8 Rare Timepieces By Independent Watchmakers Featuring In Phillips’ June 2020 Geneva Watch Auction: XI (Updated With Results)
Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction: XI marks the auction house’s first live watch auction of 2020 following Switzerland’s severe bout of the novel coronavirus. It will be led by a great selection of fine collectible timepieces hailing from powerhouses including Patek Philippe and Rolex as well as masterful independent watchmakers such as F.P. Journe and Kari Voutilainen.
Most people will be focusing on the more mainstream watches available in this sale, including a variety of Rolex models and four extraordinary Patek Philippe wristwatches from the private collection of Jean-Claude Biver.
However, Phillips has become known for spotlighting independent watchmaking as well with a section of the catalogs now dedicated to these amazing watchmakers, whose unbridled creativity and technical mastery continues to dazzle collectors and enthusiasts around the world.
Taking place at Hotel La Réserve in Geneva on June 27-28, 2020, the two-evening sale will feature more than 200 lots. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting independent-made watches for sale in this auction.
Now here’s something that doesn’t pop up at auction very often! A bona-fide original by independent watchmaker Thomas Prescher.
The Tempus Vivendi (Latin for “living time”) models, all created upon order, came before the Triple-Axis Tourbillon that made him famous among lovers of independent horology. Prescher launched his eponymous company in 2000 with this bras en l’air style creation, inspired by a complication originally developed in the eighteenth century.
This type of watch involves a centrally located person or animal with moving arms, legs, paws, or wings pointing to retrograde displays on either side of it depicting the hours and minutes. While this display does take some getting used to, it really achieves a wow effect.
The montre en bras (literally: “watch in arms”) style contains another clever specialty that today’s normal retrogrades do not usually deliver: the figures of Prescher’s timepieces are at rest, in a “non-temporal state,” when not indicating the time. When a button found on the crown is pressed, the exquisitely engraved figure’s arms automatically jump to show the current time on the retrograde arcs. As soon as the button is let go, the arms relax again to return to their original state.
Or the owner can choose to have the figure continuously show the time as he or she pleases. Prescher developed his complicated bras en l’air system after studying eighteenth-century examples during his period working in restoration.
Particularly interesting is the fact that Prescher can personalize the Tempus Vivendi models to a client’s desires in terms of dial materials and figure choices, be they animal or human.
At an estimate of 10,000 to 20,000 Swiss francs, this timepiece is an absolute steal for lovers of esoteric watches. This Prescher specialty was a special order and is the only stainless steel Tempus Vivendi he has ever made.
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/thomas-prescher/CH080120/51.
Quick Facts Thomas Prescher Tempus Vivendi
Case: 43 mm, stainless steel
Dial: onyx with hand-engraved dragon
Movement: automatic ETA Caliber 2824-A2, ornately hand-engraved
Functions: hours, minutes
Year of manufacture: 2014
Auction estimate: CHF 10,000-20,000; sold for CHF 22,500
The Opus 3 is the third piece in Harry Winston’s iconic Opus series, a collection developed by then-CEO Maximilian Büsser. Despite its road to maturity being so fraught with difficulty, the Opus 3 is one of the most popular pieces of the creative series. It only came to successful production fruition in 2010, seven years after its launch in 2003. Despite that, not one single order is believed to have been canceled, confirming the legendary status of this timepiece and its place in contemporary horological history.
Brainchild of the ultra-creative independent watchmaker Vianney Halter, the non-conformist Opus 3 does “nothing more” than display hours, minutes, seconds, and date: ten little disks incorporated into the movement’s German silver base plate show these indications, including jump hours and a countdown of the final four seconds before the current minute jumps to the next. To make all this technically possible, the 53-jewel movement contains two separate gear trains and twin spring barrels. The horizontal notched crown incorporates four setting positions as well as a winding position.
This example is number one from 25 pieces made in platinum. Don’t expect this timepiece to remain within its auction estimate, though, which is in my estimation far too low.
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/harry-winston/CH080120/142.
