Following our look at notable complications and artisanal masterpieces on offer at Sotheby’s Important Watches I in Hong Kong, we now consider the independent watchmaking highlights in the sale that takes place on October 7.
The offerings in the sale range from establishment names like Philippe Dufour – on offer is a Simplicity 37 mm in platinum made after the original run – to newcomers like Pascal Coyon with a Besançon Observatory-certified chronometer. And the highlights also include the headline lot of the auction, the extravagant Richard Mille RM 53-02 in blue sapphire crystal.
Important Watches I happens on October 7, 2023. Registration for bidding and the full catalogue can be accessed here.
One of the most affordable offerings in the sale is the Pascal Coyon Chronometre, a watch inspired by the French watchmaker’s career as a watch and clock repairer in Bayonne. Though based on a Unitas 6498, Mr Coyon’s hand-wound movement bears a strong resemblance to classical 19th-century pocket watches from the likes of Longines.
While the movement is still a Unitas 6498 at its core, it has been dressed up with frosted bridges and a snail cam regulator, amongst other things.
Being one of his earlier watches, this has a plain, 42 mm polished steel case with a stepped bezel and a white lacquered dial with red numerals for “12” and “60”, complemented by Breguet-style hour and minute hands.
This Chronometre is numbered “16/20” and is accompanied by its presentation box and chronometer certificate from the Besançon Observatory detailing its testing and subsequent chronometer certification.
Although the low estimate is still more than double the original retail price, the Chronometre remains affordable with an estimate of HK$100,000-200,000, or about US$12,800-25,600. Find out more in the catalogue.
In 2001, German leather goods manufacturer Goldpfeil formed unique partnerships with seven independent watchmakers to create Seven Masters, a series of watches each developed with an independent watchmaker. Though a landmark project that debuted at the same time as the Harry Winston Opus, the Seven Masters is now largely forgotten as Goldpfeil was already in financial trouble at the time of the launch and went bust a few years later.
The seven watchmakers involved included Sven Andersen, Vincent Calabrese and Vianney Halter. Designed by Pascal Pages, Mr Halter’s creation as stood out amongst the seven the most elaborate thanks to the unusual design and intricate, hammered decoration applied to the case.
Inspired by leather-wrapped vintage rangefinder cameras, the rectangular case is a compact 40 mm by 29 mm and meticulously hammered to create a dimpled texture that is meant to mimic leather grain. The crown is intended to mirror a camera’s winding knob, while the double-flap buckle draws inspiration from the loading mechanism for a roll of film.
What adds to the appeal of the watch are the clever complications that complement the design. Mr Halter implemented a novel moon phase as well as a jumping hours. In typical Vianney Halter style, the display is separated into sub-dials, with the jumping hours at ten o’clock, and minutes and seconds presented below.
The unconventional moon phase indicator at two boasts higher-than-usual accuracy, deviating by only one day in 139 years, surpassing the standard 122.5-year precision of standard wristwatches. But the sparse nature of the moon phase display means it is difficult to set precisely.
Offered as a watch only, the Goldpfeil carries an estimate of HK$80,000-120,000, or about US$10,230-15,400. Full lot details here.
Vianney Halter is most renowned for the steampunk-inspired Antiqua, an aesthetic that was originally devised by American designer Jeff Barnes who then embarked on a partnership with Mr Halter. Mr Barnes sketched several watches in this style during the late 1990s when the brand Halter-Barnes was first formed, including the Trio Grande Date.
This piece preserves the distinct style by presenting the time, day-night indicator, date, and small seconds, through riveted apertures on a chunky, oblong case.
The rectangular white gold case commands a presence on the wrist at 44 mm by 32 mm. Despite its heft, the case is gently curved to fit the wrist while also having the refined finishing typical of Vianney Halter cases.
Interestingly, the VH205 movement within is actually derived from the movement inside the Goldpfeil, though the VH205 is more complex.
The Trio can be set entirely through the crown, providing an unparalleled level of user-friendliness. Noteworthy is the independent operation of the date and time adjustment mechanisms, which prevents inadvertent changing of the date when setting the time, thus minimising the potential for movement damage.
The Trio Grande Date includes its certificate of authenticity, presentation box, and instruction manual. It has an estimate of HK$320,000-480,000, or about US$41,000-61,400. For more, view the catalogue entry.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak continues to stand out among contemporary watches, even after two decades after its launch because it is so different. The first serially-produced watch to employ silicon for movement parts, the Freak boasts a unique design where the movement is actually the minute hand, while the dial covers an enormous mainspring that occupies most of the case. And the movement boasts the brand’s patented Dual Direct escapement made up of twin silicon wheels.
Although Ulysse Nardin is not an independent watchmaker strictly speaking, the Freak was conceived by two notable watchmakers. The original concept came from the mind of Carole Forestier-Kasapi, now head of movement development at TAG Heuer, and subsequently it was Ludwig Oechslin who refined the idea to create the Freak as we know it.
The example shown here is a Freak Blue Phantom, one of the most distinctive early Freak models that is distinguished by the blue coating on its main plate and bridges. Certainly one of the most striking variations of the Freak, the Blue Phantom preserves the design of the original 2001 model although in a slightly larger case.
