Actualités des Montres - 2022-05-13
Photo-Reportage - 2022-05-13

A look back at the Geneva watch auctions - May 2022

The Geneva auctions are always a special event for the collector's watch market and a trend indicator. This year was also marked by the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Oak, making it even more special. We were there and would like to share some thoughts on the results along with some current trends.

This month's sales were not the first auctions of the year, but they were eagerly awaited by collectors. Christie's, Sothebys and especially Phillips put together an impressive catalog of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The following is a summary of the main sales highlights, brand by brand. One thing is certain in an uncertain market: vintage pieces in perfect condition are faring very well, with impressive results...

Audemars Piguet – Record sales for the Royal Oak's 50th anniversary

Let's start at Sotheby's with Gérald Genta's (designer of the Royal Oak) personal Royal Oak 5402, which sold for CHF 2,107,000. Lot 72 of this sale is unique not only for its illustrious former owner. Purchased in May 1978 by the father of the Royal Oak himself, he had the gold bezel manufactured in his own workshop, creating the only Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in steel with a gold bezel (unlike the other gold/steel models where the bracelet is two-tone).

Royal Oak 5402 owned by Gérald Genta ©Hodinkee
The caseback displaying the serial number ©Hodinkee
Archive excerpt from Audemars Piguet confirming Mr.Genta’s purchase on May 15, 1978

At Phillips, one of the two auction sales was held at Le Brassus. This was an exceptional anniversary sale, bringing together no less than 88 lots, all Royal Oak. Among the most unexpected pieces was a platinum Perpetual Calendar, reference 25650PT, which sold for 1,022,200 CHF. Another watch that stood out was the Royal Oak that supposedly belonged to Karl Lagerfeld, reference 5402ST. Though there is no formal proof of its ownership history, this watch changed hands for CHF 937,500..

A very rare Royal Oak 5402ST Series A bearing the number 2 (the second one ever produced!) was auctioned for CHF 1,058,500. A historic example that we will have the pleasure of seeing again as it is now part of the Audemars Piguet heritage collection.

The 2nd ref. 5402 ever produced - ©Phillips

we can name an exceptional Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, entirely set with diamonds and with the reference 25659BA. Produced in smaller quantities: three pieces in yellow gold and one in platinum, the owner of this unique piece won the lot for CHF 630,000, none other than the well-known dealer/collector Davide Parmigiani. Last but not least, the auction of Perpetual Calendar, reference 25654BA in Gold, with a "Tuscany" blue dial.

Illustration of ref. 25654BA sold by Iconic Swiss Watch
The hand hammered "Tuscany" dial

It is worth mentioning that the 88 lots listed by Phillips were sold for 22 million (an average price of 250K), though the estimation was for 15 million.

Patek Philippe - Reliable results

The most prestigious of Geneva's watchmakers remains the master of clocks. A trend confirmed by excellent results at Sotheby's and Christie's, with Patek Philippe now accustomed to exceeding seven-figure sales. Philipps is not to be outdone either with the auction sale for CHF 1,361,000 of a Patek Philippe reference 1503 (once owned by Simon Wiesenthal) with a splendid black lacquered dial with Bréguet numerals and a small seconds hand: it is one of only two known examples with this dial design. It is worth pointing out that Patek Philippe watches made of steel have always been rarer than those made of precious metals.

One of the other exceptional pieces that changed hands in this auction was an early Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (reference 1518 - a legendary reference for Patek Philippe collectors) dating from 1947, especially since there is only a handful of these models made in rose gold with a salmon dial. Initially estimated by Phillips to fetch between CHF 1,200,000 and CHF 2,400,000, this timepiece was sold for CHF 3,297,000. .

Ref. 1503 with a black dial
Ref. 1518 with a salmon dial

Rolex - The best preserved pieces are keeping their rank

It wouldn't be a Christie's auction without a Daytona Chronograph on sale. The auction of a Paul Newman Chronograph Dial in yellow gold, reference 6264, for CHF 1,254,000 is a good demonstration of that. A lightly polished case and a perfectly preserved dial make this piece highly attractive to collectors.

Another Rolex Daytona featured in Christie's catalog is the yellow gold reference 6269, produced in a smaller quantity. This model stands out for its diamond-paved dial and its set bezel. It was auctioned for CHF 1,614,000 in exceptional condition. .

The highest Rolex auction (CHF 1,724,000) at Philipps is credited to a Daytona 6239 "Crazy Doc" in yellow gold, once owned by the artist Eric Clapton. It features a "pulsometer" dial in blue script, making it potentially one of a kind.

Ref. 6264 sold by ©Christie's
Daytona "Crazy Doc" that belonged to Eric Clapton ©Phillips

Chez les autres marques – What to keep an eye on

Omega continues its rise to prestige among the great watchmaking houses after the sale of a Speedmaster "Alaska Project" sold for CHF 529,200 by Philipps. A score that can be explained by this watch's pedigree: it is a prototype designed for NASA as part of the Apollo program circa 1970.

It is worth noting that Cartier has made significant progress, especially with its " Crash " model. An extremely rare reference, a 2nd series example (1990) was sold for CHF 819,000.

Omega ref .145.022 ©Phillips
Record breaking Cartier with its Crash model ©Christie's

Other independants watchmakers such as F.P Journe or Lange & Söhne continue to have great potential. We saw a rare exemple of a "Chronomètre à Résonance" sold for CHF 453,600 by Phillips

F.P Journe Resonnance ©Phillips
A rare exemple of Lange Datograph in white gold ©Christie's

Some pictures from the auctions

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