Back in February, Jack broke the news that watch industry legend Jean-Claude Biver would be parting with four absolutely incredible Patek Philippe watches from his personal collection via the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: XI. Well, despite a COVID-related delay, the final hammer just fell at the sale and boy did these watches command some serious coin. The four watches sold for a combined total in excess of $ 8.76 million. Wow.
Alright, let’s break this down a bit more. The first watch to sell was the pink gold 1518 with the pink gold dial, as lot 38. There are only nine examples of the so-called pink-on-pink 1518, and this is the only known example with blued hour and minute hands in place of the usual gold hands (these are thought to be a custom request from the original owner, who wanted something higher contrast for easier reading). This watch sold for $ 3.57 million all-in (CHF 3.38 million), which is a very strong result. Considering the fact that a “normal” pink gold 1518 is a $ 1.5 million watch and that the last pink-on-pink example to sell publicly brought in $ 2.3 million at Phillips in December 2019, this is nothing to scoff at. The last half-decade has been kind to prices for these sorts of watches, with a pink-on-pink with a matching bracelet having for CHF 1,445,000 at Phillips in May 2015. While this is a record for a pink gold 1518 at auction, there is still one 1518 to have outpaced it: the legendary steel 1518 that sold for $ 11 million at Phillips in 2016.
Next up we saw the smallest watch of the bunch, a 31mm ref. 96HU worldtimer, pull $ 408,805 (CHF 387,500) as lot 64. This is an exceptionally rare watch, with only two total examples known, including the watch you see here. This is a very early Patek worldtimer, fitted into a diminutive ref. 96 Calatrava case. It definitely shows its age, but there are all kinds of cool little curiosities with this one (notice that the cities ring shows London and Paris in the same time zone – Google it). It’s tough to figure out what this auction result means for the broader market, simply because there really are no comps to speak of. All we can do is look back at previous results for the two watches, which, weirdly, both sold in 2011: The watch you see here fetched $ 482,500 at Sotheby’s New York just a few weeks after its partner brought in CHF 411,000 at Christie’s Geneva (it’s now in the Patek museum in Geneva). I’m a little surprised that the price on this watch dipped like this, especially considering that a Patek worldtime pocket watch sold for CHF 1.16 million just two lots earlier, but there you have it. Sometimes all you can do is shrug.
It feels very weird to call this extremely beautiful 2499 “the least exciting watch” here, but that’s a testament to how absolutely insane this quartet of watches is. This yellow gold, second series 2499 is a stunner, with an extremely sharp case, and today it sold for $ 2.74 million (CHF 2.6 million) as lot 155. Of all the watches here, this watch also has the most points of comparison – but that can sometimes be more confusing than helpful. The 2499 came in four different series, each of which also has micro in-series differences, and often the watches brought to auction have unique traits, double signatures, and other differentiating elements. The present watch is an outstanding example, in great quality, and with important provenance. Phillips’ Aurel Bacs noted as he commenced the bidding that this watch went into today having previously set the world record for the highest price achieved by a yellow gold, second series 2499 – and with today’s result, it has set that record a third time.
And, finally, we have the last lot of this weekend’s sale: the platinum ref. 1579 chronograph with spider lugs. As lot 214 it pulled in a final price of $ 2.05 million (CHF 1.94 million). This watch is kind of a perfect storm: It’s a vintage Patek chronograph, it’s a unique watch (only three were made, all with different dials), it’s platinum, it’s in great, honest condition, and it comes from the collection of Mr. Biver. You can’t really ask for much more than that. To think about what was going on in the world in 1946, in the wake of World War II, and to think that Patek thought to make this totally indulgent, superlative watch, is just crazy. With that in mind, a $ 2.05 million result is obviously nothing to scoff at, but it is worth noting that the last time a platinum 1579 sold publicly, at Christie’s in 2012, it commanded CHF 1,539,000. The last time this 1579 sold, at Christie’s in 2011, it sold for CHF 1,987,000. So, this is technically an increase in value, though I was expecting the bidding to climb a little higher.
Now, those of you who have been following HODINKEE for a long time might remember that three of the four watches sold this weekend have been featured on the site before. Jean-Claude Biver shared the pink-on-pink 1518, the yellow gold 2499, and the platinum 1579 as part of his Talking Watches way back in 2014. If you want a little more context for these watches and want to get Biver’s personal take on each, I highly recommend you check that out too.
To check out all the results from this weekend’s sale, visit Phillips online.