Christie's presents unprecedented collecting opportunities at Spring 2012 Important Watches Auction

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Christie's presents unprecedented collecting opportunities at Spring 2012 Important Watches Auction
Created in 2010, the ground-breaking DualTow Night Eagle (illustrated right, lot 4731, estimate HKD 960,000 – 1,400,000/USD 120,000 – 180,000) is being offered for first-time at auction. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

HONG KONG.- Christie’s will present more than 500 of the world’s finest and rarest timepieces on 30 May with its Spring auction Important Watches. Valued in excess of HK$120 million/US$16 million, the sale offers an array of highly collectible horological creations that promises to excite and inspire the most discerning collectors, including masterworks from every top manufacturer. Leading the sale is one of the largest single owner collections of contemporary watches from the world’s top makers including brands never before offered at auction, the most prominent collections of Harry Winston Opus series watches ever offered at auction, an array of vintage and modern complicated wristwatches, stunning high jewellery wristwatches, as well as a selection of rare and historical pocket watches. This sale builds on the record year of sales in 2011, where Christie’s global sales for watches topped the US$100 million mark for the first time and confirmed Christie’s leadership in the category for the 8th year in a row.

A Fascination for Superb Modern Horology:
Two Important Private Collections

In horology, complication refers to any feature in a timepiece beyond the simple display of hours, minutes, and seconds. The more complications in a watch, the more challenging and labour intensive it is to design, create and assemble. A typical date-display chronograph may contain in excessive of 250 parts, while a particularly complex watch may have a thousand or more parts. Complicated watches are therefore produced in strictly limited numbers and only by the world’s most famous watchmakers.

This Spring season at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Christie’s is honoured to present two extraordinary collections of haute modern horology which demonstrates the collector’s keen knowledge of technological innovation and deep admiration of excellence in craftsmanship. They include a superb collection of 20 top modern wristwatches and a set of 8 rare contemporary works of art from the Harry Winston Opus Collection.

Assembled with an eye for the very finest that modern and contemporary horology can offer, this important collection comprises of watches manufactured by the world’s most prestigious makers such as Breguet, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe; the most innovative and cutting-edge watches manufactured by brands such as Franck Muller, Richard Mille and A. Lange and Sohne; as well as examples from the most sought after “niche” brands such as Christophe Claret, Maitres du Temps and HD3.

Leading the collection is the most complicated wristwatch ever made: the Franck Muller Aetertnitas Mega 4 (lot number 4954, estimate: HK$4,800,000 – 9,600,000 / US$600,000 – 1,200,000). Offered for the first time at auction, this majestic timepiece with 1,483 parts combined to create 36 functions is known as the most complicated wristwatch ever produced to date. Never before seen on the open market, this watch can only be expressed in three words: Every Collector’s Dream. Collectors and scholars will unanimously agree that this truly magnificent work of art takes a prominent position in the history of watchmaking as one of the most exclusive and important wristwatches ever manufactured.

Another highlight is a unique example of Christophe Claret, perhaps the world’s most innovative watchmaker known for unusual and extreme complications. Created in 2010, the ground-breaking DualTow Night Eagle (lot 4731, estimate HKD 960,000 – 1,400,000/USD 120,000 – 180,000) is being offered for first-time at auction. A reflection of the innovation, expertise and excellence which is inherent to the Claret manufacture, the DualTow is an amalgamation of the wide variety of skills within the company and this particular model celebrates the firm’s 20th anniversary.

Also leading the collection is the HD3 Vulcania Bi-Axial Tourbillon limited titanium edition, circa 2008 (lot 4794, estimate HKD 800,000 – 1,200,000 /USD 100,000 – 150,000). HD3 was the brainchild of Jorg Hysek Sr., the original founder of the brand in 2002 and who was later joined by Valerie Ursenbacher and Fabrice Gonet. Inspired by the fantasy world of Jules Verne, this Vulcania Bi-Axial model was the second timepiece created by Fabrice Gonet for HD3, embodies a tourbillon rotating on two axes with various design details in concept of old seafaring vessels and early submarines.

When the world’s most renowned jeweller Harry Winston collaborates with top independent watch makers, they present a new chapter in horology which epitomizes stunning design with cutting-edge technical excellence. This private collection of eight Harry Winston Opus Series watches has been assembled over the past decade and is known as the largest collection of the Opus Collection to ever appear at auction.

As one of the leading highlights of this collection, the extraordinary feature in Opus 6 (lot 5122, HK$ HKD 2,560,000 - 4,000,000/USD 320,000 - 500,000) lies in the unusual construction of its Double Tourbillon 30°, a signature of French-English watchmaking duo Greubel Forsey, which combines a one-minute tourbillon inclined at 30° inside a four-minute tourbillon to offset any positional errors and to ensure superb chronometry. The movement provides 72 hours of power reserve, hours and minutes by co-axial discs at 3 o’clock, and small seconds disc at 11 o’clock. Limited to just 6 pieces, this example is numbered 5/6, and was manufactured in 2006.

Opus 5 (lot 5033, estimate HKD 1,200,000 – 2,000,000/ USD 150,000 - 250,000), is presented by Winston and the third generation Swiss watchmaker Felix Baumgartner, circa 2005. Taking the principle of the satellite indication and the retrograde minute hand, the watch’s off- centered display is made of three small cubes, each with four numbers that are arranged like satellites in a three-dimensional rotating system that turn and revolve to show the current hour, with the retrograde minute hand moving over a 120 degree counter. Opus V wristwatches were released in the limited edition of 100 items in rose gold or platinum, some of which are set in diamonds. The Opus V was to be the last collection of the Opus series under the management of Maximilian Büsser who left Harry Winston in 2005 to launch his own watch brand MB&F.