Quick Facts Harry Winston Opus Three
Case: 37.5 x 37.5 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound movement with two separate gear trains and twin spring barrels
Functions: digital display of hours, minutes (countdown of last four seconds to jump), seconds; date (countdown of last four seconds to jump), day/night indication
Limitation: 25 pieces in platinum
Year of manufacture: approx. 2013
Auction estimate: CHF 60,000-120,000; sold for CHF 168,750
Considered one of the founders of creative contemporary independent horology, Vianney Halter is one of the most disruptive watchmakers to grace the horological art form.
Launching the original model inspiring the Anniversary Watch in 2000, Halter christened his steampunk UFO the “Classic” for its round case. But of course there’s a twist: the bezel is inspired by the portholes of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus and features rivets for each hour marker.
Halter debuted the 20-piece Anniversary Watch re-edition in 2018, which is largely loyal to the Classic. Its multilevel, architectural dial features elegant frosted stainless steel surfaces and the watchmaker’s signature. And tempered blue hands have been exchanged for white-metal hands for a more monochromatic look.
Turning the watch over reveals a full-sized sapphire crystal “mystery” rotor enabling a full view of the beautifully finished movement. This watch is number one of the 20-piece limited edition and arrives at the auction in unworn condition.
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/vianney-halter/CH080120/143.
Quick Facts Vianney Halter Classic
Case: 38 x 9.5 mm, stainless steel with 18-karat gold rivets
Dial: stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber U30A with “mysterious” sapphire crystal central rotor, 56-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 20 pieces
Year of manufacture: 2018
Auction estimate: CHF 15,000-25,000; sold for CHF 47,500
This unique version of independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen’s Vingt-8 GMR is the closest thing to a “mullet” as it gets in the Finnish technician’s portfolio: business in the front, party in the back. The white gold timepiece with a tame and maker-typical blue enamel dial uniquely hides a beautifully engraved and enameled case back featuring Triton, a merman of Greek mythology, and a mermaid.
This wondrous work of art is engraved into the officer’s case back, which only becomes visible once you turn the watch over – at which point your jaw is more than likely to drop. The combined efforts of engraver par excellence Eddy Jaquet and enameler Inès Hamaguchi mix fine engraving with champlevé and plique-à-jour enameling to create a stained glass effect of wild and mythical expression, fit for a Greek god and with the allure of a siren.
The engraving and champlevé depict a violent ocean surface, while the plique-à-jour traps an engraved mermaid within the deep blue enamel, bringing life to the ocean depths. It’s evocative, exotic, complex, and amazing. And it’s worth the difficulty of portraying the mermaid so that it can be viewed from both the interior and exterior of the hinged case back.
The fluidity of the engraving – though sculpture seems a more appropriate word for the three-dimensionality, both real and evoked – is simply sensational, bursting with ethereal beauty. Additionally, the inside of the case back is engraved with, “We will return to where we come from.”
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/voutilainen/CH080120/141.
Quick Facts Voutilainen Triton et Sirène
Case: 39 x 13.8 mm, white gold with hinged officer’s case back
Movement: manually wound Voutilainen Caliber Vingt-8 GMR with extra-large balance, Breguet naturelle escapement with Grossmann internal curve, ruthenium plating
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication
Limitation: one unique piece
Year of manufacture: 2016
Original price: 180,000 Swiss francs
Auction estimate: CHF 50,000-100,000; sold for CHF 125,000
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/voutilainen/CH080120/141.
Two extremely rare F.P. Journe models, both from his original “Souscription” series, have popped up at this auction, and are outstanding.
Finding one of F.P. Journe’s original Tourbillon Souverain Souscriptions, the watch that enabled François-Paul Journe to set up his company, and of which he only made 20 all of 21 years ago, is by itself outstanding. But two of this ilk. Wow.
The Tourbillon Souverain Souscriptions is the watch that started it all.
After making the first prototype in 1991 of what was his idea to transpose Abraham-Louis Breguet’s whirlwind invention into a wristwatch, thereby also improving it by adding a constant-force mechanism called a remontoire, he needed to finance his project. So he offered a limited series to his close friends and clients, which he ultimately launched in 1999, utilizing what is known as a subscription system (pre-pay) for the first 20, each individually numbered on the dial.
The example here is number 14, and it comes with a bonus: the original subscription contract and technical drawings signed by Journe.
For more information please visit www.phillips.com/detail/f-p-journe/CH080120/101.
