Highlights: Sothebys’ Hong Kong Watch Auction

Fine Geneva enamelling and the F.P. Journe steel coffret.

Taking place on Friday, April 23, 2021, Sotheby’s first live watch auction of the year takes place in Hong Kong. Important Watches is a full-sized sale led by the unique Rolex “Zenith” Daytona in platinum with a turquoise “Stella” dial, which might just set the record for most valuable automatic Daytona ever sold at auction.

But the 296-lot sale is diverse in the traditional manner of Hong Kong auctions, encompassing vintage Patek Philippe, modern grand complications, and an assortment of independent watchmaking.

Here’s a roundup of a few noteworthy lots at the auction, including a Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in exceptional condition, a pair of gorgeous pocket watches decorated with the very best of Geneva miniature enamelling, and the F.P Journe Coffret 38 made up of five watches with steel cases.

The auction will start at 11 am local time on April 23 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, while the catalogue and online bidding are available on Sothebys.com.

Lot 2185 – Vacheron Constantin miniature enamel pocket watch

The middle decades of the 20th century were a golden age for miniature enamelling in Geneva, with the cities best watchmakers recruiting its best enamellers to decorate pocket watches.

One example of such work is lot 2185, a yellow gold pocket watch made in 1948 by Vacheron Constantin that bears a miniature enamel painting by Hélène May Mercier (1910-1996), an artisan who learnt the craft with another famed enameller, Carlo Poluzzi (1899-1978).

Executed in an Impressionist style, the miniature depicts Lake Geneva, or lac Léman, with the Mont Blanc in the distance, sometime during the late 19th or early 20th century. Very much an idyllic scene that captures the idealised days of yore, the enamel is fine, detailed, and still vibrant after the decades.

The cal. V439 within

On the front, the watch is discreetly simple, with a classical dial that’s reminiscent of the brand’s modern-day Patrimony.

The pocket watch has an estimate of HK$800,000-1.2m, or about US$100,000-150,000. Full lot details here.

Lot 2186 – Patek Philippe ref. 823/003 pocket watch

An even more exceptional example of miniature enamelling – if for no other reason than having twice the painting – lot 2186 is a yellow gold hunter-case watch with miniature enamel on both sides.

One of only three known double-sided enamel pocket watches by Patek Philippe – another is in the company’s museum – the watch is decorated with the work of Marthe Bischoff (1900-1991), an enameller who worked for Patek Philippe but whose creations are less frequently encountered than that of the more famous Suzanne Rohr.

According to the literature that accompanies the watch the enamelling on the front was started in 1969 and completed a year later, but the scene on the back was only finished in 1975, by which time Bischoff was 75 years old.

The scene on the front reproduces a section of Chasse dans le parc de Fontainebleau (or “Hunting in the park of Fontainebleau”) by French painter Carle Vernet, while the back is another scene inspired by the painting. The intricacy of the enamelling is remarkable, with even the smallest details, such as the spotted fur of the hunting dogs, rendered in remarkable liveliness.

The front

And the reverse

In contrast to the elaborately enamelled case, the dial is a clean white with painted roman indices, while the movement is the cal. 17-140.

Notably, the watch is accompanied by everything that came along when it was purchased in 1976 by the original owner. That means the box, certificate, correspondence detailing the selection of artwork to be reproduced, as well as the original invoice from Gübelin for CHF36,000.

Given its rarity and incredible artistry, the pocket watch is valuable, and rightly so. It has an estimate of HK$2.4m-4.8m, or about US$300,000-600,000. Full lot details here.

Lots 2212-2217 – F.P. Journe Coffret 38

F.P. Journe is having a moment now, being one of the hottest independent watchmakers. The six lots from lot 2212 comprise an entire F.P. Journe Coffret 38 – numbered “36/38” – the five-piece set the brand produced in 2015 to mark the discontinuation of the 38 mm case size (with 40 mm and 42 mm cases now the standard offering).

All five watches feature steel cases and solid gold dials in a mustard colour that recalls the brand’s very first watches – we covered the set in detail at its debut. They are being sold individually at the auction, along with the presentation box that is the sixth lot.

The creme de la creme is doubtlessly lot 2212, the Tourbillon Souverain, which is essentially a remake of the original Tourbillon Remontoir d’Egalité of 1999 (our in-depth article on that watch can be foundhere). But unlike the original that had a brass movement, as all early F.P. Journe watches did, the Coffret 38 tourbillon has the same movement but with its bridges and base plate in red gold, making it truly unique.

The tourbillon has an estimate of HK$1.6-2.4m, or about US$200,000-300,000. The high estimate is almost the retail price price of the entire set in 2015, illustrating the extreme desirability of F.P. Journe at the moment. Full lot details here.

The tourbillon movement with its gold bridges and base plate

The next lot is 2213, the Chronomètre à Résonance. Similarly based on first iteration of the Resonance from 2000, the watch has the symmetrical dial of the original, instead of the asymmetrical dials of later iterations. And unlike the latest, 2020 model, this retains the original movement, giving it a 12 o’clock crown for time setting and winding, along with a crown at four o’clock to reset the seconds.