The Timeless Appeal of Patek Philippe
Founded in 1845, Patek Philippe is one of the most reputable and desired watchmakers in the world. The company first drew the attention of European elite with their horological advances when they exhibited the first keyless watches at the Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851. Since this time, these prestigious timepieces have never wavered in their appeal, due in part to the Swiss manufacture’s philosophy of perfection and commitment to scholarship, craftsmanship and innovation. At Christie’s, close to a third of worldwide watch auctions comprise of Patek Philippe lots, ranging from US$2,000 Calatravas to US$6.2 million for the wonderful and unique Reference 1527, and the majority of our record prices at auction are held by Patek Philippe timepieces. Since 2005, Asia has overtaken the United States as the biggest collector’s market for modern Patek Philippe timepieces and is quickly recognizing the value of their vintage timepieces.

In keeping with Christie’s commitment to showcasing rare timepieces that not only symbolize milestones in watch-making history, but also display groundbreaking functions and traditional craftsmanship, this season Christie’s Hong Kong will present collectors in Asia an unprecedented selection of vintage wristwatches of the highest quality. For lovers and collectors of vintage watches, Patek Philippe continues to be the most coveted name, and Christie’s Hong Kong is proud to present one of the largest selection of vintage timepieces from this most esteemed watchmaker.

Among Patek Philipp’s many historical creations, the Reference 2481 ‘The Lighthouse’, a pink gold wristwatch with center seconds and cloisonné enamel dial, (lot 4715, estimate: HKD 1,600,000 – 2,400,000/ USD 200,000 – 300,000) was widely acknowledged as one of the largest wristwatches ever created. Introduced to the market in 1950, the design with cloisonné enamel dials exemplifies Patek’s rarest and most prominent position in terms of beauty, craftsmanship and rarity. In the 1940’s and 50’s, Patek Philippe made an exceedingly small number of “time only” wristwatches and of these, only an extremely small number were upgraded with highly detailed and incredibly artistic cloisonné wonderful dials, depicting popular motifs such as the jungle theme, the lighthouse such as the present lot, or maps. Examples in such crisp condition, free of any chips or damages are veritable trophies and are “must haves” for the discerning collector.

Also leading the selection is the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch made in series, the Reference 1526 in pink gold (lot 5062, estimate: HK$1,200,000–2,000,000/US$150,000–250,000). This masterpiece of purism and elegance is often not credited for its historical importance and its beautiful design. Consigned by an important private collector and fresh to the market, the present example must be counted amongst the most attractive examples of a reference 1526 in pink gold. While examples in pink gold are exceedingly rare, this strong and masculine piece is believed to be one of the only 30 examples in pink gold to have come up for auction to date. Launched in 1941, this fine piece is highly appreciated by collectors and immediately recognisable by its Calatrava-style case.

As early as in the 16th century, ambitious watchmakers attempted to include astronomical indications in their pocket watches. Patek Philippe takes this ambition to the extreme with their creation of their most complicated wristwatch ever made by the manufacture – the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Reference 5002. Made in 2006 yet preserved in excellent overall condition, this exceptionally rare and highly important white gold double dialled wristwatch is known as the first example in white gold to appear at auction ever (lot 4953, estimate HKD 7,200,000 - 12,000,000/USD 900,000 – 1,500,000), features 686 parts with 12 consequential horological complications including the tourbillon, perpetual calendar, leap year cycle, fly back, minute repeater, sky chart, moon phases and orbit display. Only two of these highly sought-after trophies are manufactured annually and only granted to Patek Philippe’s top-of-the-line clients.

The Reference 5207 (lot 5086, estimate HKD 5,400,000 – 8,000,000/USD 675,000 – 1,000,000) stands as a true testament to the modern horological manufacture of Patek. Introduced to market in 2008, this grand complication masterpiece is the result of 5 years development in combining minute repeater, tourbillion and instantaneous perpetual calendar in a dial layout with easily readable apertures, which directly propels this ultra-rare reference to the second most complicated wristwatch ever manufactured by this leading watch maker. This superb piece is believed to be one of the 10 pieces of ‘Grande Complication’ manufactured every year, and offered for the first time in auction market.

Opulent Jeweled Timepieces
When world-renowned watch manufacturers such as Rolex and Vacheron Constantin wish to dazzle their audience, they create jewellery timepieces of astonishing design that combine horological know-how with top quality diamonds that are often among the most sought-after by collectors.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the season is the diamond-encrusted Vacheron Constantin 18K gold rectangular bracelet watch Lord Kalla, circa 1989 (lot 4683, estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 2,000,000/US$150,000 - 250,000). Set with approximately 309 rectangular cut diamonds with a total weight of roughly 55 carats, this sparkling work of art encompasses the four Cs that collectors look for: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight.

A perennial favourite among collectors of all levels, Rolex is a maker that features most prominently in Christie’s sales of important watches season upon season. Among the Spring highlights is this impressive and rare 18K white gold diamond-set GMT MASTER II “ICE” (lot 5031, estimate: HK$640,000–960,000/US$80,000 – 120,000). This rare example is in excellent condition and is believed to be the first and so far only example to appear in public to date. A collector’s mind could hardly imagine a more lavish “sports watch” than the present fully pave-set Rolex GMT-Master II.

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