Christie’s inaugural evening auction dedicated to watches turned out to be a white-glove sale, with all 18 rare pieces finding their new owners. The Legends of Time sale tallied HK$144.4m (US$18.6m), surpassing the 146-lot day sale total.
The evening was spearheaded by a unique Patek Philippe Ref. 3448. Though it was hammered down a notch below the presale estimate, it realized HK$29m (US$3.7m) to become the star lot of the sale. The total hammer came down to HK$116m (US$15m), sitting squarely within the presale estimate range of HK$77.5m to HK$200m.
Auctioneer Georgina Hilton putting her white gloves in the air at the end of the perfect-score sale
The top lots of the sale were:
Lot 2513 | Patek Philippe Ref. 3448J “Senza Luna” with prototype leap year indication specially modified by request of Henri and Philippe Stern
Manufactured in: 1970
- Presented by Henri and Philippe Stern to Alan Banbery in 1975
- Alan Banbery’s personal watch until 1999
- Sold privately to an Italian collector
- Sotheby’s Geneva, November 16, 2008, lot 214, sold to an Italian collector
- An important Asian collection since 2010
Estimate: HK$24,800,000 - 40,000,000
Hammer price: HK$24,000,000
Price realized: HK$29,050,000
The star lot of the evening came from Patek Philippe. The highly desirable wristwatch, one of the most classic models of the 1960s and 1970s, is the only “Senza Luna” to have a leap year indication, as a unique piece commissioned by the family-run Patek Philippe company’s owners, the great Henri and Philippe Stern.
It was a gift to Alan Banbery, Patek Philippe’s former head of sales. The case back is engraved with the famous “AB” monogram, combined with the modification, it is a unique piece among the 586 examples of ref. 3448 made, since its introduction to the market in 1962.
Auctioneer Georgina Hilton opened the present lot at HK$15m. After nine bids in HK$1m increments, it reached HK$24m, relayed by Julia Hu (General Manager China). With no further bids coming in, the auctioneer finally had to bring down the gavel at HK$24m, slightly below the estimate and the watch was sold to Hu’s client, with the paddle number 8850, for HK$29m (US$3.7m) after fees.
Julia Hu (General Manager China) acquired the present lot for her client, paddle number 8850
The present lot was sold for HK$29m (US$3.7m) after fees
First manufactured nearly six decades ago, Ref. 3448 was at the time, the first self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch, with the majority of them in yellow gold cases, there are only around 130 in white gold, two in platinum and one in pink gold known to exist to date.
The prominent moon phase indication, here in the present lot, is replaced by a leap year indication. It is also one of the only seven recorded examples that exist without the moon phase, also known as “Senza Luna,” or “Without Moon,” and the only one known to have modified to show the leap year in place of the moon.
Setting the unique piece apart from the remaining six of the moonless bunch, is the mechanical conversion work the leap year function, which was done by Patek Philippe’s master watchmaker Max Berney. Berney had to remove the moon phase disk carefully before he could modify the movement so that the leap year indication could be displayed with a corresponding small hand. The dial was also uniquely adapted by Stern Frères as a special order at the request of Patek Philippe by creating a new subsidiary dial displaying leap year.
Leap year indication at 6 o’clock
The bottom of dial shows where the moon phase indication would have been
Alan Banbery first joined the company as its Director of Sales in 1965. Over his almost 40-year career with the company, he also oversaw the acquisition and preservation of historic watches and other horological pieces made by the house, many of which eventually went to the collection of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, which was established in 2001, after which Banbery retired.
Alan Banbery, who served Patek Philippe for nearly 40 years
Former presidents of Patek Philippe, Henri (left) and Philippe Stern
The precious wristwatch stayed with Banbery for nearly a quarter century, before it changed hands in 1999 and was sold to an Italian collector. This time around, it was sold for HK$29m (US$3.7m) with premium, a 140% increase from the watch’s auction debut in 2008, when it fetched CHF 1.84m (US$1.5m).
