Highlights: Complications at Phillips’ Hong Kong Watch Auction

Complications and even some value buys.

Watch auction season is in full swing, two months later than its usual May timing. Phillips will be staging The Hong Kong Watch Auction: X on July 10, with 269 lots slated to go under the hammer. The catalogue includes a wide-ranging line-up of big-ticket complications, as well as some interesting examples of independent watchmaking.

Below we take a look at a couple of highlights from the complications category, and we’ll look at some of the independents next week. You’ll find the full auction catalogue here.

For a more personal take on the highlights: myself and Phillips’ head of watches, Thomas Perazzi, will be hosting a webinar to discuss the highlights from the sale on July 6 at 4:00 pm GMT+8. Registration is required to attend, and you can do it here.

Lot 816 – A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” in honey gold

This A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” was part of the 165th Anniversary Homage to F.A. Lange three-piece set made in 2010 to commemorate the 165 years since the birth of the company’s namesake founder. Made up of the Tourbograph, Lange 1 Tourbillon, and 1815 Moon Phase, the set was characterised by honey gold cases and guilloche dials.

The most complicated Lange wristwatch aside from the monumentally unwearable Grand Complication, the Tourbograph incorporates a tourbillon, rattrapante chronograph, and fusée-and-chain transmission. It was first launched in 2005 as a limited edition of 50 with a platinum case, with this honey gold variant making up the second run of 51 pieces, to complete the planned run of 101 watches.

The movement is stacked layer upon layer, each gorgeously finished

The Tourbograph is a large, magnificently complicated watch that isn’t as widely appreciated as it should be, resulting in it selling for relatively little compared to its original retail price. In fact, the low estimate here is a third of the original retail price, which was over US$500,000. In the world of ultra high-end watches, it is a strong value proposition.

Numbered “3/50” and purchased in 2010, the watch has the original (and massive) box as well as all papers. It has an estimate of HK$1.4-2.0 million, or about US$179,000-256,000.

Lot 840 – Universal Geneve “A. Cairelli” rattrapante

One of the most distinctive military-issue watches ever made, the Universal Geneve “A. Cairelli” split-seconds chronograph is 44.5 mm wristwatch issued to navigators of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI), the Italian air force, in the 1950s.

Extremely oversized for a watch of the era, the Cairelli split-seconds was eminently functional, while also having a beauty rarely found in military-issue timepieces as a result of its striking Arabic numerals and blued steel Breguet hands. The watches were supplied to the Italian military by Rome watch retailer A. Cairelli, explaining the signature on the dial.

The watch is powered by the Valjoux 55 – the same movement found in the uber-valuable Rolex 4113

This example shows ageing on the edges of the dial and registers, but is cleanly preserved and is accompanied by an archive extract from Universal. It’s estimated at HK$465,000-930,000, or US$59,600-119,000.

Lot 862 – Patek Philippe “Les Phénix” Dome Clock ref. 1439M

The best value in enamelled Patek Philippe timepieces in terms of enamel per dollar, Dome Clocks were launched in the 1950s and have been in production since, but at an excruciatingly slow rate, with only a dozen or so are made a year. Though not as mainstream as its wristwatches, Patek Philippe’s dome clocks are perhaps more significant in representing the brand’s artistic sensibilities, particularly those depicting themes close to the hearts of the Philippe and Thierry Stern, like sailboats on Lake Geneva.

As evident from the solar panel on the dome, the clock is solar powered – standard for dome clocks until the transition to quartz movements in recent years

This particular example has an Asian theme, with a phoenix elaborately represented in hues of orange, red, brown, maroon and yellow. The style is bright and floral, with prominent pink flowers on a dark blue background. Done entirely in cloisonné enamel, the clock is signed “DBD”, the initials of the anonymous artist.

Overall, the clock is in excellent condition, with the enamel still vibrant, though the gilt parts show oxidisation. It is accompanied with an aluminium travel case and archive extract noting its production in 1996 and subsequent sale a year later.

It has an estimate of HK$630,000-1.2 million, or US$$80,800-154,000.

Lot 916 – Patek Philippe Ref. 5275P-001 Chiming Jump Hour

The ref. 5275P was perhaps the most intriguing of the commemorative editions Patek Philippe made in 2014 to celebrate its 175th anniversary. The tonneau case was inspired by the 150th anniversary Jump Hour ref. 3969 of 1989, but the movement is all new and impressive.

Powered by a movement unique to this reference, the watch has a triple jumping display: jumping hours in a window, a minute hand that moves in one-minute steps, and a deadbeat seconds. And it also an hour striker, chiming a single note at the top of every hour as the hour digit changes.

