Highlights: Complications at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Auction

Grand complications and much more.

Having covered highlights from independent watchmakers at Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches I auction in Hong Kong, we now dive into the complicated timepieces in the sale that takes place on April 5.

We look at eight notable lots. Some, like the platinum Patek Philippe ref. 5016 with its minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and tourbillon, are amongst the most valuable in the sale. But the catalogue also has value buys, notably including offerings from jewellers like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Bulgari.

Registration for bidding and the entire catalogue can be accessed here.

The Patek Philippe ref. 5016P

Lot 2137: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Pont des Amoureux

One of the most poetic timepieces by the Parisian jeweller, the Pont des Amoureux was a watch that helped make Van Cleef & Arpels as a watchmaker. This watch is the original and cleanest version of the model, which was discontinued in 2019 and replaced by a revised version.

The watch is all about a uniquely whimsical depiction of the passing of time. A double retrograde display takes the form of two figures: a lady with an umbrella indicates the hours whilst a gentleman marks the minutes.

The two figures move towards one another over the course of 12 hours, until they meet and “kiss” on top of the bridge that overlooks the Seine river – this happens twice in a day, at midday and midnight.

The dial is executed in grisaille enamel, a meticulous process that dates back to the 16th century. The technique requires numerous layers of enamel fired in an oven, followed by artful scratching to remove layers and create shading and lines.

Like the many of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Poetic Complications, this is powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre cal. 846 with a complications module produced by Agenhor, the Geneva specialist responsible for most of the jeweller’s most interesting complications.

Accompanied by only its presentation box, this has an estimate of HK$400,000-600,000, or about US$51,000-76,500. You can find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 2139: Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Grande Sonnerie

Audemars Piguet (AP) has always been associated with the Royal Oak, at least for the last three decades. But it has long excelled at complications, notably the grande sonnerie. In the 1990s, it was one of the handful of brands offering the complication in a wristwatch (and it recently returned to the complication with the Code 11:59 Universelle).

A grande sonnerie strikes the hours and quarters as they pass, but also the time on demand as a minute repeater with the pusher at 11 o’clock. The slider at two o’clock allows the wearer to select grande sonneriepetite sonnerie, or silent mode.

While these functions have lost their practicality in contemporary times, their complexity means they are still very much appreciated by discerning collectors.

This example is a Jules Audemars. Long before the Code 11.59, the Jules Audemars was the brand’s long-lived but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a round watch. Named after one of the brand’s founders, Jules Audemars was clean and classical.

Here the case is pink gold and 38.5 mm in diameter. Inside is the cal. 2868, a manual-wind movement developed by Renaud & Papi, the complications subsidiary of AP.

Most notable is the blue dial with luminous hands and markers, a variant that is amongst the least common for the Jules Audemars Grande Sonnerie.

Accompanied by only its presentation box, this Jules Audemars Grande Sonnerie is numbered “15/50”. The estimate is HK$600,000-800,000, or about US$76,500-102,000.

You can find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 2143: Cartier CPCP Tank Cintrée ref. 2767

Created in 1921, the elongated Tank Cintreé is one of the most desirable variants of Cartier’s iconic watch. And to celebrate and reissue Cartier designs from throughout the 20th century, Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP) was debuted 1998 and lasted for a decade.

This example is a CPCP Tank Cintreé released in 2004 as a limited series of 150 pieces for the Asian market, explaining the Chinese numerals on the lower dial. It retains the classic case design but with tweaks.

For one, the watch has been reconfigured to display dual time zones that are independently adjustable. The upper dial has Roman numerals while the lower dial features Chinese numerals. This transforms an otherwise ordinary time-only Tank into an elegant and functional traveller’s watch.

This example has an 18k white gold case that measures 45 mm in diameter and 23.5 mm high. It has a silvered guilloche dial with concentric patterning.

Numbered “86/100”, the present example is in excellent condition and complete with its original accessories. The estimate is HK$120,000-180,000, or about US$15,300-23,000.

For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 2167: A. Lange & Söhne Cabaret Tourbillon

A. Lange & Söhne has been at the vanguard of German watchmaking since its revival in 1994. While its seminal watches like the Lange 1 and Datograph are best known, the brand has also made more novel and obscure watches.

One of them was the Cabaret introduced in 1997, but like many form watches eventually faded into obscurity. The current Lange collection focuses on round watches.

This is one of the later iterations of the Cabaret and certainly the most complicated. Large, heavy, and equipped with an impressive hacking tourbillon, the Cabaret Tourbillon was never a bestseller, making it fairly rare.

Dating to 2008, the Cabaret Tourbillon has the hacking tourbillon at six and a digital date display above for visual balance. The seconds and power reserve sub-dials are placed at the seven and four o’clock positions respectively.

Inside is the cal. L042.1, a manual-wind movement with a one-minute tourbillon. Thanks to its patented hacking seconds mechanism, the movement has been designed to halt the tourbillon when the crown is pulled.

