Contemporary Complications and ‘Métiers d’Art’ at Sotheby’s Hong KongThe watch auction on October 2, 2018.
Sotheby’s expansive Hong Kong watch auction takes place in just under two weeks, and typical of sales in the city is replete with high-end modern timepieces from the big names, including an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak skeleton tourbillon and Lange Handwerkskunst – and also the one-off Rolex Daytona “Zenith” in platinum.
But beyond complications the line-up also includes what would be labelled metiers d’art watches, the sort featuring artisanal decoration, including a delicate, miniature enamel Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, as well as a one-off Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts pocket watch.
Here’s a look at a handful of picks from the assortment in the sale (we covered the highlights from independent watchmakers last week). The full catalogue can be seen here.
Lot 2117 – Patek Philippe ref. 5959P rattrapante
The Patek Philippe ref. 5959P is almost tiny, just 33mm in diameter. For that reason it’s never been particularly popular, despite the gorgeous CHR 27-525 PS movement inside. Consequently, relative to what equivalent models now cost, the ref. 5959P represents as good value as a six-figure watch can.
Launched in 2005, the ref. 5959P was modelled on a 1923 wristwatch, which Sotheby’s sold for almost US$3m in 2014. The ref. 5959 is almost a dead ringer for the vintage model, right down to the unusual 60-minute counter and even the construction of the movement, which was a Victoria Piguet ebauche in the original.
It’s a single button split-seconds chronograph, with one button for start, stop and reset, and another for the split timing.
The calibre is the second-thinnest split-seconds on the market (after the Vacheron Constantin cal. 3500), but it is surely the most compact, with all the mechanical magnificence inside squeezed into a diameter of 27.3mm and thickness of 5.25mm.
The dial is lacquered white, with black Breguet numerals and spade-style hands. The ref. 5959 has since been discontinued and replaced by the larger ref. 5950.
This example has all the original boxes and papers, which are dated 2011, and is estimated at HK$1.8m to HK$2.4m, or US$230,000 to US$306,000.
Lot 2211 – Patek Philippe Chiming Jump Hour “175th Anniversary” ref. 5275P
Part of the 175th anniversary commemorative collection, the ref. 5275P is one of the most unusual watches Patek Philippe has made in recent years. In fact, it was arguably the most interesting watch in the 175th anniversary collection because of its intriguing complications.
Most notably, it has a triple jumping time display. The hours are shown on a jumping disc, the minute hand ticks forward in one-minute steps (even when setting the watch), and the seconds is a deadbeat seconds. And it also strikes a single chime at the top of every hour, simultaneous with the hour disc jump; the chiming function can be turned off via a slide on the left side of the case.
It’s powered by the cal. 32-650 HGS PS, a movement produced in a one-off run just for this model. Not only are its complications unusual, so is the material used for the jumping seconds mechanism. The lever and wheel are made of Silinvar, which is silicon with an oxide outer layer to protect it from ambient temperature changes. It’s was the first, and so far only, instance Patek Philippe used silicon for anything but the escapement.
Unfortunately the movement is hidden behind a solid case back, though there is also much to admire on the case and dial. All outside surfaces of the case are covered in ornate hand engraving, as are the silvered, solid gold dial and even the folding clasp.
The case is made of platinum, and a sizeable 39.8mm wide and 47.4mm, giving it significant presence on the wrist.
This was limited to just 175 pieces, and is accompanied here by its original packaging and documentation. The estimate is HK$2.8m to HK$4.8m, or US$357,000 to US$615,000. The low estimate is approximately the original retail price, which means with fees the watch will sell for above retail, which is typical for something like this.
Lot 2230 – Lange 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar
A. Lange & Söhne is highly regarded for its spectacular chronograph movements, most obviously with the Datograph and more recently with the Triple Split. The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar tends to go under the radar (though last year’s Handwerkskunst edition gave it a boost), despite being a highly complex watch with a chronograph construction inspired by the Tourbograph. And for that reason, it’s compelling from a value perspective.
