Highlights: Independent Watchmaking at Phillips Hong Kong

Prominent names and overlooked gems.

Phillips kicks off its spring sale season in Hong Kong with the first watch auction to take place at its recently inaugurated regional headquarters in the West Kowloon Cultural District. The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVI is a 248-lot sale with a strong representation of contemporary independent watchmaking, including the cover lot, a Rexhep Rexhepi Chronometre Contemporain I in pink gold – the first example of this coveted watch to emerge at auction.

Amongst the other offerings going on the block are works from prominent names like Kari Voutilainen and F.P. Journe. The sale includes under appreciated gems such as a Parmigiani Toric Chronograph from the early 2000s and a unique Atelier de Chronométrie featuring a gilt dial. And there’s also a unique Richard Mille that was once owned by a Brazilian footballer Bobby Firmino.

The auction takes place on May 24 (lots 801-925) and May 25 (lots 926-1048). The full catalogue and sale registration can be accessed here.

The cover lot of the sale

Lot 832: Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain I (RRCC I)

One of the top lots – maybe even the top lot – of the sale is the first example of the Chronomètre Contemporain by Rexhep Rexhepi. As we detailed in our review of the prototype, the RRCC I is a gentleman’s wristwatch in the mould of mid-20th century Swiss chronometers. 

With its distinct arched lugs and enamel dial, the RRCCI is instantly recognisable despite its classical styling. Notably, the enamel dial is made of two parts, with a recessed sub-seconds soldered to the main dial.

Housed in a 38 mm, 18k pink gold case, the watch is powered by the cal. RR-01, an in-house  movement featuring a hacking, zero-reset seconds. But of course the highlight of the movement is it’s aesthetics, the result of an original, distinctive architecture along with magnificent hand finishing.

Numbered “20/25”, the present example is in like-new condition and includes all of the original packaging and accessories.

It has an estimate of HK$1.6-3.0 million, or US$205,000-385,000. 

For more, visit the catalogue entry

Lot 838: Parmigiani Toric Chronographe

If a watch can sum up the definitive style of Parmigiani Fleurier, it would be the Toric. It was the brand’s first-ever model that was personally designed by master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani. It is defined by three key elements: a guilloche dial, a double-step fluted bezel, and a cabochon on the crown. 

This example is an original generation Toric dating to the early 2000s. It has a 40 mm 18k white gold case and ruby cabochon on the crown.

While the case is typical Toric, the dial is unusual. Instead of the formal and ornate style found on most other Toric models, this has a red, black, and silver livery that is almost sporty.

At the center of the dial is guilloché in an eye-catching écaille de poisson motif, which is ringed by a chapter ring featuring Parmigiani’s elegant numerals. The date is quirky in execution: it’s situated between one and two o’clock.

The Toric Chronograph is powered by a Zenith El Primero cal. 400Z. The famous high-beat calibre is finished to a noticeably superior standard relative to versions of the same movement used by other brands, making it arguably the finest version of the El Primero available.

This lot is offered without its accessories and has an estimate of HK$60,000-120,000, or US$7,700-15,400. For more, visit the catalogue entry.

Lot 861: Richard Mille RM016 AJ WG/1198 “Help Them Onlus”

The sale includes several timepieces with interesting charitable provenance, starting with a unique RM016. Launched in 2007, the RM016 was the brand’s first rectangular timepiece and also the first departure from its iconic tonneau case shape.

In 2012, a one-of-a-kind RM016 was sold at auction to benefit Help Them Onlus, a Belgrade charity affiliated with the Sovereign Order of Malta that builds schools for disadvantaged Serbian youth.

The openworked dial features Arabic numerals and the charity’s logo at nine, a heart incorporating the Maltese cross. The logo is complemented by a chapter ring with red accents, while the case back bears the charity’s name along with the  inscription “unique piece”.

As with the standard RM016, the rectangular case measures 50 mm by 38 mm and contains the RMAS7, an automatic movement with adjustable winding speed.

