July 29, 2021

gong blows in Hong Kong

The information eventually leaked into local media: the two-part auction Christie’s held in Hong Kong on May 22 featured, among the exceptional lots on offer, watch treasures from the Lee collection. Amassed by the son of the founder and president of the Samsung conglomerate, Lee Kun-hee, and kept in a secret location in Tokyo for years, it boasts some of the most significant collector’s watches in the world. And it is no coincidence that it is in the heart of Asia, in the “city of pearls”, that the auction house has chosen to disperse this extraordinary collection.

A sale which kept its promises and ensured the spectacle, with six watches exceeding one million dollars, symbolic threshold of records in the world of watches at auction. But the star was not the one we expected. The most viewed lot from this sale was a Patek Philippe Ref. 1415 HU World Time in platinum. This watch had for years been the record holder for the most expensive watch in history, sold for 6.6 million Swiss francs in Geneva in 2002 by Antiquorum to Mr. Lee. Ironing on the hammer, it reached “only” 1.88 million dollars (1.53 million euros). A heavy net loss, which says the market has changed.

Patek Philippe Ref.  3448J in yellow gold from 1970 known as “Alan Banbery”.

Patek Philippe still remains the absolute reference. The Ref. 3448J known as “Alan Banbery” is a mise en abyme of the brand’s history since it is a unique piece that had been modified by its president, Henri Stern, for its sales director, Alan Banbery. This complete stranger was enough to spark interest that peaked at a final bid of $ 3.7 million. Another surprise, a reference 2526 in yellow gold and black enamel from 1957, of exemplary sobriety and devoid of what often triggers the buying fever of followers of the brand (perpetual calendar and / or chronograph), doubled expectations to 676. 000 dollars.

Automate en or

The sale is therefore a sign of Asia’s ability to concentrate and bring out exceptional pieces. Although many were in what is commonly called Chinese taste (enamelled boxes set with pearls). Like this perfume flask with watch and automaton in gold, pearls and enamels from 1805, the owner of which was surprised to learn that it was part of a pair, the other copy of which has found refuge at… Patek Philippe Museum from Geneva. At $ 1.57 million, we are far above the amounts usually achieved by a timepiece other than the wrist.

Perfume flask with amphora-shaped automaton in Chinese style, attributed to Piguet & Capt, Geneva, 1805.

The other star brand, Rolex, was not to be outdone, with a full calendar Ref. 6036 known as “Jean-Claude Killy”, with a doubly particular dial with its red depth inscription and its applied indexes. This watch is one of ten models that broke a world record in their reference, at $ 676,000. Of course, there are about a hundred of these exceptional references. But they are almost all produced by Rolex or Patek Philippe. Thus, even more than the shift towards the east of the center of gravity of the auctions, it is the critical mass of this duopoly which continues to increase. The fact that François-Paul Journe, Breguet, Audemars Piguet (sometimes Cartier in other sales) manage to shine under the hammer still does not affect the foundation of the two leaders.

Read also Watchmaking, when the hammer becomes virtual