Geneva Watch Auctions 2021: our impressions

Our first impressions of the November 2021 auctions in Geneva. Article co-written by Clément, and Cyril, co-founder of 41WATCH.

Clément : The bi-annual auctions of Geneva are an essential meeting place for collectors and players in the collectible watch market. The 41Watch team was there for the "November 2021" edition and would like to share some of their insights with you. A few very busy days but an enjoyable experience, nonetheless.

Cyril : This 2021 event was special because it was the first post-lockdown auction sale and all the watch collecting world was curious to see if these sales were going to be pivotal for the market. We were waiting for the Big Bang, and I can say we were by no means disappointed! Sales were record-breaking on every level...

View of the Four Seasons in Geneva, a few steps from the Iconic Swiss Watch Showroom

Clément : The most prestigious auction houses (Phillips, Christie's, Sotheby's...) share a carefully orchestrated agenda so as not to compete with each other. The Swiss city is bustling with action during these few days, and many amateurs come from all over the world so as not to miss this big event. This bi-annual event is highly anticipated by dealers and collectors because these sales determine future market trends, and often, new records are set (finely calibrated by the work of the auctioneers).

Cyril : Whether they are dealers, executives of the most beautiful watchmaking companies, specialized journalists, or simply seasoned collectors or amateurs, it is a major friendly gathering every year.

The prices achieved are a basis for determining new market standards. Let's be clear: the record prices for certain sales are very good indicators, but we should know how to distinguish exceptional sales from what we do in our daily business as market players. As professionals, we are particularly attentive to results, be they extraordinary, good or even disappointing... We try to identify major trends and isolate (explain...) certain anomalies. There is always something to take away from these sales...

Only Watch Sales

Clément : A charity event benefiting research for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, under the esteemed sponsorship of HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, Only Watch offers a condensed catalog of no less than 53 watchmaking houses. What do they all have in common? They are unique pieces made specially for the occasion and donated by the manufactures. The sale is orchestrated by the famous auction house Christie's, which capitalizes on its reputation to create an enjoyable media event.

Cyril : It's a new record for this 2021 edition having raised no less than 30 million Swiss Francs in total with a few "high scores". Names like François-Henry Bennhamias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, François-Paul Journe, President of the eponymous company (F.P. Journe), and Thierry Stern, CEO of Patek Philippe all presented beautiful creations from the watchmaking companies and contributed to this noble cause.

Clément : A noteworthy timepiece among the extraordinary sales was an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202 that sold for 3,100,000 CHF.

Illustration of the unique piece made by Audemars Piguet
Bids rose to CHF 3,100,000, making it one of the most expensive Royal Oak ever sold

Cyril : This timepiece is the very last 15202 ever made, since the factory officially announced that it would end production for this model.

Clément : A remarkable timepiece by F.P Journe with an unbelievable display was sold for 4 ,500,000 CHF.

The F.P. Journe from the Only Watch auction sale ©Hodinkee

Cyril : This watch was made in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola, who is a contributor to the Only Watch cause. This timepiece is made of tantalum, a metal that F.P. Journe is very fond of. The core of this unique watch is an Octa automatic caliber with an extraordinary

Clément : We were also won over by a H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Cylindrical Tourbillon sold for 750,000 CHF.

Illustration of the H. Moser & Cie. ©Only Watch

Clément : A desk clock made by Patek Philippe sold for CHF 9 500 500.

Illustration of the desk clock made by Patek Philippe

Cyril : This was a record sales for the auction, accounting for almost a third of the total sales figures!

Clément : I would also like to mention the Tudor Black Bay GMT, this unique piece is characterized by an unprecedented workmanship at Tudor, as well as a sapphire back that displays a refined movement. Sold for 650,000 CHF, this is a respectable result for Rolex's little sister... a brand to keep an eye on!

The Phillips auction sales

Cyril : The Phillips auction house sale takes place in the prestigious La Réserve hotel located on the hills of Geneva, with a superb view of the Mont Blanc.