Notably, this watch was previously owned by Brazilian footballer Roberto “Bobby” Firmino, who currently plays for the English Premier League team Liverpool F.C., adding to the timepiece’s significance. He purchased it at the charity auction as a tribute to his humble beginnings.

The present example is in excellent condition and is complete with its original accessories. Relatively affordable for a unique Richard Mille, it has an estimate of HK$350,000-670,000, or US$44,900-85,900. Find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 987: Atelier de Chronométrie AdC#18

Spanish independent Atelier de Chronométrie has built a dedicated following by creating vintage-inspired timepieces that run on rebuilt Omega calibres. A perfect example of its repertoire is the AdC#18, a unique piece made for Japanese watch retailer Shellman. 

The watch draws inspiration from watches of the 1930s and 1940s. Its 35 mm steel case features a single-stepped bezel framing a captivating black “sector” dial with the old school combination of applied Breguet numerals at its quarters and leaf-shaped hands.

It is powered by the cal. 18, a movement based on a vintage Omega cal. 226. AdC transforms the  vintage movement by modifying key parts and finishing it entirely by hand: the bridges have been purposely decorated with Geneva stripes while the wheels are gilded in rose gold.

The AdC#18 has an estimate of HK$320,000-470,000, or US$41,000-60,300. Find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 994: F.P. Journe Octa Perpétuelle

No auction can be complete without an F.P. Journe given the brand’s importance today. The Hong Kong sale has a few, but perhaps the most interesting is the Octa Perpétuelle, a limited edition released in 2009 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the brand’s boutique in Tokyo. This example is unusual because it’s matched with an all-titanium bracelet.

Derived from the Octa Annual Calendar, the Perpétuelle is often recognised as the brand’s most refined perpetual calendar thanks to its concise display with small windows and a retrograde date display.

Admittedly, both calendar designs suffer from readability issues because of the unique dial layout that distinguishes them from all others in the category.

The Octa Perpétuelle has a 40 mm titanium case, while the crown and pusher are in 18k rose gold. Like all titanium boutique editions, the dial is finished in ruthenium and complimented by rose gold accents on the calendar and hands.

Offered in excellent condition, the watch is numbered “22/99” and includes a matching titanium bracelet. It has an estimate of HK$630,000-1.3 million or US$80,800-167,000.

Full lot details here.

Lot 1012: Voutilainen GMT-6 “Kidz Horizon”

In 2016, Kari Voutilainen created the GMT-6, two time zone version of his signature Vingt-8.

Two examples were made, one in steel for Only Watch 2015, and another in titanium to benefit Singapore charity Kidz Horizon Appeal.

The Kidz Horizon GMT-6 was the sixth watch donated to the charity by the family of the late Duncan Wang, a Chinese-American businessman and philanthropist who died in 2009. Wang was a renowned watch collector with a generous spirit, explaining his family’s horological donations.

As previously covered in our review, the Kidz Horizon GMT-6 features a grey-blue, hand-made dial finished with guilloche and champlevé enamelling.

The rest of the timepiece is typical Voutilainen. Sporting a 39 mm titanium case with brand’s hallmark teardrop lugs, the high quality case is matched by impeccable movement finishing.

The watch is equipped with the cal. 28 featuring a black polished steel bridge for the large balance wheel.

The movement boasts refined details, including polished bevels on the bridges and chamfered teeth on the winding wheels, in the usual Voutilainen style.

The GMT-6 Kidz Horizon is offered with its original box and accessories and carries an estimate of HK$700,000-1.5 million or US$89,700-192,000. Find out more in the catalogue.

Lot 1043: Jacob & Co. Quenttin

Though better known for its over the top, jewelled creations, New York-based Jacob & Co. has been making waves in serious watchmaking with its complications like the newly released Casino Tourbillon.

Amongst the brand’s earliest complicated timepieces is the Quenttin Tourbillon with an month-long power reserve.

