You Are There: Only Watch 2017 And Geneva Auction Weekend With Patek Philippe
It seems like only yesterday that I was one of a group of collectors assembled by Patek Philippe for the Only Watch 2015 auction at which a then-record amount was realized for a wristwatch at auction (see You Are There: Attending The Only Watch Auction 2015 With Patek Philippe), but in reality two years have flown by!
On the weekend of November 11, 2017, it was once again time for Only Watch, the charity auction to fund muscular dystrophy research conducted under the sponsorship of His Serene Highness Albert II of Monaco. And, as in 2015, I was fortunate to be invited to join the Stern family and Patek Philippe team for the events of the weekend.
Starting with a bang
Happily for me, the timing of the weekend coincided with the availability for delivery of a watch I’d seen at Baselworld 2017 and immediately asked for: the Patek Philippe Reference 5170P with its graduated dark blue dial and subtle (if that word can be used) diamond baton-shaped hour markers.
It has become a bit of a ritual for my Patek-loving friends to take delivery of new watches while seated in a particular chair at the Salon, and I was granted the seat of honor this time as the presentation ceremony unfolded.
I’ll come back soon in a “Why I Bought It” installment to talk about this piece in more detail and provide a variety of photos, but perhaps one image will suffice for now to give a sense of why I was so taken with this watch in the first place!
Only Watch 2017
The main event of the weekend, of course, was Only Watch. And the next day we lost no time getting to Christie’s to preview the full set of unique timepieces that had been generously donated by watch manufacturers large and small as well as individual independent watchmakers.
I’m quite sure that I haven’t experienced another watch industry event that has anything like the spirit of Only Watch.
For once, all of the major luxury groups participate with the same goal in mind and the feeling of helping to fund the research that may find a cure to a terrible disease inspires and unites everyone involved.
Among the many pieces that caught my eye were the Moritz Grossman Atum Homage pair consisting of an 1800s vintage pocket watch and a similarly styled modern wristwatch and the F.P. Journe Chronograph Monopoussoir Rattrapante. The latter was the lot that drew the second-highest sale price at the auction at an astounding CHF 1.150 million.
The MB&F HM8, with its whimsical illustration and small carved gold elephant, was not only tremendously engaging, but also obviously captivated the bidders who engaged in a spirited competition that resulted in a sale price of CHF 210,000; this was almost three times the retail price of a standard HM8.
Another “story” watch that smashed expectations at the auction was the Joker from Konstantin Chaykin, a unique variant of the watch design that seems to have captured the current watch industry to become a market phenomenon.
On the day, this zirconium-cased example drew a final bid of CHF 47,000 – more than six times the retail price of the original Joker watch.
The star of the show, however, was the entry from Patek Philippe, a striking titanium-cased Reference 5208T bearing a minute repeater, instantaneous perpetual calendar, and chronograph. The piece that we were allowed to handle was a prototype that will be destroyed following the auction.
On the assumption that the delivered piece sounds and looks as good as the prototype, it’s going to be a real stunner.
At a personal level, however, the piece that I came to Geneva to get was the very first lot of the auction: the Carpe Diem desk clock from Agenhor and HEAD (see Carpe Diem By Agenhor And HEAD For Only Watch 2017 Is The Very First AgenGraphe Chronograph Delivered And The Only Agenhor-Branded Watch).
I was after this timepiece for many reasons.
First, I’m an immense fan of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his Agenhor team and the many groundbreaking designs they’ve developed over the years (see You Are There: Visiting Watchmakers With Heart At Jean-Marc Wiederrecht’s Agenhor).
The opportunity to own the only timepiece labeled “Agenhor” rather than with the name of a client brand was too good to pass up, and the fact that it adorns the landmark AgenGraphe movement makes it even more special.
Second, while there are many wonderful people in the watchmaking world, I’d be hard-pressed to name many who have the warm spirit evident in the Wiederrecht family’s approach.
The involvement of the young design students at Geneva’s HEAD in a competition to create a suitable case for the movement resulted in a wonderful design that conceals all except a small slice showing the current time on the movement encased within, a clear reminder to the viewer that the current moment is what is precious as well as a symbol of the beauty trapped within the bodies of the children fighting Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
I am delighted to say that after some spirited bidding I was successful in winning the competition for this piece, and the opportunity to talk with the Wiederrecht family afterward and to meet the winning students and their teacher was one of those times when it was impossible to tell who was happier and more excited!
