Highlights: Christie’s Hong Kong Watch Auction Fall 2019

Custom complications and value buys.

After a record-setting auction weekend in Geneva, the action moves to Hong Kong in the last week of November. Chatter about the Hong Kong auctions this year are dominated by one watch, the Patek Philippe ref. 2523 twin-crown world time in pink gold with a blue enamel dial, because it carries the highest pre-sale estimate in watch auction history of 55m-110m Hong Kong dollars, or about US$7m-14m.

Instead of being sold along with the rest of the watches on November 27, it will be the opening lot in the evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art on November 23. With the top lot in the evening sale – Five Nudes by Sanyu – having an estimate of HK$250m-550m dollars, or about US$32m-70m, the twin-crown world time hardly looks out of place.

The Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Equation of Time

But the ref. 2523 aside, the rest of the Christie’s sale is made up of 239 more affordable timepieces, including an ultra-rare Patek Philippe ref. 3651 chronograph and a value-buy Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Equation of Time in platinum. Here’s a look at highlights from the sale.

And the full catalogue can be found here.

Lot 2298 – Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3800/108G in white gold, with diamonds and emeralds 

This is shameless 1990s bling – a Nautilus ref. 3800/108G. The suffix means it’s 18k white gold, fully set with brilliant-cut diamonds and having 11 baguette-cut emeralds for the hour markers.

The watch feels weighty in the hand, though the case is compact. And the bling naturally gives it a lot of wrist presence. Though originally a men’s watch, the 37mm case is small by modern standards, giving it a lot of appeal as a ladies’ watch.

According to Christie’s, there are only three examples of this specific Nautilus known. This particular watch is in excellent condition, seemingly hardly worn, despite having been produced in 1995. The case has its original finish, while the bracelet is tight. And it’s also accompanied by its original certificate and accessories.

With the prices of steel Nautilus watches having skyrocketed – albeit corrected substantially in the last couple of months – smaller, precious-metal variants like this are relatively good buys. This has an estimate of HK$380,000-560,000, or about about US$48,000-53,000.

Lot 2348 – Patek Philippe ref. 3445 in platinum

The ref. 3445 is a fairly distinctive Calatrava, having a round case with straight lines and angular edges, combined with an automatic movement that has sub-seconds and a date. It was in production from 1961 to 1981, and is fairly common in yellow gold. But it is exceptionally rare in platinum, with just 11 platinum ref. 3445s known.

This particular example is widely known, having been sold at auction twice before – and I covered it when it was sold in 2017 – but more importantly, one of the best preserved. In fact, it is almost in “new old stock” condition.

The case retains all of its original surface finishing and edges, with the facets on the lugs and step on the bezel all pristine.

When this very watch first sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s New York, it came direct from the original owner and fetched US$75,000. Then This it sold for HK$900,000, or about US$115,000, at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2017. Now the estimate is HK$800,000-1.2m, or about US$100,000-150,000, and it’ll likely sell for about the same as in 2017.

Lot 2352 – Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in pink gold with bracelet

The ref. 1518 is well known and highly desirable, being the first serially produced chronograph with perpetual calendar. Only 281 were made, with the majority in yellow gold, with perhaps about 60 in pink gold.

This particular example looks exceptionally good – crisp, fresh and clean. That’s because some time in the last 20 years – during which it sold three times at Antiquorum – it received both a replacement, period-correct dial as well as a case restoration.

The watch is also accompanied by a period pink gold bracelet, and the archive extract notes a matching bracelet, though it is unknown if this specific bracelet is the one that was originally sold with the watch.

Originality is highly valued in watch collecting, so because of the restoration, this watch is affordable by the standards of a pink gold ref. 1518. It has an estimate of HK$6.0-9.0, or about US$750,000-1.15m. An excellent, entirely original example would likely be US$1.4m at least, which more distinguished examples would go for much more.

Lot 2353 – Breguet triple calendar wristwatch no. 1039

Most Breguet wristwatches look like, well, Breguet wristwatches. The house style is all about guilloche dial, Breguet hands and fluted case bands. But for several decades in the middle of the 20th century, when Breguet was owned by the Brown family, who were English transplants to Paris, the firm made a variety of wristwatches that are not instantly recognisable as Breguet.