Introduced in 2006, the Quenttin was a groundbreaking feat, earning the distinction of being the first wristwatch to boast a 31-day power reserve – accompanied by a one-minute vertical tourbillon no less.

To achieve the ultra long power reserve, the brand collaborated with now-defunct movement specialist BNB Concept. The solution was seven mainspring barrels arranged in series, reminiscent of a car’s gearbox, all prominently displayed on the face of the watch.

The time is indicated on cylinders that display the hours, minutes and the power reserve, all of coated in Super-Luminova. And the cubic case is 18k white gold – measuring a massive 57 mm by 46 mm – with carbon fibre inlays on its flanks.

Offered with only its original winding box, the watch is numbered “38/99” and carries an estimate of HK$280,000-560,000 or US$35,900-71,800. For more, check out the catalogue.

Preview and auction details

All lots will be on show during the preview exhibition in the run-up to the auction. Both the auction and preview will take place at the Phillips Hong Kong Headquarters in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Open daily May 18-25 from 10:00 am-7:00 pm

May 24, 2:00 pm (lots 801-938)
May 25, 11:00 am (lots 939-1070)

All times are local to Hong Kong, GMT+8.

Cultural District

8 Austin Road W

Hong Kong

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

This was brought to you in collaboration with Phillips.

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Hands On: TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox”

A modern take on the classic racing chronograph.

It’s been 60 years since Jack Heuer introduced perhaps his best-known creation, the Carrera. Conceived as a no-frills chronograph for racing drivers, the original Carrera combined beauty and practicality without sacrificing style.

Having released several vintage remakes, TAG Heuer has now pivoted and gently modernised its signature chronograph. The Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox” retains the outline of the original, but it is recognisably different thanks to the highly-domed sapphire crystal – hence the “Glassbox” nickname – that allows the tachymeter scale to sit raised above the dial. The raised tachymeter echos the contours of the crystal, giving the watch a decidedly contemporary flair.

Initial thoughts

The Glassbox successful combines the old and new. The watch manages to convey evoke the original, while still looking like a modern watch, rather than a remake. The raised tachymeter scale and domed crystal serve to give the watch a visual depth that vintage originals lack.

That said, essential elements from the vintage original have been ported over to the new design, like the typography on the tachymeter scale and applied markers for instance. 

Importantly, the Glassbox is smaller than most other comparable Carrera models, with a case that’s just 39 mm in diameter. The size suits the vintage-inspired design, although the watch still remains noticeably thick as a result of the movement.

Interestingly, the two dials actually have different designs. The position of the date, for instance, is at 12 o’clock on the “reverse panda” and at six on the blue dial.

Of the two, I gravitate towards the blue dial with its minimalist styling. Instead of the typical three-register layout, the blue dial has been pared back with “ghost” small seconds at six. But the six o’clock position on the blue dial spoils the minimalism of the “ghost” seconds register. I would have preferred no date altogether. 

As for the “reverse panda”, I would like done away with the faux-patina Super-Luminova found on the “reverse panda”, for instance, since it feels out of place on a modern design. On the other hand, the 12 o’clock date actually camouflages the date display well.

The Glassbox is priced at US$6,450 in either guise, making it about 10% more expensive than the standard Carrera models in the present collection. But the Glassbox benefits from both a strong, modern design, as well as a more compact case that’s just 39 mm. In comparison, the other Carrera models with the same movement are 42 mm, arguably too chunky for the design.

As for the competition, like Zenith or Frederique Constant for example, the Glassbox compares well thanks to its solid execution and a quality in-house movement.

A modern evolution

Deeply intertwined with motor racing, Heuer’s history is replete with renowned drivers, champion teams, and significant races. Arguably no watch embodies this heritage more than the Carrera. In the early 1960s, Jack Heuer, a great-grandson of the brand’s founder, sought to create a racing chronograph that was both functional and elegant.

He christened the design “Carrera” after the infamous Carrera Panamericana rally that took place in Mexico until excessive casualties led to the event’s cancellation in 1954.

