Two Philippe Dufour Simplicity Watches Become Top Lots at Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Sotheby’s Fall Auction concluded last Friday. Collectively, the Watches results were mediocre, as several lots were withdrawn unexpectedly. For instance, the highly anticipated Cosmograph Daytona, a yellow Gold and Diamond-set Wristwatch with Lapis Lazuli hardstone dial and bracelet (Circa 1996) was one of a few that was withdrawn. As for another highlight, a unique yellow gold split seconds chronograph wristwatch by Patek Philippe, distributed by Tiffany & Co., was hammered down at a price below estimate.

With a total of 178 lots, 34 lots were bought-in, with 81% lots sold. The total pre-sale estimate was US$8.85 million. In comparison with the final sale result of US$10.6 million, it had an additional revenue of US$1.8 million. While this increase was celebratory, it was average and expected. 

(Note: Pre-sale estimate did not include buyer’s premium. Meanwhile, the total sale result of US$10.6 million includes buyer’s premium.)   

Amongst the list of beautiful watches, two Swiss-made Philippe Dufour Simplicity wristwatch reached outstanding results. Made in 2005, the 34mm Philippe Dufour Simplicity, a 34mm platinum wristwatch was sold for US$662,700 (with buyer’s premium), three times above estimates, it was the second highest lot in the auction. Following, a 37mm Philippe Dufour Simplicity, a white gold wristwatch, circa 2004, was sold for US$455,200. Together, the two Philippe Dufour Simplicity watches acquired two places within top five.

Lot 2152 | Philippe Dufour Simplicity platinum wristwatch|Second highest lot

Made: 2005
Diameter: 34mm
Number: 100

Estimate: US$205,000-310,000
Price realised: US$455,211

In 1978, legendary Swiss watchmaker Philippe Dufour launched his brand under his own name. Over 70 years of age, his grand reputation will remain powerful for mature and upcoming watchmakers. Prior to his independent establishment, Dufour graduated at Valée de Joux, and worked for manufacturers such as Jaeger-Le Coultre. Later, Dufour wanted more creative freedom in craftsmanship and styling. Initially, he started with complicated watches, and to restore antique watches. Soon after, Dufour commenced a remarkable journey of creating elegant iconic pieces, which pays homage to the tradition of watchmaking.

Indeed, any watch by Philippe Dufour emphasizes history and memories. In 1980s, Audemars Piguet commissioned Dufour to create five Grande Sonnerie pocket watches. Later, the watchmaker was able to place such complicated mechanism into a wristwatch, which is much smaller and much more delicate than pocket watches. In 1992, Philippe Dufour introduced his innovative Grande Sonnerie wristwatch at BaselWorld, which by then revolutionized the industry and provoked much attention.  

After Grande Sonnerie, Philippe Dufour introduced his second wristwatch, Duality in 1996, and Simplicity in 2000, were the other two styles Dufour adhered to. Since all wristwatches were handmade by Philippe Dufour, the number of Phillipe Dufour watches are extremely limited. 

Philippe Dufour

In an interview, Philippe Dufour once revealed the number of wristwatches he created in his prime years - with an approximate total of 210 watches, Simplicity were the most, followed by 9 Duality, and 7 Grande Sonnerie. For Simplicity, there are two distinctive designs; Guilloché, which is known for its swirl-like pattern, and white-porclean dial. With either 34mm or 37mm, the dimension and materials of the watch case are divided into platinum, rose gold, or white gold, giving buyers freedom to match as they prefer. 

While Simplicity wristwatches only appeared at auction in 2016, the initial Simplicity for auction was an 18K white gold guilloché dial version, and sold in Hong Kong for US$255,475. Since then, the market for Simplicity wristwatch had a stable uprise.

Last November, two Simplicity wristwatches were auctioned at New York and Geneva. While the New York lot fetched US$325,000, the Geneva lot achieved an approximate US$329,021.

Lot 2151 | Philippe Dufour Simplicity White Gold wristwatch|Fifth highest lot

Made: 2004
Diameter: 37mm
Movement Number: 68

Estimate: US$260,000 - 410,000
Price realised: US$455,211

The two Simplicity watches sold this time are all guilloché dial versions. One is made of platinum with a case size of 34 mm, with a movement number of 100; the other is made of white gold with a case size of 37 mm, with a movement number 68.

The 37mm white platinum watch was auctioned first. With an estimate of US$260,000 - 410,000, the watch fetches US$455,211 (with buyer's premium), which was higher than the estimate range. Following, the 34mm platinum carried an estimate of US$205,000-310,000. It finally sold for US$663,204, which was more than three times the low-estimate.

As this year marks the 20th anniversary of Simplicity, Philippe Dufour will launch a limited edition Simplicity wristwatch to commemorate its importance in history, with  only 21 watches in total. The number 01 first edition will be auctioned in Geneva next month, with the estimate between US$219,300 - 438,695.

Lot 2100 | Philippe Philippe, Ref 1436 Unique Yellow Gold Split Seconds Chronograph Wristwatch|Top Lot

Made: 1960
Diameter: 33mm

Estimate: US$590,000-1,000,000
Price realised: US$678,300

As one of the most important Ref.1436 in yellow gold to appear on the market, it is an exquisite split-second chronograph wristwatch. In 1938, Ref. 1436 was introduced to the market, and by 1971, manufacturers stopped producing. It includes yellow gold, rose gold, and stainless steel three versions. With a total production of 140 watches, it is absolutely a rare collection to own. For this highlighting watch, it was distributed by Tiffany & Co. in 1961. With a total of merely five watches under the same distributor. The present Ref. 1436 is particularly special, as Tiffany & Co.’s stock number is still visible by the Lugs Entre-corne, when it was engraved by its manufacturer.

The dial uses modern fonts, with short hour markers and scales

The engraved Tiffany & Co.’s stock number is still visible.

The original Tiffany & Co. watch box remains.

In addition, its dial uses modern fonts, with short hour markers and scales. According to Sotheby’s specialists, such dial combination was never recorded in literature, which highly implies its uniqueness indeed.

Lastly, the present lot contains Tiffany & Co.’s original box, the watch remains in pristine condition, and comes with the original leather belt. Its crystal glass and case is of exceptional condition as well.

While there was intense anticipation with this flawless watch, it had an estimate of US$590,000-1,000,000. However, it was hammered at US$541,918, below estimate. With buyer’s premium, the total price is US$677,397, which is still the top lot of the sale.

Other Sale highlights:

Lot 2082 | Philippe Philippe, Ref 5014 Platinum and Pink Gold Minute Repeating Semi-Skeletonised Perpetual Calender Wristwatch With Retrograde Date, Moon Phases and Leap Year|Third highest lot

Made: Circa 2010
Diameter: 43mm

Estimate: US$410,000 - 615,000
Price realised: US$569,014 

Lot 2047 | Philippe Philippe, Ref 5016, Platinum Minute Repeating Perpetual Calender Tourbillon Wristwatch with Retrograde Date, Moon Phases, and Leap Year Indication.|Fourth highest lot

Made: Circa 2002
Diameter: 36mm

Estimate: US$385,000 - 641,000
Price realised: US$552,756

Auction Summary

Auction House: Sotheby’s
Sale: Important Watches
Sale date: 9-October, 2020

Lots offered: 178
Sold: 144
Unsold: 34
Sale percentage: 81%
Total Sale: US$10,600,000