230,000.

Lot 2352 – Cartier Rotonde Mysterious Double Tourbillon

One of the creative movements devised by the inventive Carole Forestier, the chief watch developer at Cartier, the name of the watch explains what it does: the tourbillon moves on two axes, one co-axial with the balance wheel and the other around the aperture at six o’clock.

Cartier double mysterious tourbillon sothebys 1

Cartier double mysterious tourbillon sothebys 2

Cartier double mysterious tourbillon sothebys 4

Inspired by the mystery clocks devised by French watchmaker Maurice Couet for Cartier in the 1920s, the tourbillon is mysterious because it appears to be floating in space, with no apparent mechanical connection to the movement. The secret lies on the toothed edge of the sapphire disc on which the tourbillon sits, which is hidden by the dial.

Cartier double mysterious tourbillon sothebys 3

Cartier double mysterious tourbillon sothebys 5

The white gold case is slim, but a large 45mm in diameter.

As is often the case with such watches, the Cartier is like new and has all its packaging and accessories. The estimate is US$78,000 to US$100,000.

Lot 2419 – Harry Winston Opus 2 by Antoine Preziuso

One of the least known watches in the series, the Opus 2 was made by Antoine Preziuso, coming after F.P. Journe’s creation and before the incessantly postponed Vianney Halter.

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 1

There were two versions of the Opus 2, and this is the more complicated, having a tourbillon as well as double retrograde perpetual calendar on the back, and as it happens, an impressive 100-hour power reserve on a single barrel.

Though Antoine Preziuso conceived and completed the watch, the base movement is a Christophe Claret, with the shape of the tourbillon cage being a giveaway (explaining why it’s almost identical to that in the Franck Muller above).

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 2

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 4

The front of the watch is elaborately engraved with a motif modelled on the wrought ironwork over the entrance to the original Harry Winston store in New York. A particularly impressive detail is the steel tourbillon bridge that has rounded arms and sharp corners on each end.

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 3

And a hinged back shows only the day and date, revealing the month only when lifted.

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 5

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 7

Harry Winston Opus 2 Preziuso 6

Compact at 38mm in diameter, the watch is like new and complete with all packaging. The estimate is US$71,000 to US$100,000.

Lot 2422 – Richard Mille RM 11 Marcus edition

Richard Mille was one of several watchmakers to produce limited editions for Marcus, a high-end watch store in London that recently closed its flagship Bond Street premises pending a move in 2018.

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 1

All of the Marcus editions were characterised by bright red accents, and so it is with the RM011, one of a limited edition of five from 2013. While there have been innumerable versions of the RM 11, the Marcus edition has a striking look that’s hard to miss.

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 2

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 3

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 4

Though the brushed finish on the gold case is relatively delicate, this watch has been maintained in crisp condition.

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 5

Richard Mille RM011 Marcus London 6

Because Richard Mille is arguably the hottest watch brand in the world now, the estimate tacks close to the original retail, at US$110,000 to US$150,000.

Lot 2485 – Patek Philippe ref. 5074P grand complication

One of the most complicated watches Patek Philippe produces, the ref. 5074P is a cathedral gong minute repeater with perpetual calendar. This 2012 specimen is in platinum with a black dial.

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 1

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 3

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 2

The case is 42mm, with a wide, polished bezel, giving this more wrist presence than the average classically styled Patek Philippe grand complication.

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 4

The movement is notably complex for such a complicated calibre, characterised by an engine-turned micro-rotor that’s artfully position just over the balance wheel.

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 5

Patek Philippe 5074P Sothebys 6

Because it is only accompanied by an archive extract, coupled with the soft market for top of the line Patek Philippe complications, the ref. 5074P has a lower than usual estimate of US$340,000 to US$510,000.

Lot 2486 – Patek Philippe ref. 5207P grand complication

Even grander than the “grand comp” above is the ref. 5207P, which is an instantaneous perpetual calendar, tourbillon and minute repeater. The platinum case is a largish 41mm, and decorated with relief engraving on its flanks.

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 1

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 2

The best view, however, is from the back. The RTO 27 PS QI is a relatively small movement, but delicately decorated. The solid gold “octopus” wheel in the centre is a masterpiece of finishing.

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 3

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 6

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 4

Patek Philippe 5207P Sothebys 5

The ref. 5207P is complete with packaging and paperwork, and is estimated at US$490,000 to US$620,000, significantly less than its retail price of almost US$900,000.

Preview and auction

The full e-catalogue is available online.

The preview exhibition takes place from November 24 to 26 at the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The auction happens at the same venue on November 27, starting at 1pm.

This was brought to you by Christie’s.

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Interview: Keeping it Affordable and Functional at Germany’s Biggest Watchmaker

Junghans' CEO explains how he got the Black Forest watch brand ticking again.

Once the world’s third largest maker of wristwatches, Junghans was almost taken down when its parent company went bust in 2008. The watchmaker best known for its Max Bill timepieces was then acquired by a German businessman who installed Matthias Stotz as chief executive, with a mandate to restore the brand’s lustre.

Located in Schramberg, a town in the Black Forest, Germany’s traditional centre for clockmaking, Junghans has always been a maker of functional timepieces, leaning heavily on the latest technology of the day, starting with mechanical watches and evolving into quartz, radio-controlled and solar-powered movements. In fact, Junghans was responsible for the first German-made quartz watch, the Astro-Quartz, in 1970.

That helped turned Junghans into a mighty industrial giant – at the turn of the 20th century, the firm was the largest clockmaker in the world, producing over three million clocks a year. And in the mid 20th century, Junghans was surpassed only by Omega and Rolex in production of chronometer wristwatches, thanks to a workforce of some 3000 people making 9000 watches a day.