Quick Facts F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Souscription
Case: 38 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber 1498 with constant force regulated by remontoir d’égalité and one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds (on tourbillon cage); power reserve indicator
Limitation: 20 pieces
Production year: 1999
Auction estimate: CHF 150,000-300,000; sold for CHF 1,400,000, world record for an F.P. Journe watch
When Journe decided to launch his second model, the Chronomètre à Resonance, he offered it to the clients who had already bought the tourbillon, thereby enabling them to have the same limitation number for both watches if they so desired. However, the ultimate number of limitation was not specified (so only one number is shown on this watch).
Launched in 2000, he once again used the subscription system as well.
This example of Journe’s Chronomètre à Resonance Souscription has the same limited edition number 14 as the Tourbillon Souverain Souscription in this auction, signifying that the original owner of both was likely the same person. It comes in a unique livery specially commissioned by Parisian independent jeweler Lorenz Baümer: a two-tone platinum/pink gold case with white gold dial.
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/f-p-journe/CH080120/49.
Quick Facts F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Resonance Souscription
Case: 38 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber 1499, 2 independent gear trains including regulators, free-sprung balances with 4 inertia weights each, 2 one-second remontoirs d’égalité for constant force, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: 2 x hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication
Production year: 2000
Auction estimate: CHF 80,000-160,000; sold for CHF 1,040,000
Ballouard was once a watchmaker employed by F.P. Journe, a fact that might become obvious once you learn that Ballouard also sold this example (and 11 others) as a pre-pay subscription series to finance his independent work upon leaving the great watchmaker’s employ.
On the dial of this special watch, the limitation number is simultaneously the hour numeral, which is printed in red instead of black like the others. Since this is number 4 (with 14 obviously not available), I do wonder if it might have come from the same collection as the previous two F.P. Journes (both number 14) . . .
Living up to its whimsical name, the limitation number is also engraved on this watch’s case back – but upside down!
Looking at this watch, you might not understand what makes it so special apart from hour numerals that are upside down on the dial. But as soon as the top of the hour comes around, the magic comes out: the current hour indicator flips right side up, simultaneously displaying a small dot to catch the eye, while all of the other hour indicators remain, not surprisingly, upside down.
For more information please go to www.phillips.com/detail/ludovic-ballouard/CH080120/50.
Quick Facts Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down Souscription
Case: 41 x 11 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber B01 based on the Peseux 7001, gear train and barrel geometry with patented jumping hours complication; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 36-hour power reserve
Functions: jump hour, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 12 pieces in the Souscription series
Year of manufacture: 2009
Auction estimate: CHF 20,000–40,000; sold for CHF 68,750
When Singer Reimagined introduced its Track 1 in June of 2017, people sat up and took notice even though the watch industry and watch-buying public had had yet to hear of this brand in conjunction with watches.
The reason why is easy to explain: the imaginative and highly innovative AgenGraphe chronograph movement found within. Time is indicated at 6 o’clock by rotating hour and minute disks, so it’s easy to read while driving without having to move one’s hand from the wheel. The chronograph is read using central coaxial chronograph indications, which are much more intuitive to read off than one might think.
This brand is an offshoot of Singer Vehicle Design, founded in 2009 by Rob Dickinson, which takes iconic Porsche 911s from 1989 through 1994 and transforms them into relatively understated modern supercars.
The watch on offer here is the 2017 prototype of this groundbreaking model, which differs from the commercially offered watches notably in the case design and the fact that there are no engravings on the case back. It is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and provenance from Singer Reimagined.
For more information, please visit www.phillips.com/detail/singer-reimagined/CH080120/100.
Quick Facts Singer Reimagined Track 1 Prototype
Case: 43 x 15 mm, grade 5 titanium
Movement: AgenGraphe column wheel chronograph, 60-hour power reserve, automatic winding with peripheral rotor under the dial
Functions: hours and minutes on disks; central coaxial chronograph displaying jumping hours (to 60 hours), jumping minutes and seconds
Year of manufacture: 2017
Original price: 39,800 Swiss francs (excluding taxes)
Auction estimate: CHF 20,000-40,000; sold for CHF 52,500
For more on Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction: XI auction, please visit www.phillips.com/auctions/auction/CH080120.