Aurel Bacs at the rostrum on a historic night in New York
Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo didn’t just break another list of records this year; it broke the ones that mattered. Paul Newman’s legendary Paul Newman Daytona sold for $17.8 million, setting a new world record for the highest result achieved by any wristwatch at auction, ever, and smashing the previous record held since the Geneva Watch Auction: FOUR by a stainless steel Patek Philippe reference 1518.
Before Paul Newman’s Daytona, Phillips had already broken the record for a Rolex wristwatch in 2017 with the $5 million ‘Bao Dai’ reference 6062, while the $3.7 million ‘The Legend’ reference 6263 completed a remarkable new “top three” for vintage Rolex wristwatches.
From the Saleroom: On a historic night, Aurel Bacs auctioneers the twelve-minute bidding battle that defined 2017 for fine and collectible vintage watches.
We also broke the long-standing Omega wristwatch record when we sold an Omega tourbillon prototype wristwatch, one of the first tourbillon wristwatches ever, for $1.4 million. This watch broke the previous Omega record by a significant margin — about $1 million — and in the process became the first Omega to reach the seven-figure mark.
But records, they come and go. They are meant to be broken, and we know the ones set this year won’t last forever. What the team will remember years from now are not the records, but the great moments spent with collectors and experts in and out of the auction room. As ever, Phillips was pleased to welcome thousands of collectors during its sales in Geneva, Hong Kong and New York.
One highlight that springs to mind is the tremendous reception collectors gave Mr. Jack Heuer when the former Heuer CEO arrived for Heuer Parade, a themed sale dedicated to the chronographs he designed in the 1960s and 1970s, in which 100% of lots sold. Another is when Laurent Picciotto picked up his custom Richard Mille guitar, an instrument technically on sale (but also technically his until the sale), and played it during final previews of the Hong Kong Watch Auction: FOUR, in which 43 of his watches were offered.
So here’s to 2018—another record-breaking year, maybe, and another year filled with great moments, undoubtedly. Upon entering the New Year, we take this opportunity to reflect on team’s top ten most memorable moments.
1. Paul Newman’s record-breaking ‘Paul Newman’
Paul Newman’s mythical ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona is undoubtedly the watch of the year. The collecting community began dreaming about this watch since the earliest days of wristwatch collecting in the mid-1980s. For years, experts speculated about its whereabouts as it became clear that this was the most important watch that had never been auctioned; and finally, it was presented to Aurel Bacs in 2016. It was sold a year later, during our inaugural watch sale in New York, just a few hundred miles away from the Newman family home in Connecticut, where Paul Newman had given the watch to consignor James Cox. The watch fetched $17.8 million, smashing the previous auction record for a wristwatch, held for just 18 months by a stainless steel Patek Philippe.
Consignor James Cox speaks to the press about Paul Newman's 'Paul Newman' Rolex Daytona on the night of the Winning Icons Sale in New York.
2. The return of the Duality N°00
Philippe Dufour made only nine Duality watches — the series was originally meant to be larger but the master watchmaker decided otherwise — and only one has ever been offered at auction. It happens to be the most important in the series, by pedigree, and this year marked its return to auction, ten years after the first and once again through the hands of Aurel Bacs. The improbable comeback of N°00 was one of the most exciting events of the year, and Dufour collectors prepared themselves for a historic night. The watch sold for $915,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $200,000 to $400,000 and took third place in the top results of New York’s Winning Icons Sale, beaten only by the mythical ‘PNPN’ and a fresh-to-market Patek Philippe ref. 1518.
Philippe Dufour Duality N°00, 1996. Sold for $915,000.
Phillips Watches specialists were poised at the phone banks during the Winning Icons Sale.
3. The first seven-figure Omega wristwatch
We knew that Omega had made a series of tourbillon movements in the 1940s but we all thought those had not actually been cased until much, much later. The discovery of a piece assembled in 1947 shortly after the creation of the movements meant that Omega had actually created one of the first tourbillon watches ever, a massive achievement for the brand. Being the prototype of the series, the watch was obviously a valuable piece of horological history, which the pre-sale estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 fairly reflected; but what we couldn’t anticipate was the fierce battle that propelled its price above the $1 million mark. The watch finally sold for $1.4 million, almost 15 times its estimate, becoming the most expensive Omega ever sold at auction.
Omega "Tourbillon 30 I" prototype, 1947. Sold for CHF1,428,500.