This is the platinum version of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar, featuring blued steel hands, a rare feature on complication Lange watches. And like all 1815 models the dial layout is traditional, drawing heavily on vintage pocket watches.
Inside is the cal. L101.1, a surprisingly slim movement despite the perpetual calendar and split-seconds chronograph, allowing the case to be just under 15mm high. That’s in part due to the wider and flatter chronograph levers, an idea first utilising in the Tourbograph.
The watch is complete with original boxes and papers, and has an estimate of HK$600,000 to HK$1m, or US$76,500 to US$128,000.
Lot 2233 – Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst
Introduced in 2013 as a tiny run of just 15 pieces – this is numbered “10/15” – the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst was the second in the Handwerkskunst series. It’s essentially a heavily decorated version of the most complication Lange 1, which combines a smartly constructed perpetual calendar mechanism that manages to retain the classic styling of the Lange 1, as well as a tourbillon only partially visible from the case back.
Handwerkskunst is German for “artisanal craft”, and the watches are suitably decorated. Here the dial is made of solid gold, and hand engraved with curlicues in relief as well as a fine tremblage graining. And in a lyrical touch, the numerals of the oversized date display are hand-painted in bright blue.
The decoration on the back echoes that on the dial, with similar engraved on the movement and cocks for the tourbillon. And instead of the usual striping, the German silver bridges have a fine radial graining, so as not to draw attention away from the engraving.
The case is platinum with a diameter of 42mm, giving the watch significant heft.
The watch is accompanied by its original and very large box, as well as paperwork and accessories. It has an estimate of HK$1.2m to HK$2.8m, or US$153,000 to US$357,000.
Lot 2238 – Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso ‘Chemin De La Vérité’ miniature enamel
Jaeger-LeCoultre was one of the first watchmakers to do enamelling in-house when Hungarian enameller Miklos Merczel set up his workshop in 1996, specialising in miniature enamel.
This Reverso Grande Taille is one example of JLC’s fine miniature enamelling. Titled Chemin De La Vérité, or “Path of Truth”, it depicts in exquisite detail a pair of monks holding candles lighting up the darkness.
The Grande Taille size case, which is 26mm wide, is in 18k yellow gold. And like many enamelled Reverso watches of the period, the dial is also fired enamel, with the hour numerals in an Art Nouveau, Chinese calligraphy-inspired font.
The example is numbered “3/8” and dates from the early 2000s. It’s complete with box and papers, and has an estimate of HK$100,000 to HK$180,000, or US$12,800 to US$23,000.
Lot 2248 – Patek Philippe Calatrava Cloisonne “Horse” ref. 5075G
The Calatrava ref. 5075 was produced only from 2000 to 2004, and is one of the simplest cases Patek Philippe ever made, with no bezel and straight lugs that flow seamlessly into the case. That’s because the case was a mere canvas for the dial decoration, with the ref. 5075 having been offered with a variety of enamel dials, most frequently executed in cloisonné. According to Sotheby’s only about 250 examples of the ref. 5075 were made.
This watch was introduced in 2002 for the Chinese Year of the Horse, as part of a set of four watches, each depicting a single horse from a Qing Dynasty cloisonné bowl decorated with horses. Three sets were produced, with at least two having been split into their component watches.
The dial is executed in cloisonné enamel, with thin gold wires forming the outline of the motif. The work is exceptionally fine and delicately rendered.
The white gold case is 36mm in diameter, with an display back revealing the cal. 240 inside.
The watch is complete with the box and certificate, and is estimated at HK$400,000 to HK$600,000, or US$51,000 to US$76,500.
Lot 2310 – Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon GMT Titanio PAM00315
For a brief few years Panerai produced a variety of tourbillon watches, most sharing the same discreet aesthetic of a hidden tourbillon. And because highly complicated watches are not synonymous with Panerai, its tourbillon watches tend to be strong value proportions on the auction circuit.