Many of these watches are unusual and beautiful in their own way, as this one. It’s one of perhaps five Breguet wristwatches with a triple calendar produced in the 1940s and 1950s.

Originally sold in 1952, it has a yellow gold case, pink gilt dial, an lance-shaped hands that give it an elegant, midcentury aesthetic.

The profile of the case and lugs are reminiscent of Breguet’s signature case style, but it is the serial number on the dial that is typical Breguet. That’s a practice that began in the 19th century with its pocket watches and still continues today.

This achieved 137,000 Swiss francs when it sold at Christie’s Geneva in 2016. Today it has an estimate of HK$1.0-1.6m, or about US$130,000-200,000.

Lot 2429 – Audemars Piguet grand complication pocket watch

When watchmakers were struggling during the Quartz Crisis in the 1970s, only a handful of firms continuing to produce traditional, highly complicated watches, most notably Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.

This is an example of one such watch, having been produced in 1972. Like many other such watches, the movement inside was probably produced decades before the watch was finished.

It is a split-seconds chronograph with perpetual calendar and minute repeater, powered by an 18”’ movement that is typical haute horlogerie from the Vallee de Joux, the home of Audemars Piguet and widely regarded as the home of Swiss movement making.

Best of all, this includes paperwork detailing a 2015 servicing by Audemars Piguet, an important detail for a watch as complicated as this. That also explains its excellent condition, inside and out.

For the amount of sheer mechanical accomplishment inside the watch, it is going for relatively little money. The estimate is HK$750,000-1.2m, or US$95,000-150,000.

Lot 2436 – Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Equation of Time

A value proposition of another sort can be found in the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Equation of Time. For those unfamiliar, the Jules Audemars was the pre-Code 11.59, a collection of round watches in production for years that never really took off.

Despite that, the line included several interesting watches, including the Equation of Time. It combines a perpetual calendar with sunrise and sunset time displays, and most importantly, a central, serpentine equation of time hand. It indicates the daily difference between apparent solar time, based on the motion of the Earth around the Sun, and the standard 24-hour day.

The Equation of Time was produced in several variants, including a skeletonised model. This example is the top of the line closed-dial model, with a platinum case, and was limited to 20 pieces.

The Equation of Time watches were calibrated to the wearer’s location, which was then indicated on the the bezel. This particular watch has the movement and bezel catered for Hong Kong, although three extra sets of bezels and gears are included, for Singapore, Moscow and Rome.

The watch is is excellent shape, save for slightly oxidisation on the lower half of the dial. It includes all boxes and paperwork, which notes it was originally sold in 2001. A mere fraction of its original retail, the estimate is HK$120,000-180,000, or about US$15,000-23,000.

Lot 2445 – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph

Again an Audemars Piguet, but of a very different sort, is the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph in platinum with a ceramic bezel. The watch is enormous, extremely heavy, and also quite complicated.

The movement inside is an exotic Renaud & Papi calibre that has a tourbillon, chronograph, and double barrels that give it a 10-day power reserve.

Both barrels are visible on the dial, though two large apertures at one and five o’clock – the barrel are so enormous they dwarf everything else on the watch, although they suit the scale of the 44mm case.

And on the back, the traditionally laid-out chronograph mechanism – with a column wheel and horizontal clutch – is visible.

Originally sold in 2016, watch shows almost no wear, and includes all the original paperwork and accessories. The estimate is HK$900,000-1.4m, or about US$115,000-180,000.

Ref. 2337 – Patek Philippe ref. 3970E with special dial

Modern Patek Philippe chronographs with special-order dials pop up regularly at auction – often with Breguet numerals – but they remain highly desirable and also intrinsically beautiful watches.

This is a ref. 3970ER in rose gold with a dial featuring pink gold Breguet numerals and hands. It was produced in 2006 and sold a year later by the Patek Philippe Salon in Geneva, presumably having been made for an important client who ordered it after the ref. 3970 was discontinued in 2004.

It is in excellent shape, seemingly hardly worn in the 13 years since it left the factory. There is a bit of oxidisation on the hands, but it is a common occurrence and easily fixed.

The watch includes all original paperwork and boxes, and also the solid case back. The estimate is HK$1.2-2.0m, or US$150,000-250,000.

