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Sotheby's New York Auction of Important Watches & Clocks to be held on 4 December 2012
Patek Philippe. A Fine and Extremely Rare Massive 18K Yellow Gold Center Seconds Wristwatch, 1955 Ref 2512/1 Mvt 704539 Case 690545, diameter 46 mm. Estimate: $100/150,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual December auction of Important Watches & Clocks will be held next Tuesday, 4 December 2012 in New York. The sale will be led by The Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympathique, a distinguished example of the exceptionally rare Sympathique clocks that helped cement the fame and renown of French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet. In addition, the auction is highlighted by a stunning collection of jeweled timepieces, watches by Patek Philippe that demonstrate the influence of early-20th century watchmaking genius Louis Cottier, important pocket watches from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and more.

No other horological invention has been as consistently associated with the palaces and grand houses of the European royalty and aristocracy as the Breguet Sympathiques. The present example, named The Duc d’Orléans after its patron and dated to 1835, has the most complex Sympathique mechanism of all known examples: it is the only one known to wind, set time and regulate its accompanying pocket watch, via the integrated cradle mounted onto the clock’s pediment. This magnificent clock is further distinguished by having been in the celebrated Time Museum collection assembled by Seth Atwood*, and its winding mechanism was restored by the 20th century’s most illustrious horologist and watchmaker Dr. George Daniels, MBE, CBE. The Duc d’Orléans carries an estimate in excess of $5 million**

A Fine and Extremely Rare Massive 18K Yellow Gold Center Seconds Wristwatch, 1955, Ref 2512/1 is a legend among collectors of Patek Philippe watches (est. $100/150,000). Originally sold at Sotheby’s in June 1988, the piece has remained in the same private collection for nearly 25 years. At 46 millimeters in diameter, the dimensions of the watch are extraordinary, and the watch stands as one of the finest time-only specimens ever created.

Another highlight of the clocks on offer is A Rare and Important Onyx, Nephrite, Lapis Lazuli and Gold Desk Timepiece, made circa 1929 by Vacheron Constantin in collaboration with French firm Verger Frères (est. $80/120,000). Many of the finest clocks known from the Art Deco period were collaborations between the two celebrated firms. The present example is of particular note for its unparalleled aesthetic qualities and condition.

An exquisite collection of 32 jeweled timepieces from a private collection trace the evolution of watch design from Renaissance revival to Art Deco. As Janet Zapata, Decorative Arts Consultant and Specialist in Tiffany & Co., notes in her catalogue essay: A Unique Pink Gold and Silver Watch with Matching Silver and Gold Mounted Leather Chatelaine made by Boucheron in 1883 epitomizes the neo-Renaissance style (est. $20/25,000); enamel and diamonds held sway at the turn of the century, as seen on A Lady’s Fine Miniature Yellow Gold, Enamel and Diamond-Set Pendant Watch with Matching Violet Motif and Brooch by Fontana & Cie, circa 1910 (est. $12/15,000); and the Art Deco period is characterized by stark color contrasts as seen on A Fine and Rare 18K Yellow Gold, Enamel and Ivory Pendant Watch with Classical Motif circa 1927 that was retailed by Lacloche Frères (est. $18/22,000).

The lady’s wristwatches on offer will be led by a magnificent piece by Rolex: An Extraordinary and Possibly Unique Lady’s Platinum, Diamond-and Sapphire- Set Bracelet Watch with Concealed Dial, made circa 1955 (est. $60/80,000). The superb piece is among the most important jewelry watches by the firm to ever appear at auction. The design is remarkably similar to the famed Rolex ‘Ice Flower,’ an extraordinary diamond-set bracelet watch that marked their most expensive model ever created.

The December auction includes three Patek Philippe watches that offer a glimpse into the talents of Louis Cottier, who in the 1920s and 30s developed and patented numerous mechanisms including the ‘World Time’, which would inspire some of the most iconic Patek Philippe complications. The group is led by two of Patek Philippe’s Ref 2597 Wristwatches, modeled after Cottier’s prototype from 1953 (ests. $75/125,000 and $100/150,000). With specially designed pushers to the left case side, the wearer is able to advance and retard the hour hand in one hour increments, thereby easily adjusting the watch for different time zones.

Property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art comprises seven pieces sold to benefit the museum’s acquisitions fund. In addition to five elaborate fantasy-form watches – including a basket, skull and mandolin designs – the group includes A Fine Yellow Gold and Enamel Quarter Repeating Musical Automaton Watch made circa 1810 by Swiss maker Henry-Daniel Capt (right, est. $70/90,000), and A Fine and Rare Massive and Early Self-Winding Center Seconds Quarter Repeating French Revolutionary Era Watch with Calendar made circa 1790 by French maker Bazile Le Roy (est. $50/70,000).

Watches with unique provenance include A Fine and Rare 18K Yellow Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Wristwatch with Registers and Moon-Phases, circa 2008, Ref 5970J by Patek Philippe that was originally owned by former NASA astronaut Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman (left, est. $70/90,000). Hoffman has made five space flights, and became the first astronaut to log 1,000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle.

* The Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympathique was last offered at auction in Sotheby’s 1999 sale of Masterpieces from the Time Museum, where it achieved $5,777,500 – this price remains the auction record for any clock.

**Pre-sale estimate does not include buyer’s premium.

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