With an estimate of HK$1.0-1.5m, or about US$128,000-193,000, it is good value relative to what a standard Resonance from the early 2000s now sells for. Full lot details here.

The Resonance

The subsequent lots are far more affordable, making them a more accessible way of getting into stainless-steel set.

Lot 2214 is the Octa Calendrier, an annual calendar with retrograde date that was first produced in 2003. It has an estimate of HK$600,000-800,000, or about US$77,000-103,000. Full lot details here.

It’s followed by lot 2215, the Octa Réserve de Marche, the brand’s entry-level watch when it was introduced in 2002 (we took a detailed look at one of the prototypes back in 2019). A practical watch with date, power reserve, and a 120-hour power reserve, this has an estimate of HK$600,000-800,000, or about US$77,000-103,000. Full lot details here.

Octa Calendrier (left), and Octa Réserve de Marche

Last of the five is lot 2216, the Chronomètre Souverain. The only model of the five still in production, the Chronomètre Souverain is a straightforward, time-only watch that nevertheless has the trademark F.P. Journe aesthetic.

Despite having a lower retail price (and being less complicated) than the Octa Calendrier and Réserve de Marche, the Chronomètre Souverain has an identical estimate of HK$600,000-800,000, or about US$77,000-103,000, making the preceding two better value in comparison. Full lot details here.

The original box of the stainless steel set is lot 2217. For the buyer determined to have the set, the box is imperative. Offered with no reserve, the box has an estimate of HK$20,000-30,000, or about US$2,500-3,800. Full lot details here.

The Chronomètre Souverain

And the Coffret

Lot 2263 – Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 1518

One of the top lots of the sale, lot 2263 is a Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in yellow gold. The first wristwatch chronograph with perpetual calendar made by Patek Philippe (or any brand for that matter), the ref. 1518 is desirable in itself.

First introduced in 1941, the ref. 1518 is powered by the 13-130 Q, that was based on the Valjoux 23 but heavily improved by Patek Philippe. Most were made with cases in yellow gold, a minority in rose gold, and just four in stainless steel (which is why one sold for US$11 million in 2016).

Though this is an example of the most common variant of the ref. 1518, it is preserved in uncommon condition. The case and dial are original, showing only minor signs of wear.

The dial exhibits pinpoint marks on the minute counter near the hand, along with oxidisation arounds the edges of the aperture for the moon phase. The gold hallmarks remain deep and obvious, and according to Sotheby’s, the case most likely retains its original factory finish.

Accompanied by its original box, this has an estimate of HK$4.0-8.0m, or about US$500,000-1.0m. Full lot details here.

Preview and auction

The preview exhibition is open daily from April 16-21, from 10:00 am-6:00 pm, except on April 21 when it closes at 2:00 pm.

The auction takes place on April 23, at 11:00 am.

Hall 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (New Wing)
1 Expo Drive
Wanchai, Hong Kong

For the full catalogue, as well as appointments and online bidding, visit Sothebys.com.

This was brought to you in partnership with Sotheby’s.


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Torsti Laine Introduces the G3 and V38

Elaborate dials and Vaucher powered.

A Finnish watchmaker in Switzerland, Torsti Laine has become known for his affordable watches with custom-made dials and attractively modified Unitas movements. Now he is simultaneously unveiling his next generation of watches.

One is the Laine G3, an improved version of his bestselling model that’s now available with dials comprised of various materials. It continues to be powered by a Unitas calibre, but now even more elaborately decorated with relief engraving on the three-quarter plate.

And the second is the Laine V38, an entirely new model that’s smaller and slimmer thanks to the automatic Vaucher VMF 5401 inside. Like the G3, it will be offered with a variety of mix-material dials.

The LA18.1 with its new three-quarter plate decoration

Initial thoughts

Appealing for the high level of customisation and good finishing, Mr Laine’s watches have long been an accessible yet respectable entry into the world of independent watchmaking.

His new models continue to offer the qualities that made his earlier watches a success, while adding a bit more to the mix in terms of finishing and choice. The variety of dial styles and materials will be the biggest selling point, while the new movement engraving might be unnecessarily fancy.

The V38, in particular, is something that Mr Laine never offered before in terms of size, which should make it the most appealing to buyers wanting something more classically sized.

The V38

With the G3 starting at CHF8,500, the new models are more expensive than his earlier watches, by 20-50% depending on the model, though they offer more for the money and remain good value.

G3 and GG3

A replacement for the Gelidus 2 (G2), the G3 is has the same underpinnings as its predecessor, but refined in terms of decoration and construction.

The G3 dial is made ups three primary parts – centre, seconds, and chapter ring – that can each be rendered in a different material, resulting in a multitude of dial variations. The centre, for instance, can be engine turned or frosted, or even entirely etched iron meteorite.

The movement remains based on the Unitas 6498, but now features a fancier three-quarter plate that’s is offered in three distinct finishes.

