Inside the watches from the latest Sotheby’s Luxury Week auctions

This week, Sotheby’s is holding a series of live, online auctions dubbed luxury week. The scope of the week in question is, as you can imagine, vast indeed – encompassing everything from decades old japanese whiskey to some very desirable Air Force 1. But Luxury Week is also full of watches, including the recent Important Watches (more on that in a bit) and Beautiful Watcheswhich is held online until June 22.

If that’s not enough, there’s also an auction dedicated to the life and work of watchmaker Gérald Genta, whose designs include the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak collection and the Nautilus collection by Patek Philippe. A previous auction, also focusing on Genta’s work, was held in Geneva earlier this year.

So whether you’re looking for a piece of watchmaking history or a singular accessory, there’s plenty to explore here. The recently concluded portion of the auction also serves as a good indicator of which models are increasingly in demand – and which might be underperforming.

“Important Watches”: What We Learned

The phrase “perhaps unique” in the description of a watch can signal high demand for that timepiece. This was the case for a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication made “by special request” circa 2020, which was estimated to sell for between $200,000 and $400,000. In the end, it sold for almost three times the high estimate – $1.134 million. As Sotheby’s notes on the watch state, the designation “Grande Complication” refers to “split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar and minute repeater”. Add an understated yet powerful design and it’s not hard to see the appeal.

Looking at the list of watches in this auction, most of them sold for roughly what Sotheby’s predicted. There have been a few instances where demand for a particular watch was lower than they believed – this 1964 Rolex Daytona ‘Solo’ sold for $75,600 – just over half the low estimate.

A number of FP Journe watches also performed well. An evocative design 1999 Tourbillon Souverain with Remontoire d’Egalité sold the highest amounts at auction – $882,000. A 2000 Resonance Chronometer exceeded the high estimate of $300,000 by a substantial amount, eventually selling for $453,600.

Rainbow Rolexes continue to be in demand. A “rainbow” Daytona 2018 sold for $630,000 – another example where the high estimate (here, $500,000) has been eclipsed.

A significant number of Patek Philippe watches were also sold above the high estimate, including a white gold watch Celestial (sold for $529,200), a London Edition Chronograph (sold for $579,600) and a perpetual calendar chronograph in platinum (sold for $504,000). In all three cases, the sale price exceeded the high estimate by $100,000, if not more.

“Gérald Genta: icon of time”: prototypes abound

If you’re a watch collector looking to delve into the history of your favorite accessory, this auction has a lot to offer. Most of the items for sale are models of watches from Genta – which in most cases means a watercolor illustration of a particular watch.

Among these designs is an illustration of the Gérald Genta Geficawhich holds an important place in watchmaking history because of his innovative use of bronze. While the degree of complexity that Genta applied to his designs is interesting, a prototype circa 1981 of a skeleton watch has a lot to recommend it.

As of this writing, one of the highest bids in the auction is for a prototype completed around 1978, which looks like a precursor to his work on the Seiko Credor Locomotive. A Design of the 1976 Bulgari Roma prototype pulled an even higher bid.

“Fine Watches”: A Rolex Paul Newman is one of the highlights

Looking at the list of watches (with some accessories) available as part of the “Beautiful watches” online auctions you’ll see many household names – and a wide range of prices, with esteemed watches for sale in a multitude of price ranges.

There are a few heavy hitters here – including a 1968 Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona. (You know, the one a song was written about.) As of this writing, no one has submitted a bid — we’ll see if that ends up changing before the auction closes.

The high estimate has already been exceeded for this Patek Philippe World Time ‘New York Edition.’ This offering is a bit lower than the aforementioned Rolex – at the time of this writing, it’s $55,000 – but the level of design and detail in this one is elegantly realized.

Another Patek Philippe, a pink gold ref. 5980 Nautilus, is expected to sell for between $220,000 and $420,000. If your tastes lean towards gold in your watches, that’s not the only special feature here – an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 1992 Jubileeyellow gold in color, is expected to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000.

About Robert L. Thomas

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