Other lots placed high in the sale included three rare Patek Philippe world time wristwatches, each estimated at HK$8m to HK$24m (US$1m - US$3m).
Lot 2508 | Patek Philippe Ref. 1415 HU 18K pink gold world time wristwatch with cloisonné enamel dial depicting the Eastern Hemisphere
Manufactured in: 1949
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer price: HK$14,500,000
Price realized HK$17,650,000
Our first runner-up, Patek Philippe Ref. 1415, was introduced in 1939 and remained in production until circa 1954. Its movement was based on the established Patek Philippe in-house caliber 12'''-120. Some 115 movements were upgraded for this model with the ingenious, patented world time mechanism invented by Louis Cottier, the celebrated Geneva watchmaker.
Ref. 1415 HU (for Heure Universelle or World Time) mostly comes in either yellow or pink gold cases, with only one known example in platinum. Until 1948, ref.1415 HU was only available with the classic metal dial, either silvered or more exclusively rose. During the very last years of production, this model was also available in very few pieces only with cloisonné enamel dial.
Closer look of the present lot
The present ref. 1415 in 18K pink gold, is one of the five known examples of the reference to be fitted with a cloisonné enamel dial showing the Eastern Hemisphere.
The present lot last went under the hammer in 2002, when it was sold for CHF 2.75m (US$1.8m). After almost 20 years down the road, it fetched HK$17.6m (US$2.3m) this time and saw an almost 30% increase in value.
Lot 2509 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2523/1 18K gold two-crown world time wristwatch with 24 hours indication, guilloché dial
Manufactured in: 1965
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer price: HK$13,000,000
Price realized: HK$15,850,000
Another lot that sparked much interest in the sale was Patek Philippe Ref. 2523/1 18K gold world time wristwatch. The bidding began at HK$5m and was hammered at HK$13m. The final price was HK$15.9m (US$2m) after fees.
Only 15 yellow gold examples of the present reference were ever made and currently only nine are known in public. The present lot is the only known specimen to have luminous hands, a gold bracelet, and the rarest of all, a guilloche or engine-turned center on the dial, made by Stern Frères.
The names of 41 cities around the world are also engraved on the silver outer dial ring, which is met with a luminous gold Lys hour hand and a luminous Dauphine minutes hand.
Lot 2507 | Patek Philippe Ref. 1415 HU platinum world time wristwatch
Manufactured in 1946
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer price: HK$12,000,000
Price realized: HK$14,650,000
As with lot 2508 previously mentioned, the present lot is another stunning example of Patek Philippe Ref. 1415 HU. It is the only platinum sample known, and it was a headline-grabbing one when it last hit the auction block in 2002 and fetched a whopping CHF 6.6m (US$4.3m) to become the auction record for any wristwatch. The record remained unbroken for several years and, yet this time, it was sold for HK$14.7m (US$1.9m), plummeted by 55%.
Lot 2506 | Patek Philippe 18K pink gold openface minute repeating two train grande and petite sonnerie keyless lever clockwatch
Manufactured in: 1890
Estimate: HK$4,000,000 - 12,000,000
Hammer price: HK$11,500,000
Price realized: HK$14,050,000
Setting the present lot apart from other clockwatches produced by Patek Philippe since 1845, are two highly unusual functions: a calendar function that enables both Gregorian and Julian calendars to be indicated simultaneously, and a central 60-minute recorder, made for the original owner, Polish nobleman Jean de Gradowski more than 130 years ago.
As one of the earliest and unique Grande Complication watch of the early days, the present lot, in 18K pink gold, was sold for nearly HK$14.1m (US$1.8m).
The engraved coat of arms of Gradowski at the back of the present lot
Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: The Legends of Time
Date: May 22, 2021
Lots offered: 18
Sale rate: 100%
Sale total: HK$144,435,000 (US$18,606,577)