Ref. 2341 – Patek Philippe ref. 5004P with custom dial and bracelet

This ref. 5004P – a split-seconds chronograph with perpetual calendar in platinum – is another Patek Philippe with a custom dial, but a slightly more interesting story. It was originally sold in 2009 as a standard ref. 5004P, which means a silver dial with Arabic numerals, something that’s described on the certificate.

But in 2017 the owner returned it to Patek Philippe for a major makeover. The dial was replaced with a custom black dial, and importantly, matched with leaf-shaped hands instead of the standard lance-shaped hands. And a custom platinum bracelet was added, with both additions noted in the archive extract.

The watch is heavy and impressive, though the bracelet is has a “ladder” style clasp instead of the more common double-fold clasp, making it slightly more fiddly to take on and off.

Also looking hardly worn, the watch is accompanied by all its boxes and papers. Its estimate is HK$2.4-4.0m, or US$300,000-500,000.

Ref. 2350 – Patek Philippe ref. 3651 chronograph

The ref. 3651 is one of the rarest and most intriguing of modern-era Patek Philippe chronographs. Only three have been sold publicly – though more were made – and all are powered by vintage movements from the 1940s or 1950s, mostly taken from the ref. 1463, but were re-cased by Patek Philippe in the late 1980s.

Patek Philippe was particularly prolific, at least compared to today, at re-casing vintage movements in the 1980s. Another example from the period is the unique minute repeating wristwatch ref. 3652 – just one number away from the reference of this chronograph – that was made in 1985 but powered by a 1920s pendent watch movement.

The ref. 3651 has a vintage look, largely thanks to the compact, 35mm case and the vintage dial that was presumably “new old stock” when Patek Philippe installed it in the late 1980s.

But the details of the case mark it out as modern creation. That’s especially so with the shape of the lugs, which are short, wide, and with flat ends. And like the ref. 1463 that supplied most of the donor movements, the ref. 3651 has a screw-down case back.

Last sold at auction in 2014 when it was included in Christie’s Patek Philippe 175 sale, where it sold for 317,000 Swiss francs, this ref. 3651 has an estimate of HK$2.4-4.0, or US$300,000-500,000.

Preview and Auction

The preview exhibition takes place November 22-26 in the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The auction takes place in the same venue, starting at 11am on November 27.

The catalogue and online bidding is available here.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
No. 1 Expo Drive
Wanchai, Hong Kong


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Hands-On: Bell & Ross BR03-92 Full Lum

Taking nocturnal legibility to the extreme.

From the ultra-graphic BR-X to the newly launched, all-steel BR-05 collection, Bell & Ross’ capacity for reinterpreting its signature square-cased, aviation-inspired watches has proven rather remarkable. But its latest watch is a return to its roots, and perhaps the most extreme iteration of its foundational BR-03 model.

The BR03-92 Full Lum is the visual negative of the BR 03-92 Nightlum launched a year ago. While the Nightlum had a black dial with luminous numerals and markers, the Full Lum has an entirely luminous dial with its indices printed in black – and a luminous strap to boot.

Stealth dial and strap

The watch features what appears to be the standard, unapologetically industrial BR 03 dial with oversized Arabic numerals at the quarters and large baton markers.

However, the entire dial as well as the bottom sections of the hands are painted with Super-Luminova. Notably, even the date disc, visible through an aperture between four and five o’clock, is coated with “lume”.

And not only is the dial fully luminous, it also uses the brightest Super-Luminova, specifically C3. It is the purest form of Super-Luminova with a pale-yellow appearance during the day, while emitting an intense and long-lived green glow in the dark.

As a concession to daytime aesthetics, a majority of watches utilise white lume, which is fully white in daylight and emits a blue glow in the dark. This is simply because white offers a more attractive contrast against black or blue dials. They are typically either BG W9 or C1 Super-Luminova – both of which fall short of C3’s performance, with the latter having just 31% the brightness of C3 and BG W9, which is closer at 95%, but not quite up to par.

Thus, as with most BR03-92 watches, the Full Lum is an uncompromising tool watch, with an intense, graphic appearance in the dark. But what’s perhaps more amusing is how understated and unassuming it looks in daylight.

Even more unusual, the watch is fitted with a luminous rubber strap. This was achieved by incorporating phosphorescent pigments into synthetic polymer rubber before it is hot-pressed and moulded.