While is movement was a complex and modern construction – with silicon parts for the jumping mechanism – the dial and case are ornately decorated with Baroque curlicues and leaves

As a modern-day collectible Patek Philippe, the ref. 5275P is far from a bargain, but it is exceptionally interesting from a technical and design perspective, something that is usually overlooked because of its limited-edition status.

The ref. 5275P is factory sealed and unworn, and is complete with its original packaging, including the anniversary medallion. The estimate is HK$2.0-3.0 million, or US$256,000-385,000.

Lot 968 – Patek Philippe ref. 3979P minute repeater

Launched when Patek Philippe marked its 150th anniversary in 1989, the ref. 3979 is a gorgeously classical minute repeating wristwatch. The dial is white enamel with large Roman numerals, matched with a case featuring slender lugs, which make for a strikingly classical look. It is only 33 mm in diameter, diminutive by today’s standards, but no less beautiful because of the size.

Inside is the cal. R 27 PS, the first automatic minute repeating movement made by Patek Philippe and a cutting-edge calibre when it was first introduced

In production from 1989 to 2002, the ref. 3979 is frequently encountered in yellow gold, but rarely in platinum (explaining why the platinum version is worth substantially more). Only about a dozen in platinum were made, and this example is one of the five that have been sold publicly in the past.

The watch includes the additional solid case back, as well as the original certificate. It has an estimate of HK$2.9-4.0m, or US$372,000-513,000.

Lot 974 – Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon Openworked ref. 30067/000P-8953

One of top value buys in the skeleton-tourbillon space, the Malte Tourbillon has a gorgeously open-worked form movement inside a platinum, tonneau-shaped case.

Amongst the very best in modern watchmaking, the skeletonisation is delicate, artful, and also enhanced by hand engraving – a look that is increasingly unusual. This ornate style of movement decoration is no longer in vogue, and today’s skeleton movement tend to go for clean lines and matte surfaces.

Though compact in size with a 36 mm diameter, the flared, stepped lugs give the watch visual presence, and the platinum case gives it weight. The tactile feel of the watch is reassuringly solid.

This watch includes its box, but not the original papers, and instead it has an archive extract noting a 2006 production date. The Malte Tourbillon is estimated at an eminently reasonable HK$350,000-500,000, or US$44,900-64,100.

Lot 998 – Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100

The top lot of the auction is a Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 from 1982, an example of the fourth and last series of the brand’s venerable perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch.

The most affordable variant of the ref. 2499, the fourth series features a sapphire crystal, making it the closest approximation to a modern watch, while still being a 2499. That, combined with its affordability relative to earlier 2499s, makes the fourth series a candidate to be the “daily beater” 2499.

This example is in excellent condition, with well-defined lines on the case – particularly the fluting on the lugs – deep hallmarks, and an original dial. And the watch also includes its original calfskin strap, original certificate, and an archive extract dating it to 1983.

The watch with its bezel removed, revealing only the faintest of ageing on the dial

The ref. 2499/100 has an estimate of HK$3.5-5.0m, or US$$449,000-641,000.

Lot 1017 – Patek Philippe ref. 3448/14 “Gübelin”

This ref. 3448 is unusual, and perhaps unique, in several ways. Consigned by the family of the original owner – whose initials are “ZS” –  the ref. 3448 has a white gold case with an integrated bracelet, features a retailer signature on the dial, and a blue enamel monogram on the back.

Introduced in 1962, the ref. 3448 was Patek Philippe’s first self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch and is most commonly seen in yellow gold. Despite being in production for over 20 years, only 586 examples were made, with 130 of those being white gold – and just 14 in white gold with an integrated bracelet.

What sets this apart is the style of the integrated bracelet – noted by the “/14” suffix in the model reference – a “woven” construction taken from the Ellipse ref. 3605/1 “Jumbo”, presumably done at the original owner’s request all those years ago.

Its rarity is compounded by “Gübelin” on the dial, the first instance the storied Swiss retailer’s signature is found on a white gold ref. 3448. And when the original owner acquired the watch at Gübelin, he also asked for his initials on the case back, which the retailer dutifully executed in dark blue enamel, a delightful detail that is confirmed by the Gübelin archive extract.

The “ZS” monogram on the back

This ref. 3448 remains in excellent condition, with the case retaining its crisp edges and shape. It’s accompanied by a Patek Philippe archive extract confirming the bracelet and production date in 1975, as well as a Gübelin archive extract noting the monogram on the back (as well as a monogrammed leather pouch that has unfortunately been lost).

The watch has an estimate of HK$2.34-3.90 million, or US$300,000-500,000.

Preview and Auction

The preview exhibition is open daily from July 4-9 at the JW Marriott Hotel.

The auction takes place on July 10, with the first session (lots 801-916) starting at 12:00 pm, followed by the second session (lots 917-1069) at 3:30 pm.