In the very secular world of auction houses, Phillips has experienced a spectacular rise in popularity in just a few years, to the point where it has become a key player, largely due to its numerous record sales and the quality of its timepieces. Their success is due in part to Aurel Bacs, who has brought the brand to its zenith. He was responsible for the famous sale of the Daytona Paul Newman, which pulled in some 17 million US dollars.

Total sales this season amounted in 64 million euros!

Clément : Let’s also take a look back on the incredible Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow that was auctioned off for CHF 3,115,500. The dial on this 1957 model has a superb "Chocolate" patina. The auction house's first estimate was between CHF 80 000 and CHF 120 000 ( equivalent in euros: 74,000 - 112,000).

Illustration of model 2915-1

Cyril : A very rare Richard Mille watch model number RM27-04 celebrating its tenth year collaborating with professional tennis player, Rafael Nadal, sold for 1,724,000 CHF. A masterpiece of engineering weighing 3.4 grams, and produced in a limited edition of only 50 pieces!

Illustration de la Richard Mille RM27-04 ©Zeph Colombatto

Clément : Philippe Dufour is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant watchmakers of his generation, having previously worked for some of the greatest watchmakers. His highly popular timepieces are made with a genuine artisanal approach.

This model, named number one, (grande and petite sonnerie) was produced in only four pieces. It is also the only one ever made by the illustrious watchmaker in yellow gold. It was sold for CHF 4 749 000.

Illustration of the Philippe Dufour model sold for 4,749,000 CHF

Cyril : One of the highlights of the show was a "batch" consisting of just five first series of F.P. Journe "Souscription" watches. The illustrious watchmaker François-Paul Journe was not an immediate success in his first years starting out independently. He used allotment letters to finance his first series. An outstanding lot of five pieces numbered "1" were sold, and as fate would have it, that they were all sold to separate buyers.

Clément : A very rare Rolex Day-Date Rainbow model 18058 was auctioned that day for 792,300 CHF. Possibly a one of kind piece, this timepiece is remarkable for the quality of its setting which displays a splendid gradient of rainbow colors... and for the color gradient of its indexes.

Illustration of ref. 18058 probably « Unique »

Sales at the Christie’s auction house

Total sales at this English auction house amounted to EUR 22 824 750

Cyril : The auction house had already made a name for itself on Saturday with the Only Watch sale. Now it was time to showcase its own clients!

Clément : Vacheron Constantin continues to prove its attractiveness to collectors with two pieces of the stainless steel model 222 sold for 93,750 CHF (nearly double the estimate) and 137,500 CHF for the yellow gold version.

Cyril : At 41Watch, we are all delighted to see Vacheron Constantin regain its rightful place. Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest and most beautiful watch brands, and the third most important brand in the luxury sports watch trio, along with Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.

Vacheron Constantin 222 ref. 44018/411 ©Christie's
The 222 in golf coming full set ©Christie's

Cyril : The 222's design by Gerald Genta is very similar to that of a Royal Oak or a Nautilus.

Clément : The highlight of the show was a very rare Rolex Deep Sea Special "Prototype" that had already dived to 3,150 meters. It was sold for 1,058 ,500 CHF. This Deep-Sea prototype is a major laboratory development for Rolex in its quest to become leader in waterproof watches...

Illustration du prototype de Deep-Sea Special circa 1953 ©Christie's
Illustration du prototype de Deep-Sea Special circa 1953 ©Christie's

Cyril : I'm a little disappointed by the results as I was expecting a little more... These auctions have shown us how lively the market is but also how much disposable cash there is in the world.

We are really noticing a big focus on certain brands (the "Usual Suspects"), and an even bigger focus on certain models / families. We are very happy with how results turned out for Vacheron Constantin, and for the Speedmaster "Premoon", which are generating a very positive momentum in the vintage market. Watchmaker FP Journe’s rise to the top is now fully confirmed, and we feel it is well deserved.

Such eventful occasions suggest that there are great things to come. We are especially referring to the Phillips sale in May for the Royal Oak.

Clément : Thank you for the read. We are open to any comments you may have.

By Cyril & Clément

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