An example of the Carrera ref. 3147 “Dato 12” that sold in 2017. Image – Phillips

The modern-day TAG Heuer Carrera is an evolution of the originals, the first of which was the ref. 2447 introduced in 1963.

While today’s Carreras boast modern styling and in-house movements, they incorporate numerous design elements from their predecessors. The Glassbox continues pay to homage to the brand’s storied racing heritage while gaining some contemporary flair.

A glass box

The defining attribute of the Glassbox is its case profile, which is distinguished by a raised tachymeter scale under a highly-domed crystal. The scale rises upwards towards the centre of the dial, following the curve of the domed crystal, which was influenced by the domed Hesalite found on vintage Heuer chronographs. And the seconds track around the dial is bowl-shaped, forming a visual balance to the raised tachymeter.

The domed crystal sits on a 39 mm stainless steel case that has no bezel, enhancing the open feel of the dial. While the bezel-less top is definitely modern in style the case profile and lugs are clearly vintage inspired. The facetted lugs are clearly derived from the vintage Carrera. 

Distinguishing itself from its larger, 42 mm counterparts, the Glassbox feels a bit more elegant and reminiscent of the vintage originals. The compact size leaves the Glassbox more aesthetically pleasing and also more comfortable compared to 42 mm models. The Glassbox is, however, still fairly thick, although the domed crystal helps conceal some of its height.

The mushroom-style pushers are also found on other current Carrera 

Different in design and spirit

The Glassbox makes its debut in two dial styles – blue or “reverse panda”. Both have a brushed finish along with vintage-inspired typography and branding, but are otherwise very different.

The blue dial is definitely more modern in both colour and design. The metallic dial colour is definitely a shade made for today, while the design is cleaner. In fact, it resembles a two-counter layout thanks to a “ghost” seconds at six o’clock. 

The Glassbox in blue

In comparison, the “reverse panda” is decidedly vintage-inspired design with its three-register layout, date at 12 o’clock, and faux-vintage lume.

The 12 o’clock date is an interesting design quirk that is derived from two historical models, the ref. 3,47 “Dato 12” and the ref. 2447 NS (“N” for noir and “S” for silver). But the date at 12 o’clock is somewhat impractical since the central seconds hand partly obscures the date when the chronograph is reset.

And in a “reverse panda” black colourway


The Glassbox is powered by the Calibre TH20-00, an in-house movement developed by Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the head of movement development at TAG Heuer. It’s essentially a new-and-improved version of the Heuer-02, the brand’s longstanding chronograph movement. Amongst the upgrades is bi-directional winding.

The TH20-00 movement is a modern calibre that boasts both a column wheel and vertical clutch, while its power reserve is a generous 80-hours. In its price segment the TH20-00 is certainly a capable movement, although it is plainly industrial when seen through the open back.

A little bit of window dressing like a fancier rotor would have gone some way in making the rear view more interesting. Another detail that could be improved is the Etachron regulator, which is acceptable considering the price but not the prettiest of regulating devices.

Concluding thoughts

The Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox” embodies the spirit of the original Carrera from 1963, but presents it in a modernised, appealing package. The very fact that it is not a remake is a point of appeal. Many brands, TAG Heuer included, have arguably done too many vintage-inspired remakes, draining the novelty of such designs.

In this context, the Glassbox is a breath of fresh air. Though it features many vintage-inspired elements, the novel construction of a bezel-less case, domed crystal, and raised tachymetre scale immediately distinguishes it as a new, original design.

Match that with a movement upgraded under the auspices of one of the industry’s most esteemed technical specialists, and the result is a compelling combination of design, solid mechanics, and value.

Key facts and price

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox”
Ref. CBS2210.FC6534 (black “reverse panda” dial)
Ref. CBS2212.FC6535 (blue dial)

Diameter: 39 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Polished steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Calibre TH20-00 Automatic
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Leather strap with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
At TAG Heuer boutiques and retailers
Price: US$6,450; or 9,200 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Tagheuer.com.


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