For the complete catalogue, as well as to place bids online, visit Phillips.com.

JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
88 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong

This was brought to you in collaboration with Phillips.


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John McGonigle Debuts with the Oileán H-B1

Powered by a finely-decorated Valjoux 88.

Hailing from Ireland’s most famous watchmaking family, John McGonigle is best known for being one half of the two brothers behind McGonigle Watches (and another brother is the chief instructor at the world-class watch school in Cambodia).

Having decided to strike out on his own last year – an amicable parting resulting from logistical challenges of working with his brother who is based in Switzerland – Mr McGonigle has just launched his own brand, Oileán, Gaelic for “island”, a nod to his home of Ireland. Pronounced “ill-awn”, the brand is making its debut with the Oileán H-B1, a triple-calendar chronograph powered by a new-old-stock Valjoux 88 movement.

John McGonigle

Initial thoughts

Well regarded by collectors and peers, Mr McGonigle’s first watch under his new brand has a vintage movement inside a titanium case. It’s a manageable 40 mm in diameter, but slightly thick at 14.2 mm high, an inevitable consequence of the Valjoux 88.

While the Valjoux 88 is not novel – it was widely used in the past – the calibre has been reworked a high standard. That includes several bridges and steel parts made from scratch, as well as hand finishing of all components. Because it is a triple-calendar chronograph

“I’ve tried to apply the same rigour to this watch as I used to for the high complications I worked on in the past,” says Mr McGonigle. Going by Mr McGonigle’s past work it is no doubt done very well.

The look is modern – the dial is smoked sapphire for instance – but also slightly generic. That said, it has enough details and quality to keep it interesting.

The price is equivalent to about US$25,000, which is fair relative to the quality of the reworking and finishing of the movement. Mr McGonigle is likely to develop a proprietary calibre for his next creation, so stayed tuned.

Valjoux remade

From the same family of movements as the more-common Valjoux 22 and 72, the Valjoux 88 was used by a variety of brands, including Heuer, Breitling, and Minerva. In the past, the Valjoux was typically plainly finished and largely functional.

Mr McGonigle has dressed it up in haute horlogerie fashion. “All components are bevelled and polished by hand, the steelwork is flat grained on a shellac stone,” says Mr McGonigle, “While the screws are slotted, bevelled and flat polished on a tin block with diamond paste.”

The chronograph bridge is one of the part produced by Mr McGonigle, and it’s been open-worked to show off the high level of finishing – it has six bevelled, sharp inward corners on its inner edge. Similarly, all of the chronograph levels are straight grained on top, with mirror-polished bevels on their edges.

The only bit that looks out of place is the stock Trivois regulator; a slightly fancier regulator would have been more visually coherent, even if it didn’t offer any functional advantages.

Notice the polished, bevelled edges on the barrel bridge below the chronograph bridge

The mirror-polished reset cam for the chronograph



Key facts and price

Oileán H-B1

Case diameter: 40 mm
Height: 14.2 mm
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
 30 m

Movement: Valjoux 88
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, and triple calendar with moon phase
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Leather with titanium pin buckle

Limited edition: Eight pieces produced a year
 Direct from Oileán
Price: €23,500 before taxes

For more, visit Oilean.watch.


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You’re Invited: Webinar – Highlights from Hong Kong Watch Auction: X

With Thomas Perazzi and SJX.

Starting slightly later than usual, the auction season in Hong Kong starts in the second week of July, with Phillips’ The Hong Kong Watch Auction: X happening on July 10 at the JW Marriott.

The situation makes attending the sale in person difficult for most of us, so you’re invite to join myself and Thomas Perazzi, Phillips’ head of watches in Asia, for a webinar on July 6. We will discuss the highlights of the 269-lot sale, which is led by a Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 and a possibly-unique ref. 3448 in white gold.


The webinar will take place on July 6, 2020 at 04:00 pm GMT+8 (Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing).

And for other time zones:

06:00 pm GMT+10 (Sydney)
10:00 am GMT+2 (Berlin, Frankfurt, Milan, Geneva, Zurich)
09:00 am GMT+1 (London)
04:00 am GMT-4 (New York, Boston)
01:00 am GMT-7 (Vancouver)

Registration is required to attend, and you can register right here.


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Audemars Piguet Introduces the Code 11.59 with Smoked Dials

Gradient-finish dials and two-tone cases.

When it was launched in 2019, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet became the most-talked-about new releases of the year, and also of the most panned, largely for the way it was hyped before launch and the perceived plainness of the design.

But Audemars Piguet is undeterred and affirmed its commitment to the new collection with the launch of a face-lifted Code 11.59 Selfwinding and Chronograph, featuring new dials with a smoked, graduated-colour finish, along with a variant in a two-colour gold case.

