Events • 11 Jun 2017

A roundup of the recent Hong Kong watch auctions

by Su Jia Xian (SJX)

The first auction season of the year took place in Hong Kong just after the last weekend of May, with both Christie’s and Phillips selling over US$25m of watches between them, all fees included. The offers were typical of Hong Kong: broad and encompassing everything from high-end vintage sport watches to avant-garde modern complications. While there were few outperformers – the market for luxury goods in Hong Kong is soft – some results were notable. Here are five of them.

Rolex “Paul Newman Panda”
Notably, both Christie’s and Phillips offered examples of the same rare Rolex, the Daytona ref. 6263 “Paul Newman Panda”, a rare variant of an in-demand watch. While there were minor differences between the dials – the specimen at Christie’s was a “Mark 2” while Phillips had a “Mark 1.5” – both watches were almost equivalent in terms of condition and desirability. So it is no surprise that they sold for almost the same: HK$4.02m at Christie’s and HK$3.92m at Phillips, establishing a strong benchmark for the watch.

Rolex “Paul Newman Panda” Daytona ref. 6263 Mark 1.5
Rolex “Paul Newman Panda” Daytona ref. 6263 Mark 1.5

Cartier magnetic floating turtle clock
One of the major outperformers of the season was an unusual Cartier clock at Phillips that carried an estimate of HK$600,000 to HK$1.0m, but finished at HK$3.8m, signifying the demand for Cartier objet d’art. Though not unique to Cartier, the magnetic clock is often associated with the jeweller. A bowl with hours marked out on its edge is filled with water, with a turtle floating on its surface that is pulled along by magnets, with the head of the turtle telling the time. This particular clock is the largest of its type produced by Cartier, and was also sold by Cartier itself as refurbished vintage in 2008, giving it strong provenance.

Cartier magnetic floating turtle clock
Cartier magnetic floating turtle clock

Laurent Picciotto’s collection
Laurent Picciotto, founder of well-known Parisian watch store Chronopassion, put his entire watch collection on the block at Phillips. Comprised mainly of timepieces made by independent watchmakers along with unusual extras like bags, toys, and even a guitar, the collection sold remarkably well, given that many of the watches are still currently available on the market, like the MB&F LM1 for instance. The results proved that a well-curated and shrewdly marketed sale still delivers strongly.

MB&F LM1 with box

Breguet vintage chronograph
Unusually elegant, and fitted with a “sector” dial that is popular today, the vintage Breguet chronograph at Phillips was appealing but still a small watch by modern standards. And Breguet is not typically a brand associated with such chronographs. So the watch was not expected to perform far beyond its estimate of HK$240,000 to HK$400,000. Instead it finished at HK$725,000, one of the highest prices ever paid for a Breguet of this type. This slightly inexplicable result illustrates another quality of auctions: a gamble that sometimes can pay off in a big way for a seller.

Vintage Breguet chronograph sector dial Phillips
Vintage Breguet chronograph with sector dial

Concord C1 Quantum Gravity
Introduced almost 10 years ago, the Concord C1 Quantum Gravity was the first ever wristwatch with a liquid display – a small vial of green liquid as the power reserve display. Originally priced at about US$400,000, one of the ten made sold at Christie’s for HK$300,000, or just over US$38,000. The explanations for that performance are the extreme nature of the complication, which was too far out even when it was new, and the fact that Concord itself has been on hiatus for several years now.

Concord C1 Quantum Gravity
Concord C1 Quantum Gravity

Su Jia Xian (SJX)

One of Asia’s leading watch experts, SJX has been involved in the watch industry for over 15 years, having gotten his start as a watch journalist. In 2014 Chronos Japan magazine included him in "Who's Who of the World's Watch Persons", a list 100 notable personalities in the global watch industry. SJX currently contributes to over a dozen publications in Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan.

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