Soon enough, it was time for Lot 12, the generous contribution of another family, the Sterns. For me, the commitment of the Sterns to Only Watch is obvious not only through their consistent contribution of important watches for the auction, but also in the way that they attend as a family, assemble a group of avid collectors to attend the event along with them, and encourage the collector group to bid not only on the Patek watch but on the full range of Only Watches.
Once the hammer fell for the remarkable amount of CHF 6.2 million, I was able to grab a quick photo of Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern looking over his shoulder; upon inspection, it seems pretty clear to me that he was checking out the Reference 5170P on my left wrist.
Once a watch guy, always a watch guy, I suppose . . .
Before the crowd broke up, there was one more treat in store for me: Konstantin Chaykin was kind enough to bring along the Joker cufflinks that will match the watch I’ll be getting in a few months.
For the rest of the weekend, those cuff links were perhaps more popular with friends than any of the watches that I had on my wrist!
Onward: the remaining auctions
All of that excitement and we were still only on the first day of the November auction weekend – there were more rounds of previews and bidding sessions to come all the way through Monday afternoon.
Phillips was first up with its usual assortment of gorgeous Rolex and Patek Philippe watches supplemented with top-notch vintage pieces from other brands and a few contemporary watches. If you haven’t been to an auction preview, I strongly recommend it; there’s an opportunity to handle watches you may never see again as well as to ask questions and learn from the expert members of the auction houses.
It wasn’t all Rolex and Patek Philippe all the time; for instance, there was an extremely crisp and rare Vacheron Constantin perpetual calendar in a 1921 Historiques case that sold fairly strongly at CHF 57,500 and looked great doing it.
At the auction itself, there were several pieces I followed (and a few that I bid on, without success) once I was settled in my seat with my “lucky” paddle.
I’m not a Rolex guy, but I do like the look of the Bakelite-bezel pieces. And Phillips had a pip with a very fresh “Pussy Galore.” It’s a real education for me to listen to my friends who are much more deeply into the vintage world discuss the merits of given pieces, and in this case there was some back and forth about whether this watch truly merited the “best in the world” claim made for it.
None of that, however, stopped this watch from achieving its high estimate of CHF 300,000.
One of the best elements of going to a “big” auction is that lots of people you know are there, and when they aren’t engrossed in tracking prices there is time to catch up and swap notes.
It was great to spend a minute with Christian Selmoni of Vacheron Constantin in between lots, and I have to confess that he was dressed far more stylishly than I!
While it wasn’t the top grossing watch of the evening, the piece that provided the most compelling drama during the bidding process was the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Omega prototype tourbillon.
Bidding bounced back and forth among three very serious bidders before the hammer finally fell for a total price of CHF 1.428 million, setting a record price for an Omega watch.
A watch that I would dearly love to own, but never will, is a white-metal Patek Philippe Reference 2497, first-generation like the one that sold that night for almost CHF 2.3 million. Well, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?
Fun at Sotheby’s
Of the three major auction houses, Sotheby’s clearly had the largest number of contemporary pieces, and within those a substantial selection of affordably priced temptations.
I bid on, but did not win, one 1990s-era Audemars Piguet chronograph. One watch that I did not bid on, but which did go home with a happy bidder, was the Rolex “Leopard” that I simply had to try on just to say that I had.
I did, however, take home a pair of watches from Sotheby’s: two prototype Jaeger-LeCoultre watches powered by Caliber 906 and marked “prototype” and “not for sale” on the case backs. At a hammer price of CHF 5,000, I couldn’t resist, and a pal of mine and I are already talking about making them “buddy” watches as mementoes of our attendance at the auction.
Last, but not least
By Monday’s Christie’s auction a bit of fatigue was starting to set in, but that didn’t keep me from making an opportunistic – and ultimately successful – single bid on a mouth-watering Patek Philippe Reference 2526 with a sensational black enamel dial.
I’ll definitely be coming back to this one soon, but for now I’ll leave you with a shot of the movement of the watch, the legendary Caliber 12-600 AT.
What a weekend! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and if the call comes again from my friends at Patek Philippe to join for future editions of Only Watch I think I already know what my answer will be.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Reference 5170P
Case: 39.4 x 10.9 mm, platinum with brand-characteristic diamond at 6 o’clock; sapphire crystal case back
Dial: gold with sunburst blue finish gradated to black at edges and diamond baguette markers; white tachymeter scale and markings
Movement: manually wound Caliber CH 29-535 PS; 4Hz, power reserve minimum 65 hours
Functions: hours, minutes; subsidiary seconds; 30-minute instantaneously jumping chronograph
Price: CHF 85,000 at the Geneva Salon
Production Years: 2017-Present
Also published on Medium.