The new Code 11.59 Selfwinding

Initial thoughts

The most frequent criticism against the Code 11.59 had to do with the rather bland dials of the base models. In contrast, the pricey, complicated models were the standouts of the collection, having fired enamel dials with a smoked finish (for the minute repeater and the flying tourbillon) or aventurine glass (for the perpetual calendar).

Audemars Piguet doubtlessly realised the appeal of the smoked enamel dial, and followed up with the Code 11.59 Bolshoi Limited Edition, which featured the same graduated, dark blue dial in enamel, but on a time-only watch. The downside of the enamel dial on the base model is a massive price premium of over 55%, or a bit over US$14,000.

Evidence that Audemars Piguet is receptive to feedback, the new dials for the Code 11.59 show how a slight tweak can completely change the visual impact of a watch. It’s highly probable that if the Code 11.59 had been launched with smoked dials in the first place, the reception would have been warmer.

The dials of the new versions possess pretty much the same look – they look far more compelling than the first generation – but are more affordable than the complicated models.

The 18k pink gold case with a regal, smoked purple dial

Same watch, new look

The new dials capitalise on the increasing popularity of gradient-finish dials, which were popularised by H. Moser & Cie. with its fumè dial finishes. Though Moser didn’t invent the smoked or degradè, it started the current fad for the look, which has become the brand’s signature.

Now Audemars Piguet is doing the same, with both the Code 11.59 Selfwinding and Selfwinding Chronograph models being offered in light grey, dark grey, burgundy, purple, and blue dials with a graduated finish that darkens to black towards the periphery, plus an additional reference with a pale-grey dial. Because the dials are metal with a galvanic finish, they also have a radially-brushed finish that is not possible with an enamel dial.

The time-and-date Selfwinding model benefits the most from the smoked finish with its expansive dial free of clutter, giving it maximum visual oomph.

The 18k white gold case highlights the richness of the smoked burgundy lacquer dial

Dial aside, the rest of the watch remains identical, with the multi-part, sandwich construction that’s a key feature of the Code 11.59.

Both the Selfwinding and Chronograph models are 41 mm, with the case drawing heavily from the Royal Oak, albeit in a subtle manner – the case middle is an octagon , in between the back and bezel. And the case is finished with a combination of brushed- and mirror-polish surfaces, echoing the finishes and geometric forms of Audemars Piguet’s most famous design. Notably, the lugs are only attached to the bezel, with the lower segment of the lug floating against the case back.

Case-wise, the most notable feature of the new variants is the two-tone case in white and pink gold. Available only with the versions having dark- or light-grey dials, the two-tone case was first seen in the Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch made for the eponymous charity auction.

As with the Only Watch edition, the tasteful use of two-tone highlights the complexity of the case, something that is somewhat lost in the uniform case colour of the other versions.

A white gold bezel and case back matched with a pink gold case middle shows off the complex case architecture

Mechanically the new variants are unchanged, powered by the brand’s latest generation in-house movements. The Selfwinding is powered by the cal. 4302, while the the Selfwinding Chronograph contains the cal. 4401, both featuring a smart, robust construction as well as a 70-hour power reserve.

Key facts and price

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding
Ref. 15210CR.OO.A002CR.01 (smoked grey dial, two-tone case)
Ref. 15210CR.OO.A009CR.01 (grey dial, two-tone case)
Ref. 15210BC.OO.A068CR.01 (smoked burgundy dial, white gold case)
Ref. 15210OR.OO.A616CR.01 (smoked purple dial, pink gold case)
Ref. 15210OR.OO.A028CR.01 (smoked blue dial, pink gold case)

Case diameter: 41 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: 18k gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. 4302
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Availability: Only at Audemars Piguet boutiques
Price: 27,000 Swiss francs; or 39,900 Singapore dollars

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Chronograph
Ref. 26393CR.OO.A002CR.01 (smoked grey dial, two-tone case)
Ref. 26393CR.OO.A009CR.01 (grey dial, two-tone case)
Ref. 26393BC.OO.A068CR.01 (smoked burgundy dial, white gold case)
Ref. 26393OR.OO.A616CR.01 (smoked purple dial, pink gold case)
Ref. 26393OR.OO.A028CR.01 (smoked blue dial, pink gold case)

Case diameter: 41 mm
Height: 12.6 mm
Material: 18k gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. 4401
Functions: Flyback chronograph, hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Availability: Only at Audemars Piguet boutiques
Price: 42,600 Swiss francs; or 63,000 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Audemarspiguet.com.

Correction July 8, 2020: The Swiss franc prices in an earlier version of the story were incorrect and have been corrected.

Correction July 10, 2020: The dial options include light as well as dark grey, and not only dark grey as stated earlier.

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