The “Classic” frosted finish of the G2 continues to be available, but now additional options include relief engraving that’s either an arabesque or abstract calligraphy that resembles Arabic script.

While the three-quarter plate has been revamped, the movement continues to boast a few hand finished that have the original much appeal. The steel bridges for the balance and escape wheels are straight grained on top and mirror polished on their bevels, while all of the countersinks for the screws and jewels are polished by hand to a mirrored finish.

The “Signature” movement

The “Calligraphy” movement

A variation of the new model is the GG3, which is short for Gelidus-Guilloche. It’s essentially identical to the G3, except the dial is decorated with three styles of guilloche, all engraved the old-fashioned way on a rose engine.

The GG3


The V38, on the other hand, is an entirely new model. It’s smaller and slimmer than the G3, with a case that’s 38 mm by 9 mm.

Its dimensions are possible due to the VMF 5401 made by Vaucher, the movement maker owned by Parmigiani. A thin automatic with a micro-rotor, the VMF 5401 increasingly popular amongst smaller independent brands seeking a high-end automatic movement. Other brands that rely on the calibre include Kikuchi Nakagawa and Millechron.

Having a similarly-constructed three-part dial, the V38 is available with the same options for dial customisation as the G3. But the hands of the V38 are thicker than those on the G3, and produced by hand – first filed to round them and then mirror polished.

Finished to the highest specification offered by Vaucher, the VMF 5401 is equipped with a tungsten rotor that’s engraved with the same “Signature” motif found on the G3 movement.

Key Facts and Price

Laine G3 and GG3

Diameter: 40.5 mm
Height: 11.3 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
30 m

Movement: LA18.1
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve:
50 hours

Strap: Leather with pin buckle

Limited edition: No but made to order with various levels of customisation 
Availability: Direct from Laine Watches
G3 – From CHF8,500 with frosted dial, and CHF9,000 with meteorite or guilloche dial
GG3 – From CHF9,800

Laine V38

Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 9 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
30 m

Movement: Vaucher VMF 5401/32
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve:
48 hours

Strap: Leather with pin buckle

Limited edition: No but made to order with various levels of customisation 
Availability: Direct from Laine Watches
Frosted dial – CHF9,400
Meteorite or guilloche dial – CHF9,900
Triple-texture guilloche – CHF10,900

All prices exclude taxes.

For more, visit Lainewatches.com.


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Sinn Introduces the U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S

Style and substance.

Typically known for making utilitarian, military-inspired watches, Sinn breaks away from its trademark aesthetic with the U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S, adding a touch of luxe to the smaller sibling of its best-selling U1 dive watch.

Initial thoughts

Billed as a unisex version of the U1, the U50 has a 41 mm diameter. Though not a small watch in itself, it is substantially smaller than the full-sized, 44 mm U1. With the U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S, it is clear that Sinn is trying to appeal to female buyers – a segment that the brand, with its usually large “tool” watches must have had difficulty wooing.

I find the unusual combination of the blacked-out case and mother-of-pearl dial to work well. The all-black aesthetic is stealthy, the very sort of look right at home on a no-nonsense tool watch. In contrast, the mother-of-pearl dial is striking, with an iridescence is highly attractive and appealing to females looking for sports watch that has a little bit more sparkle. The paradoxical combination gives the new U50 an intriguing look, which I must confess to liking this much more than the regular U50 S.

Starting at €2,750 on a rubber strap, the U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S is just a tad pricier than the regular U50 S. Given that it is also limited to just 500 pieces, it’s good value for those looking for a more stylish Sinn dive watch.

Pretty but robust

Despite the shimmering mother-of-pearl dial, the U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S remains robustly built, as most Sinn watches are. It is very much a serious dive watch, tested according to European diving equipment standards (EN250 and EN14143) for a depth rating of 5oo m that is also certified by marine and industrial certification body DNV GL.

The case is made of the same alloy used for the German navy’s submarines. Compared to ordinary steel, submariner steel has increased anti-magnetic and corrosion-resistant qualities, while also being stronger and denser.

In addition, the case and bezel are further enhanced with Tegiment treatment, which is a surface hardening process that greatly increases its scratch resistance. The case and bezel are further coated with a black ceramic coating, boosting the scratch resistance even further.

Beneath the hood is the automatic Sellita SW300-1, assentially a clone of the workhorse ETA 2892. It has a satisfactory power reserve of 42 hours, and hacking seconds.

The watch is available either on a rubber strap – in a variety of colours – or a bracelet coated black to match the case. Buyers looking for a more masculine look – like me – should prefer the bracelet option, while those with flashier tastes would find the red rubber strap option right up their alley.

Key facts and price

Sinn U50 S Mother-of-Pearl S
Ref. 1050.0201

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 11.25 mm
Material: Submarine steel
Water resistance: 500 m

Movement: SW300-1
Functions: Hours, minutes, and date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Bracelet or silicon strap

Limited edition: 500 pieces
Availability: At Sinn retailers
€2,750 on silicon strap
€2,840 on steel bracelet

Prices include national taxes

For more, visit Sinn.de.


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