This is one such example, a Radiomir with a second time zone indicator and tourbillon visible on the back. It is powered by the hand-wound P.2005 movement that has a six-day power reserve.
The only indication on the front of the tourbillon is a rotating disc with a dot inside the sub-dial at nine o’clock, which is linked to the tourbillon regulator. And the tourbillon is no ordinary tourbillon, as it rotates on an axis perpendicular to the balance wheel, like a barbecue spit.
An arrow-tipped GMT hand indicates a second time zone, in sync with the day and night indicator at three o’clock.
The case is a large 48mm in diameter, but being in titanium is relatively lightweight.
This is 48 of a limited edition of 125 pieces, and is complete with the original packaging. The estimate is HK$280,000 to HK$400,000, or US$35,700 to US$51,000.
Lot 2320 – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin 40th Anniversary
Launched in 2012 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, this was a limited edition of just 40 pieces, featuring an open-worked movement and a platinum case and bracelet. Subsequently variations of this model were either in steel, or had solid dials.
The watch is expectedly, and impressively, weighty, bearing all the gorgeous detailing typical of the Royal Oak. Though this watch has been worn, it shows only minor wear, and still retains the original factory finish on the case and bracelet.
The hand-wound cal. 2924 is skeletonised in a geometric manner, with clean, circular forms for the bridges, and is also characterised by the distinctive three-armed tourbillon carriage of Renaud & Papi. And unlike earlier generation Royal Oak tourbillons that had a finicky crown on the case back, this has a conventional crown at three.
This watch is accompanied by the boxes and paperwork, carrying an estimate of HK$1.0m to HK$2.0m, or US$128,000 to US$255,000.
Lot 2382 – Patek Philippe ref. 5029P minute repeater
One of the most beautiful contemporary Patek Philippe minute repeaters, the ref. 5029 was a limited edition of just 30 watches, with 10 each in yellow and pink gold, as well as platinum. It was unveiled in 1997 to mark the opening of Patek Philippe’s factory in the Geneva suburb of Plan-les-Ouates that same year.
This example is in platinum, with a black dial featuring applied Breguet numerals. Produced by now retired master case maker Jean-Pierre Hagmann, the artfully constructed case has a hunter back, with the hinge smartly integrated into the crown guards. It’s a smallish 35mm, but beautifully proportioned.
Under the hinged back is a sapphire window that shows off the self-winding cal. R 27 PS.
This watch is in unused condition, with the protective blue paint still on the case back. It’s complete with all original accessories, including the commemorative medallion for the factory opening. The estimate is HK$3.5m to HK$5.0m, or US$446,000 to US$640,000.
Lot 2408 – Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts ‘Japanese Cherry’ ref. 982/159G pocket watch
This is a unique piece that was a flagship model of the Rare Handcrafts collection presented in 2015, featuring a Japanese-inspired motif in enamel. The 18k white gold case has a case back decorated in pale pink enamel, depicting a Japanese cherry tree with red enamel cherries on a hand-engraved branch.
The hand-engraving continues onto the bow of the pocket watch, which is finished with a bark-like surface.
The dial is also pink enamel to match the back, and has applied, solid gold Breguet numerals and leaf-shaped hands.
Inside is the cal. 17”’ LEP RS IRM movement, a slim pocket watch movement that Patek Philippe has been producing for decades, though now only in tiny numbers. The graceful layout of the bridges and snail cam regulator attest to its mid 20th century origins.
The pocket watch is accompanied all original accessories, including boxes, paperwork, 18k white gold chain, stand in 18k white gold and lacquer, as well as a wood travelling box. It’s estimated at HK$1.8m to HK$3.0m, or US$230,000 to US$383,000.
Exhibition and auction details
Sotheby’s Hong Kong watch auction takes place on October 2, 2018 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai. All lots will be exhibited prior to the auction from September 28 to October 1, at the same location.
The full catalogue is available online here.
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