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Historic wristwatch by Patek Philippe sells for $3 million, leading Sotheby's New York Sale of Important Watches
Patek Philippe's first ever split-seconds chronograph wristwatch sold for $2,965,000 to a Swiss museum. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Yesterday at Sotheby’s New York, The Titanium Collection of unique and remarkable wristwatches by Patek Philippe achieved $7.1 million – well exceeding their $4.9 million high estimate*. The full auction of Important Watches totaled $11.7 million, marking the highest-ever result for a various-owners sale of watches at Sotheby’s New York, with more than half of all sold lots surpassing their pre-sale high estimates.

The Collection was led by a piece of watchmaking history: Patek Philippe’s First Split-Seconds Chronograph Wristwatch, started in 1903 and completed and sold on 13 October 1923, which brought $2,965,000 – more than double its $1.2 million high estimate. Bidders competed for the vintage icon online, in the room and by phone, before it sold to a Swiss museum. This price matches Sotheby’s top result for any wristwatch, achieved by The Henry Graves, Jr. Yellow Gold Minute Repeating Wristwatch by Patek Philippe that sold for $2,994,500 in 2012.

Katharine Thomas, Head of Sotheby’s Watch Department in New York, commented: “It was a privilege to offer The Titanium Collection, a visionary group of unique commissioned watches by Patek Philippe, whose exceptional results are a testament to the ultimate connoisseurship of its collector. Bidding throughout yesterday’s auction was truly global, demonstrating the continued strength of the watch market worldwide.”

Tim Bourne, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Watch Department and Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Department, said: “Our New York sale capped off a very exciting season of watch auctions at Sotheby’s internationally, and we look forward to a strong fall season.”

The Collection’s groundbreaking selection of five wristwatches commissioned in titanium were led by the unique and previously-unknown Ref. 5001T Sky Moon Tourbillon, which fetched $1,325,000 (est. $1/1.5 million). While the ‘Sky-Moon’ is typically known to Patek Philippe enthusiasts under reference 5002, the example offered today was created a year before the 5002 was revealed at the 2001 Basel Fair, shining a new light into the development of the model.

Other commissioned pieces in the Collection included the previously unknown Platinum Ref. 5103P, which sold for $773,000 (est. $500/700,000), and the Flawless Officer Ref. 3928, which achieved $737,000 – an auction record for a contemporary time-only watch by Patek Philippe (est. $300/500,000). The case back of the Flawless Officer is set with a 9.44 carat, D color, Internally Flawless diamond that provides a window to the movement.

Outside of The Titanium Collection, today’s auction was highlighted by a rare Art Deco desk timepiece by Cartier: a Highly Important and Rare Gold, Hardstone, Enamel and Gem-Set Desk Timepiece in the form of a tortoise, circa 1928, sold for $875,000 (est. $300/500,000). The work is noteworthy for the concealment of the dial and movement within the tortoise shell itself – closed, the piece is an ornately designed objet; open, the utility of the piece is revealed. A Magnificent White Gold and Diamond-Set Bracelet Watch, Ref 40011 by Piaget carrying a total diamond weight of approximately 57 carats fetched $398,000 (est. $200/300,000). Novel and important modern complications featured the Hublot Key of Time MB-02 and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre a Spherotourbillon, each of which brought $185,000 (est. $150/200,000 and $100/250,000 respectively).

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