Robust case and movement

Measuring 42 wide and 11mm in height, the matte black ceramic case retains the same simple, but impressive and robust construction, essentially a three-part case held together like a sandwich with four screws. The screw slots are all perfectly aligned at a 45-degree angle as they are actually bolts secured by screws visible on the case back.

Bell & Ross has been producing ceramic watches for several years now, thanks to its parent company Chanel, who owns G&F Châtelain, a reputed case and buckle manufacture who is responsible for one of the most iconic ceramic watches in watchmaking, the Chanel J12.

As with all watches in the BR03-92 line, it is powered by the BR-CAL.302, which is actually the workhorse Sellita SW300-1. It is a low-cost but robust automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve.

Concluding thoughts

The Full Lum is one of the most unusual iterations of the BR03-92. It offers the brand’s signature stark, highly functional dial and solid case construction, but with an abundance of Super-Luminova, a stealthy feature that only comes to light in the dark.

Key facts and price

Bell & Ross BR03-92 Full Lum
Ref. BR0392-LUM1-CE/SRB

Diameter: 42mm
Height: 11mm
Material: Matte black ceramic
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: Automatic BR-CAL.302 (Sellita SW300-1)
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds; date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Luminous rubber strap with a black PVD pin buckle
Limited edition: 250 pieces
Price: €3,500 Euros, or 5,700 Singapore dollars
Availability: Only available through balloting that opens in boutiques and online from November 15 to 21. The winners will be contacted on November 22.

For more information, visit Bellross.com.

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Up Close: Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Nightlum

Back to basics.

Introducing the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Black Camo

Monochromatic camouflage and a black ceramic case.

Hands-On: Bell & Ross BR-X1 Phantom Chronograph

The coolest iteration to date.

F.P. Journe Introduces the Astronomic Souveraine Grand Complication

18 complications in steel.

Just days after the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue made for Only Watch 2019 sold for a record 1.8m Swiss francs, the watchmaker has unveiled the regular production version of the same – the Astronomic Souveraine.

While the last unique F.P. Journe produced for Only Watch eventually made into production in a significantly different form, the Astronomic Souveraine is largely the same.

Save for the steel case, dial colours, and movement decoration, the Astronomic Souveraine is identical to the unique Only Watch creation.

Inspired by a pocket watch Francois-Paul Journe produced in 1987 – itself inspired by the earlier works of Breguet and George Daniels – the Astronomic Souveraine has 18 complications, shown on two faces on each side of the case.

These include showing both mean solar time and sidereal time, as well as an annual calendar, equation of time, tourbillon with remontoir d’egalite constant force mechanism, and a minute repeater. Despite its complexity, the indications are remarkably well-presented, and furthermore, can all be adjusted via a single crown.

Though the case is 44mm wide – the largest wristwatch ever by F.P. Journe – it remains notably compact at just 13.8mm high, helped in part by his ultra-thin minute repeater mechanism with flat hammers and gongs.

As with most F.P. Journe watches, the dial on the front is solid gold, as are the bridges and plate of the movement.

The 758-part cal. 1619 is equipped with double barrels, which are partly visible beneath a large bridge, providing further depth to the movement architecture.

Unlike the Only Watch version that had an unfinished, prototype movement, the production Astronomic Souveraine movement is decorated in the usual F.P. Journe manner. It has circular Geneva stripes on the bridges, polished, bevelled edges and circular graining on the base plate.

The visible steel parts including the cock for the intermediate wheels, the lever and cam for the equation of time, the upper bridge for the governor, as well as the bridges for the remontoir and tourbillon are all black-polished.

Key facts and price

F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine Grand Complication

Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 13.8 mm
Material: Stainless steel

Movement: Calibre 1619
Functions: Hours in two time zones; minutes; moonphase; sidereal time; day and night indication; sunrise and sunset indication; power reserve; annual calendar with zodiac indication; equation of time
Frequency: 21,600 bph (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Black alligator

Availability: Only from F.P. Journe boutiques, starting second quarter of 2020
 885,000 Swiss francs before taxes

For more information, visit fpjourne.com


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Welcome to the new Watches By SJX.

Subscribe to get the latest articles and reviews delivered to your inbox.