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Watch market is like a microcosm of the art market - Sotheby's

10
May '10
SOTHEBY'S sale of Important Watches this evening saw international collectors out in force, staking their claim both for big brands and, even more noticeably, for rare and historic timepieces. In total, the sale realized CHF 6,854,825 / US$ 6,338,588, well within pre-sale expectations of CHF 5,910,100-7,775,800 (US$ 5,465,010 - 7,190,205). 53% of the lots sold achieved prices in excess of high estimate, with sell through rates of 78.4% by lot and 81.8% by value.

Geoffroy Ader, European Head of Watches at Sotheby's, said: “Historic timepieces and pocket watches stole the show this evening, highlighting a pattern we have seen evolving for some time now. While there is no doubt that the market for the big brands remains as strong as ever, there is, simultaneous with that, a new and exciting groundswell of interest in antique pieces with historical resonance and decorative allure. Tonight's sale was carefully put together with this in mind, and we were thrilled, therefore, that so many of the pieces offered were so enthusiastically received. ”

Daryn Schnipper, Worldwide Head of Watches at Sotheby's, said: "In many ways the watch market is like a microcosm of the art market - both are currently characterised by a fascinating interplay between established and new buyers, all looking for blue-chip, rare and iconic pieces. That same unfettered desire for quality, which has been evident in our recent sales in Hong Kong and New York, was demonstrated further here tonight.”

“In addition to that, the results of the sale further emphasised another trend that we have been witnessing in our watch sales around the world. Underlying the headline-grabbing prices for modern, complicated watches, there is a strong, insistent and ever-increasing demand for watches of particular historic and decorative interest. This demand is fuelled largely by buyers from the Middle East and Asia, many of whom were remarkably active in the saleroom tonight."

“Shepherdess” Automaton, made for the Chinese market, sells for CHF 746,500
The top lot of the evening was lot 90, an exceptional Three Colour Gold, Enamel and Split Pearl Shield Form Automaton, c.1805-10. Estimated at CHF 400,000-500,000, this spectacularly small and complex automaton, featuring a shepherdess tending two sheep near a waterfall, excited interest from across the globe, with no fewer than 5 bidders locking horns in a battle to secure it. Together, they drove the final price to CHF 746,500 (690,281 USD). Their enthusiasm was no doubt sparked by the fact the automaton ranks among the most impressive pieces ever made by legendary watchmakers Isaac Daniel Piguet and Henri Capt. Like so many of the most accomplished pieces of the period, this extraordinary example was made for the Chinese market. As a forthcoming exhibition at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva will illustrate, the pieces made for this market were superlative: made to seduce Chinese Emperors and dignitaries at a single stroke. The extraordinary craftsmanship behind this piece was matched by its exceptional provenance: it once belonged to the notoriously extravagant King Farouk – last King of Egypt – whose legendary collection was sold at Sotheby's in 1954.


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