Like most Lange movements, the calibre is characterised by striped German silver bridges, blued screws, and jewels in gold chatons. Like most Lange tourbillon movements, it features twin cocks that are hand-engraved with a floral motif – one that supports the tourbillon cage and the other for the wheel that drives the cage.

The watch is accompanied by its box, certificate, and original accessories. The estimate is HK$600,000-800,000, or around US$76,500-102,000.

Find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 2181: Bulgari Octa Roma Papillon Central Tourbillon

Bulgari has been all about ultra-thin movements in recent years with varioued models in the Octo Finissimo collection claiming the title of the thinnest watch in its category.

But the Roman jeweller also produces other complicated watches that are certainly chunkier but equally interesting, especially when priced attractively. The Octa Roma Papillon Central Tourbillon features a flying tourbillon is its centre, while indicating the time through a rotating minutes with jump hours.

Time is read through a 24-hour jump hour display and minute hands reminiscent of butterflies (hence papillon) that rotate in unison around the flying tourbillon. When the first minute hand reaches the 55-minute marker, the second hand simultaneously performs a quarter turn and lands at the start of the minute scale.

Performing the function of a retrograde display, the “Papillon” display was designed to be energy efficient, unlike an energy-intensive retrograde. This complication was original devised by the Daniel Roth brand that Bulgari later acquired.

While the complication is Daniel Roth, the case still is quintessential Bulgari with its Octo form. It’s 18k pink gold case neatly finished with vertical brushing, while the dial is black with gold markings to match.

It is powered by the BVL332, a hand-wind movement with power reserve indicator on the full bridge.

The Octa Roma Papillon Central Tourbillon has an estimate of HK$300,000-500,000, or about US$39,000-64,000. For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 2276: Patek Philippe ref. 3945

If there were ever a complication synonymous with Patek Philippe, it would be the perpetual calendar (though some might say it’s the perpetual calendar with chronograph). Some of the best offerings in this category were conceived between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A case in point is this fine example of a ref. 3945 in 18k yellow gold – with a bracelet that is almost full length and long enough for practically anyone. This is essentially the ref. 3940 on an integrated and non-removable bracelet.

Like better-known ref. 3940, this is a full perpetual calendar. It displays the complete calendar, moon’s current phase in a small aperture at six o’clock, along with a leap year.

The case is 18k yellow gold and matched with an integrated bracelet in the same metal. This example features a solid case back that hides the ultra-thin cal. 240, Patek Philippe’s long-standing automatic movement for its slimmest watches.

Importantly, the bracelet is 190 mm, or about 7.4 inches, in length, leaving it long enough for almost anyone.

The lot is offered without any accessories and has an estimate of HK$280,000-320,000, or about US$36,000-41,000. For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 2297: Patek Philippe ref. 5078P-016 with special-order dial

In its standard form, the Patek Philippe ref. 5078 is a stunning timepiece that features a minute repeater. But in this special-order configuration it gets even better.

Instead of an enamel dial with Roman numerals as found on the regular-production version, this has blackened Breguet numerals for a more elegant look.

Special orders like this are usually reserved for the brand’s best clients, so the original owner of this timepiece was part of that important circle. According to Sotheby’s, the consignor is the original owner who purchased the timepiece and has kept it locked away since. Thus, it is being sold in like-new condition.

The ref. 5078 is powered by the cal. R 27 PS, a self-winding minute repeater with classic gongs. With its elegant design and impressive complication, the Patek Philippe ref. 5078 is a true masterpiece of haute horologerie.

The ref. 5078 includes its original certificate, presentation box, and other accessories. It has an estimate of HK$2.6-4 million, or about US$332,000-510,000. Full lot details here.

Lot 2297: Patek Philippe ref. 5016P

The star of this auction is undoubtedly the Patek Philippe ref. 5016. First launched in 1994, the reference was considered one of the most complicated timepieces ever produced by Patek Philippe. And even though it’s been surpassed on complication count, it remains timelessly elegant.

As covered in an earlier review, the ref. 5016 is one of the brand’s few minute repeaters with this particular dial layout that has a retrograde date, full calendar, and moon phase. But because it is just 36 mm, the watch is eminently discreet and wearable.

The cal. RTO 27 PS QR (short for Repetition minutes, TOurbillon, Petit Seconde, Quantieme Retrograde) is both complicated and beautifully decorated.

On offer is the platinum variant with a black dial set featuring applied Breguet numerals.  It is also one of the last ref. 5016s produced, part of the final production run featuring movements bearing the Patek Philippe Seal.

This example was part of the estimated 200 pieces of the ref. 5016 produced during its 16-year run. The ref. 5016P has all its original packaging and accessories, and carries an estimate of HK$4.2-6 million, or about US$535,100-764,400.

You can find out more in the catalogue.

Preview and auction details

All lots will be on show during the preview in Hong Kong during the run-up to the auction. Both the preview exhibition and sale will happen at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (New Wing).

April 1-4

April 5, 10:00 am

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

For the full catalogue, as well as viewing appointments and online bidding, visit sotheby’s.com.

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

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