The 21st century was less kind to Junghans, having been acquired by Hong Kong-based luxury group EganaGoldpfeil, which then filed for insolvency in 2008 amidst allegations of financial impropriety. Into the breach stepped Dr Hans-Jochem Steim, a German industrialist whose great-grandfather founded a spring and wire maker that got its start making watch mainsprings – making the Steim family’s acquisition of Junghans a return to its roots.

Matthias Stotz, and the Max Bill 2017 set made up of the table clock and watch

Having been in charge for a decade, Matthias Stotz has put Junghans back on the map as a maker of affordable, practical watches, with annual production averaging 60,000 timepieces a year. Stotz was in Singapore last month to inaugurate Junghan’s partnership with retailer Watches of Switzerland and we got a chance to speak with him. Here he explains how he got Junghans back on track, and what the future holds for the brand.

The interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

On the turning point from bust to boom

It’s been 10 years since I joined Junghans. When I started, it still belonged to EganaGoldpfeil, which went bust at the end of 2008. It was a hard time, and there was the Lehman Brothers crisis, but it was a very good time to reestablish the brand.

I focused much more on traditional design and heritage. The Max Bill watches were already successful then. In 2006 and 2007, we made the decision to focus on wristwatches instead of clocks, and we developed sophisticated mechanical movements in homage to founder Erhard Junghans.

But the turning point came when we introduced the Meister Chronoscope and Meister Chronometer, because it was only then that the DNA of the brand – traditional watchmaking at affordable prices – was truly reestablished.

It was important for me to consider our heritage and values. You can’t ignore or change the DNA because a historical brand does not only belong to you. You can move a big brand, but you have to move gently.

The Meister Pilot with a DLC-coated case, based on the J88 chronograph made for the German army in the 1950s

What is Junghans?

Max Bill and Meister – these are the pillars of the brand.

Max Bill attracts a very young audience — people in their twenties who identify themselves with the arts, like architects, photographers and designers. They love it. It’s a design icon and already 60 years old. Max Bill was an artist, an architect, but many people only know of Max because we make beautiful Junghans watches. But I guess that’s a good problem to have.

The Meister attracts a slightly older crowd, people with an interest in traditional watchmaking, so they have more decoration, more hour indices, additional volume to the case. The Meister have open casebacks, but the Max Bill don’t because people buy them for the design. The vintage remakes are so important, not just for Junghans but the industry at large, so we can educate the younger generation.

The Junghans Meister Telemeter Chronograph, Driver and Pilot

And we also have a variety of technology, which not many brands offer. We have mechanical, quartz, solar, radio-controlled, and they’re all part of our heritage. We’re also using different case materials such as ceramic and titanium.

Today half of our watches are mechanical, but the quartz watches have the same strong design; they sometimes serve as the first entry point into the brand, where customers can learn about our other watches later on.

Affordable but mechanical, or the latest in high-tech timekeeping

I’m a fourth generation watchmaker, so I really like developing new designs and movements. We are focusing on our brand DNA and we still keep our tradition of radio-controlled movements. It’s much better to have a good design and perfect movement from Switzerland than to be expensive and having to disappear eventually.

We have created some in-house movements, found in the Erhard Junghans limited edition. It was very expensive and limited to just 12 pieces. But the core values of the brand are to offer great design, classic and affordable watches.

In the past it was important for many, many brands to produce mechanical movements in-house. But the result was that their prices had to skyrocket and they couldn’t survive. Today in the market you can see that some brands no longer exist or they have to go back to outsourcing.

Junghans was always an affordable brand, and in the past we had enough volume to create our own mechanical movements. But today we only make 60,000 watches a year, so we are too small to price it reasonably if we were to bring movement production back in-house.  And besides, there are really good Swiss movements in the market that we can buy.

The Junghans Mega 1

What we do, however, is produce our radio-controlled movements in-house, doing the full R&D. We do all the programming, PCP, assembly in-house. So we are able to make our own movements, but mechanical — at least not today.

They are a big part of our heritage. Junghans was the inventor of radio-controlled table clocks in 1985, and then radio-controlled watches in 1990. It’s a nice story because German industrial designer, Hartmut Esslinger, was the designer of the Junghans Mega 1, the first radio-controlled wristwatch in the world.

In the first year, we produced 800,000 of the Mega 1. Today, we are still producing the antenna, strap, and spare parts for the Mega 1 because there are so many collectors who still keep their watches running. Next year we’re doing something very special for radio-controlled movements. We have a new generation of movements coming up.


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Prototype Omega Tourbillon Wristwatch Sells For US$1.4m

Making it the most expensive Omega watch ever.

The Geneva auction weekend of big results started with a US$6m Patek Philippe and million-dollar F.P. Journe, but perhaps the most notable result is a modest looking Omega.

Historically important and awesomely cool – to know why, read this – the prototype Omega wristwatch tourbillon made in 1947 just hammered for SFr1.18m, or SFr1.43m all fees included.

Equivalent to US$1.4m, the result exceeds by a huge margin any other sale price for an Omega, whether terrestrial or celestial.

Omega tourbillon wristwatch 1947 phillips 8

The action for the watch powered by the cal. 30I was driven entirely by three phone bidders – save for a room bidder who bid SFr1.0m three-quarters of the way to a million, rapidly upping the stakes.

The English-speaking phone bidders were represented by Justine Sechaud, Livia Russo and Tiffany To, all of Phillips’ Geneva office. According to our sources, none of the bidders was an institution that would be expected to buy this.

Eventually it was down to Sechaud’s and To’s clients, both insistently inching up the prices in increments of SFr10,000 and SFr20,000. At SFr1.15m To’s bidder dropped out, leaving Sechaud’s buyer with the prize for a hammer of SFr1.18m.



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