The results are in. The third biennial Only Watch auction, held in Monaco late September for the benefit of the Monégasque Association Against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (AMM), ended with quite a few surprises. There were many pieces that sold significantly below estimate, particularly the highly complicated watches presented by independent makers, while more traditional brands fetched bids slightly above or within estimate, proving that collectors are still proceeding with caution and going for the sure bets, or the “reliable investments”. There were exceptions, of course, and definitely plenty of good deals made.
Ulysse Nardin’s “Black Out” Freak did well for its pre-auction estimate, selling at €87,000. The watch showcased a number of world firsts when it was released in 2001, with its silicium-
infused movement (including the tourbillon escapement), no true case and hands, but offering an extraordinary view of the watch mechanism. The Black Out was designed for the auction with a unique 18k white gold case, with the bridges and metal parts treated with stainless black titanium-based alloy. The tips of the movement, which serve as the hour and minute markers, are dipped in red Super Luminova for an especially arresting effect. And in case you have forgotten, the watch’s coolest feature is the absence of the crown. Winding the carrousel tourbillon movement and setting the time is done by rotating the bezel. The Black Out also has a seven-day power reserve.
Another interesting piece is Confrerie Horlogere’s “La Clef du Temps” or The Key to Time. The first watch to be designed by this group of seven young designers under the mentorship of BNB Concept’s Matthias Buttet, the basic concept of the timepiece lies in the owner’s ability to adjust the length of time according to his wishes. While it sounds impossible – you would think a lifetime of quantum physics or god-like intervention are the only two probable solutions – the Confrerie Horlogere team have made it look so easy: operating a three-position lever at 10 o’clock alters the running speed of the hours and minutes. At Lever 1 the pace of time slows by half so that a full hour is only display by half (perfect for those seemingly endless meetings!) At Lever 2, the pace of time remains the same, and at Lever 3, the pace of time is doubled, which means a full hour shows as two, making pleasant moments last twice as long while having the option to return to “real” time, anytime.
Other noteworthy features of La Clef du Temps include retrograde running seconds, a 120-degree sectoral power reserve indicator and a movement shaped like a stylized human brain, encased in a spaceship- like case. The watch sold lower than its initial estimate, but was still the second highest bid of the auction at €235,000.
Vacheron Constantin’s Quai de I’Ile Tantalum also did exceptionally well, selling for twice its initial estimate at €50,000. The case is made up of 10 parts which are fixed to an inner titanium case and holds the movement in place. The case and bezel are created in tantalum, which is an experimental watch material that offers extreme durability – the metal is so hard that it routinely destroys tools used to cut it – and gives off a uniquely dark sheen.
The watch is designed with the personal and playful touch characteristic of the Quai de I’Ile collection, with the special banknote printing technology, 3-D engraving and invisible ink used on the numerals and indicators. Other nifty surprises include a little sun metalized into the dial which glows bright yellow under UV rays and an outer sub-dial which has a decorative Only Watch logo engraving that appears to be three-dimensional when hit by light.
But the belle of the ball was once again Patek Philippe with its Ref 5106 Celestial. With initial estimates pegged between €180,000 and
€320,000 the Patek ended up selling for an impressive €530,000. The unique piece is an addition to the growing line of celestial-themed watches that the brand has become known for. It features a dial with a sky chart that shows the night sky as it appears in Geneva, with the position of the stars, the meridian passage of Sirius and the moon, lunar orbit and moon phases.
The dial also has hours, minutes and a date display. The 44-mm case comes in 18k rose gold while the bezel an unusual 22k rose gold, which is quite softer but used to highlight the guilloche patterns on the bezel. The Ref. 5106 is fitted with the automatic 240 LU CL C movement, which at 6.4 mm makes for a thin watch. The watch’s mini rotor also comes in 22k rose gold, completing the piece’s delicate finishing.
A total of 34 watches from the most prestigious watchmakers made up the auction lot at Only Watch 2009, which was handled by Patrizzi & Co. All the watches were either unique or the first of a limited edition. The previous auction, held in 2007, raised over €2.6 million in proceeds, with a Patek Philippe Nautilis Ref. 5712 in titanium setting the highest bid at €503,000.
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