Watch fetches record USD 21.3 million at Swiss auction

Watch fetches record USD 21.3 million at Swiss auction

12th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The sale of the "Henry Graves Supercomplication", a handcrafted timepiece named after its original owner, a New York banker who ordered it in 1925, weighs more than half a kilo and comprises 900 separate parts.

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It had been expected to sell for USD 15 million at a Sotheby's jewel and watch auction in Geneva.

But frenzied bidding pushed the price up higher, and the final amount paid was "a new world record", Sotheby's said.

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The winning bidder, who remained anonymous, will have to fork out a total of USD 24 million, including the commission.

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It took Patek Philippe five years to assemble the watch, which has Graves's name on the dial.

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Tim Bourne, Sotheby's worldwide head of watches, said the sale confirmed the watch's "superstar status".

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Bourne called it an "icon of the 20th century, a masterpiece that elevates the discipline of watchmaking to art".



'Symbolises strength, power and money'

A watch industry expert told AFP before the auction the timepiece was not just an immensely expensive accessory.

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"This is not a watch you can wear.

It is a watch that symbolises strength, power and money," he said.

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The Patek Philippe piece displays not only the hour but also a plethora of other indicators: a perpetual calendar, the phases of the moon, sidereal time, indications for the time of sunset and sunrise, and the shifting night sky over Manhattan.

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Its Westminster chimes sing joyfully every 15 minutes.

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The watch has been up for sale once before, at a Sotheby's auction in New York in December 1999, when the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois closed its doors and emptied its inventory.

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That time, the exquisite timepiece went for a mere $11 million.

The watch was among 368 timepieces that were up for auction on Tuesday.

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Wealthy collectors from around the world have descended on Geneva for four action-packed days at Sotheby's and rival house Christie's.

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Christie's kicked off the bidding frenzy on Sunday with a special auction to mark 175 years of Patek Philippe watches, which saw 100 wrist and pocket watches go under the hammer for a total of USD 19,731,099.

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That was double the original estimate, and set nine world records in the process, said Christie's, which raked in another USD 15 million on a second round of watch sales Monday evening.

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At Christie's on Tuesday a diamond-decked brooch commissioned by France's empress Eugenie in 1855 went for USD 2 million, at the low end of the pre-sale estimate.

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The piece had not been seen at auction in 125 years, Christie's said, stressing that it was "extremely rare for a jewel of such historic importance to be offered for sale".

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At the same auction a diamond and sapphire necklace, the Blue Belle of Asia, which includes a legendary cushion-shaped sapphire of 392.

52 carats, sold for USD 15.

75 million, well above its estimate.

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Sotheby's is also presenting a bit of royal history at its competing auction on Wednesday, offering up a stunning pearl necklace that once belonged to Josephine de Beauharnais (1807-1876), who later became queen of Sweden and Norway.

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Sotheby's jewel chief David Bennet suggested the pearls, expected to fetch up to USD 1.

5 million, may even have been handed down by the queen's grandmother and namesake, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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"It may well be that these pearls were originally in her collection as well," Bennet told AFP.

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© 2014 AFP

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