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Historical timepieces signed by Breguet generate strong interest from international collectors
An important and highly complicated 18K pink gold minute repeating keyless lever watch with perpetual calendar, moon phases, split dead independent seconds and two time zones. Est: CHF 150,000-250,000 US$ 165,000-275,000. Sold for CHF 182,500 (195,330 USD). Photo: Sotheby's.

GENEVA.- Sotheby’s Geneva new “Day sales” of Important Watches saw international collectors out in force tuesday, concluding with a total of CHF 8,112,200 ($8,682,488). Covering five centuries of watch history, from the 16th to the 21st centuries, the sale was led by a 1825 carriage clock by the celebrated watch and clockmaker, Breguet which was bought for CHF 422,500 ($452,202) by the Breguet Museum, Paris.

Speaking after the sale, Geoffroy Ader, Head of Sotheby’s European Watch Department, commented: “International collectors responded with enthusiasm to the offering of historical timepieces today, confirming a trend that has developed in the past five years. Timepieces signed by Breguet secured strong bids, while antique watches including inventions that revolutionised watchmaking soared above estimate”.

At the core of the May auction was a section entirely dedicated to Breguet ‐ an absolute reference in the world of horology for the past two centuries. The top lot of the sale was a large gilt brass grande et petite sonnerie, quarter repeating carriage clock (No. 3145) (lot 365) which was purchased by the Breguet Museum for CHF 422,500 ($452,202), against an estimate of CHF 350,000‐450,000 ($385,000‐495,000). Delivered by Breguet in 1825 for 6,000 francs, an astronomical price at the time, this “Pendule à Almanach” is one of the largest models of travelling clocks made by the watchmaker and is identical to a clock sold the Queen of Spain in 1831.  

This carriage clock headlined a group of 45 timepieces by Breguet, dating from 1785 to 1997. A piece of supreme horological art revealing Breguet’s unique ability to incorporate innovations, the “Louis Audemars Grande Complication” (No. 3700) (lot 366) realised CHF 182,500 ($193,330). This highly complicated 18 carat pink gold minute repeating keyless lever watch, with a Brassus calibre gilt movement by Louis Audemars, sold in 1908 had been estimated at CHF 150,000‐250,000/$165,000‐275,000.

A modern highlight was an extremely rare pink gold minute repeating perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch dating from circa 1997 (ref. 3857) (lot 388) which sold for CHF 242,500 ($259,548), within the estimate of CHF 200,000‐300,000 ($220,000‐330,000). Featuring Breguet’s classic aesthetic, this watch made its auction debut yesterday and was part of a limited edition of three pieces produced to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Abraham‐Louis Breguet’s birth.

Patek Philippe’s extraordinary craftsmanship was widely represented in the sale: a very fine example of the Reference 5029 – a 18k yellow gold automatic minute repeating hinged wristwatch dating from 1998 (lot 251) – achieved CHF 362,500 ($387,984) (est. CHF 275,000‐375,000/ $303,000‐413,000). Combining both aesthetic and technical excellence, a rare example of Reference 5971 from 2007 (lot 140) – a platinum and diamond‐set perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with register, moon‐phases and leap‐year indication   – realised CHF 236,5000 ($253,126) (est. CHF 180,000‐220,000/ $198,000‐242,000), while a 2004 “Celestial” (Ref 5102G) – a 18k white gold automatic astronomical wristwatch with sky chart, phases and position of the moon and time of meridian passage of Sirius and the moon (lot 240) – sold for CHF 182,500 ($195,330) (est. CHF 150,000‐200,000/$165,000‐220,000).

Rolex featured strongly in the sale. Leading this group was the exceptional Reference 6062 “Star Dial” (lot 307) which secured CHF 314,500 ($336,609), above the pre‐sale estimate of CHF 200,000‐300,000 ($220,000‐330,000). Dating from circa 1950, this rare 18 carat pink gold triple calendar wristwatch with moon phases was said to have belonged to the late Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia and the country’s first King. One of the most beautiful examples of the legendary reference 6062 of which only few models were made, it was fitted with the highly sought after “Star Dial” or “Stelline Dial” and preserved in its original condition.

International collectors responded with enthusiasm to the offering of historical timepieces. Highlighting a group of stunning enamel pocket watches made for the Chinese, Ottoman and Indian markets, a Swiss yellow gold, enamel and pearl‐set centre seconds watch made for the Chinese market, circa 1820 (lot 257) soared above pre‐sale estimate to sell for CHF 182,500 ($195,330) (est. CHF 40,000‐60,000/ $ 44,000‐66,000).

In addition to Breguet, the sale paid tribute to another horological genius: Jacques Frédéric Houriet (1743‐1830), the “Father of Swiss Chronometry”. Houriet’s considerable influence on the work of his students and their successors was illustrated by a watch by Sylvain Mairet. This slim 18k yellow gold watch with digital hour display and thermometer, circa 1845 (lot 341) also exceeded its estimate of CHF 80,000‐100,000 ($88,000‐110,000) and realised CHF 182,500 ($195,330).  

A section of the sale was also dedicated to an invention that revolutionised modern horology: the tourbillon, developed by Abraham‐Louis Breguet in 1795 to nullify the effects of gravity in pocket watches and increase their precision. In the early 1920s, the German horologist Alfred Helwig invented what is now commonly known as the flying tourbillon. In 1931, together with his student Woldemar Fleck, he produced a silver open‐faced keyless pocket chronometer with flying tourbillon (lot 186) which achieved CHF 182,500 ($195,330) (est. CHF 150,000‐200,000/ $165,000‐220,000).

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