It is housed in an 18k white gold case with a hefty diameter of 44.5 mm. As is tradition for the Freak, the movement is wound by turning the notched case back, with an aperture in the back revealing the coils of the mainspring, thus serving as a power reserve indicator.
The Freak Blue Phantom is complete with its guarantee certificate, presentation box, and instruction manual. It has an estimate of HK$320,000-480,000, or about US$41,000-61,400. Full lot details here.
One of the most recognisable creations of Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel, the GMT combines a 25° inclined tourbillon and an elaborate second time zone complication in the form of a striking, three-dimensional globe that is visible from both the front and an aperture on the case side.
Besides the second time zone on the dial, the complication also includes a world time disc on the back that shows the times on all 24 time zones of the world.
This example is a relatively less common model in platinum – the case is 43.5 mm – matched with a rose gold dial. It was a limited edition of only 22 pieces.
Numbered “12/22”, the GMT is presented as a watch only without accessories, but the watch is being sold with a complimentary comprehensive servicing by Greubel Forsey. The servicing includes an update of the owner’s book and an additional two-year warranty.
The GMT has an estimate of HK$2.0-4.0 million, or about US$255,800-511,600. Full lot details here.
Originally invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet during his exile in Switzerland in 1795, the Sympathique is arguably one of the greatest horological achievements in history. Consisting of a Sympathique master clock and accompanying pocket watch, the Sympathique regulates winds, and sets the pocket watch during the night when the pocket watch is mounted on the clock.
Only a very limited number of original, 19th century Sympathique clocks were ever produced, with some taking up to two decades to complete. The most famous of them is the magnificent clock made for the Duc d’Orléans that was sold at Sotheby’s in New York on December 4, 2012, where it achieved an impressive US$ 6.803 million.
Recognising the significance of this historical masterpiece, Breguet recreated the Sympathique in the early 1990s in a limited edition of 19 examples. The modern-day Sympathique substituted the pocket watch with a wristwatch, the type of which varied from clock to clock.
Originally sold by Tiffany & Co. in New York, this example include a wristwatch with a 36 mm yellow gold case. It incorporates a tourbillon, regulator-style time display and power reserve indication, as well as the mechanism for the clock to wind and set the time. The watch exhibits noticeable signs of wear, particularly with the case showing oxidisation, especially on the sides.
Incredibly ornate in style, the gilt bronze clock boasts an astronomical annual calendar featuring phases and age of the moon, equation of time, a centigrade thermometer, an eight-day power reserve indication, and a five-seconds remontoire winding spring with a detent chronometer escapement.
The clock is accompanied by a duplicate Breguet certificate signed by Nicolas G. Hayek himself that is dated September 2008. The certificate confirms this is the no. 2 in a limited edition of 19 clocks. The clock also includes instruction documents and an original Morocco leather fitted box with a drawer containing a magnifying glass, screwdriver and key. It carries an estimate of HK$1.8-3.6 million, or about US$230,200-460,500.
Find more information on this lot here.
Whenever a Simplicity goes on the block, it unfailingly attracts attention, because of its creator and the fact that it is regarded as the finest-finished time-only watch in the world. Despite the name that describes a simplistic design, the movement decoration reveals a level of complexity that defies its moniker. Devoid of complications or excess design, the Simplicity is all about the movement that is hand finished by Mr Dufour.
This example is a 37 mm version in platinum, making it rarer than usual since the metal is less commonly encountered in the Simplicity, most of which are cased in gold. The platinum case is matched with a white lacquer dial and blue Breguet hands.
Interestingly, this dates from 2017, well after the original, 200-piece run of the Simplicity ended. As such this does not have a serial number on the movement, but rather the original owner’s last name or initials, which read “NG”.
According to Sotheby’s this was consigned by the original owner. It is accompanied by the original box and certificate, and has an estimate of HK$4.0-8.0 million, or about US$511,600-1.02 million. Full lot details here.
Richard Mille describes its sapphire-case watches as the “ultimate expression of weightlessness and transparency”. Despite its transparency, the RM 53-02 is over the top and quintessential Richard Mille.
The standard RM 53-02, if it can be called that, has a case of clear sapphire crystal. This, on the other hand, is one of a limited edition just eight watches in scratch-resistant blue sapphire crystal, which according to its maker, requires over 1,000 hours of work to machine and polish to achieve its sleek appearance.
Within the blue sapphire case is a movement made up of double base plates, both secured by tensioned, braided cables that enhance shock resistance according to Richard Mille. The result is a “floating” movement that appears to be suspended in the middle of the case.
The RM 53-02 is accompanied by its warranty, instruction manual, and presentation box, and carries an estimate of HK$16-24 million, or about US$2.05-3.1 million.
For more, view the catalogue entry.
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 Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery located in Admiralty.
Open daily October 2-6 from 10:00 am-6:00 pm
October 7, 10:00 am
All times are local to Hong Kong, GMT+8.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery
5/F, One Pacific Place
88 Queensway, Admiralty
For the full catalogue, as well as viewing appointments and online bidding, visit Sothebys.com.
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