The Watch World is Abuzz

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 In Featured Articles, Popular Posts, Watches

Indeed, the world – at least the social media watch world – is abuzz with news from Geneva on Saturday. Records were set, or rather, they were shattered. Expectations were blitzed 100-fold. And when the dust finally settled, well over $11 million was raised for Duchene muscular dystrophy.

Yes, you’d have to have been living in a cave for the last few days to not know I’m talking about Only Watch. Only Watch was the unique auction taking place in Geneva on Saturday at Phillips, in association with Bacs & Russo. Forty-four unique watches were sold, with the benefits going to charity.

The first hint we got that we might be in for some excitement came when lots 6, 7, and 8, timepieces from Laurent Ferrier, Harry Winston, and Leroy, each went well above their high estimates (55%, 11%, and 87%, respectively). Then Lot 10, a stunning 18K white gold Louis Vuitton world timer, hammered at double it’s pre-sale estimate.

Then the real fireworks started. Lot 16, a stainless steel Patek Philippe manual winding minute repeater with a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand, ref. 5016A-010. The watch was estimated to go for CHF 700,000 to 900,000. When the gavel fell, the monitor showed CHF7,300,000. That was eight times the high pre-auction estimate, and a new record for any wristwatch ever at auction (the previous record was CHF 6,259,000 for an 18K yellow gold Patek Philippe ref. 1527 from 1943 in last May’s Christie’s Sale of Important Watches).

But the piece that’s REALLY raising eyebrows is the Tudor Black Bay One. The Black Bay One is a unique version of Tudor’s production piece, the Black Bay Black. The BBB as it’s know to aficionados, retails for roughly CHF3200. The Black Bay One was estimated to go for CHF3,500 – 4,500. It eclipsed the high estimate by a factor of 83.

THAT’s what the watch world is talking about. The cognoscenti seem to understand that this was a charity auction and that may have driven prices up. But comments from the great unwashed are ranging from “best news I’ve read today” to “what a stupid thing … it should have gone for no more than $30,000.”

On the other hand, nine of the 44 watches didn’t reach their minimum pre-auction estimate. Entries from Jacob & Co., Jaquet Droz, H. Moser & Cie, DeWitt, De Grisogono, De Bethune, Thomas Mercer, Bovet, Vulcain, and Armin Strom fell short of expectations.

Certainly, they were balanced by the eighteen pieces that outstripped predictions. Watches from Hublot, Laurent Ferrier, Harry Winston, Leroy, Louis Vuitton, Girard-Perregaux, Maurice LaCroix, F.P. Journe, MB&F, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Speake-Marin, Tudor, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin, Boucheron, Voutilainen, and Urwerk all finished with high marks.

And thus was more than CHF11,000,000 (€10,431,000) raised for fundamental and applied research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Gaëlle Tallarida, Managing Director of the Monaco Yacht Show (a co-organizer of the event) said, “What a fantastic way to celebrate Only Watch 10th anniversary. This result is the translation of a hard work from all contributors to this charity event.”

But, with due respect to the unique and interesting nature of these watches – especially the record-setting Patek, aficionados and collectors are left to wonder if the nature of the Only Watch format (proceeds going to charity) didn’t affect the bidding. Would the PP ref. 5016-A010 have gone as high as it did, were it sold at a routine Important Watches auction – even at Phillips’ own Auction 2, which took place the next day?

If the Tudor Black Bay One were portrayed as a prototypical model released to the wild, would it have brought even a penny more than CHF30,000 if it had been in a more typical watch auction?

We’ll leave you to ponder those questions as you anticipate the next Only Watch in 2017.

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