4. Hong Kong’s latest record
The Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE was a memorable sale for several reasons. It was the most successful watch auction held in Asia this year, plus it ended with a new record. The sale’s top lot, a Patek Philippe Ref. 2523, became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction in Asia when it hammered for HK$22,300,000. The Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE was also Thomas Perazzi’s first sale with Phillips. The veteran auctioneer, who joined Phillips a few weeks before the sale and traded positions at the rostrum with Aurel Bacs throughout the auction, was justifiably pleased with the outcome of his first sale.
Patek Philippe Ref. 2523, 1953. Sold for HK$22,300,000.
5. Discovering the ‘Sydney Rose’
The ‘Sydney Rose’ is the kind of watch our Watch department dreams of finding. An untouched example of one of Patek Philippe’s rarest models, it sold in the 1960s to an Australian family and was brought back to Geneva by one of its heirs. Known only to them for almost 60 years, this precious timepiece contributes new information about the reference 2497: this is the only example we know of with luminous hands. We were delighted to be able to offer it and pleased that it brought happiness to both the consignor and the new owner of the watch.
Patek Philippe 'Sydney Rose' Ref. 2497, 1954. Sold for CHF742,000.
6. The Rolex Trifecta
The highest price achieved for a Rolex wristwatch was beaten twice this year, and it would have been three times if the order of lots we presented had been different. Phillips broke the overall Rolex record this spring with the sale of the ‘Bao Dai’, a reference 6062 commissioned by and formerly in the collection of the last Emperor of Vietnam, which achieved $5 million during the Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE. This record that was shortly followed by a gold reference 6263 known to the watch community as ‘The Legend’, which became the most expensive Daytona ever sold after it achieved $3.7 million. Both records fell six months later, during Phillips’ following sale, when Paul Newman’s Daytona achieved the highest result of any wristwatch.
Rolex 'Bao Dai' Ref. 6062, 1954. Commissioned and worn by the last Emperor of Vietnam. Sold for CHF5,066,000.
7. That time Jack Heuer replaced Aurel Bacs at the rostrum
It was a heart-warming sight that capped off a very special evening for Mr. Heuer. The industry titan sat in the auction room for two hours, watching collectors vying for chronographs he had designed during his tenure at the brand in the 1960s and 1970s. For the final lot of the night, a special limited edition made in his honor, Mr. Heuer stepped up to the rostrum to help Aurel Bacs auctioneer and ultimately hammer the watch. The TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer Edition N° 1/1932 fetched CHF37,500 — with no premium added on charity pieces — which is ten times its current market price. All proceeds from this thematic chronograph sale went to the Save The Children Foundation.
Tag Heuer Ref. CBE2111.BA0687, Case No: 1/1932. Autavia "Limited Edition Jack Heuer's 85th birthday," 2017. Sold for CHF37,500.
8. 43 Watches & Encounters – The Laurent Picciotto Collection
The Phillips watch department has earned a bit of a reputation for organizing thematic sales. Earlier this year it brought together an unprecedented sale, built around a single owner collection consisting mostly of modern and unique pieces from independent and boutique brands. Laurent Picciotto’s decision to sell his entire collection was inspired and inspiring. The 43 watches were hugely popular with local and international clients and sold well above the low pre‐sale estimate.
Laurent Picciotto poses in an advertisement for Hublot, among the contemporary watchmakers of his diverse and celebrated collection.
9. Aurel Bacs presiding over the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
You may not know this but our Senior Consultant and star auctioneer, Aurel Bacs, is also the President of the jury of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Known as the ‘Oscars of the watch industry,’ the GPHG recognizes the most important horological breakthroughs of the year. This year’s ceremony crowned Chopard for the L.U.C Full Strike, the watchmaker’s first minute repeating watch. The ceremony began with Bacs presenting the Special Jury Prize to Suzanne Rohr and Anita Porchet, two of the most accomplished women in the art of enamelling and micropainting.
10. The watch department’s expansion
Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo welcomed several new faces in 2017. Auction house veteran Thomas Perazzi joined Phillips as the new Head of Asia in 2017, in addition to several new specialists joining our team around the world. Our new hires demonstrate Phillips’ commitment and continuous efforts to find the world’s finest people in order to serve our clients as best as we possibly can.
The full Phillips Watches team celebrates a momentous debut auction in New York.
Geographically speaking, Phillips launched its newest selling location in October 2017—New York. Nearly the entire International team came together in New York to support our inaugural, thematic sale entitled “Winning Icons – Legendary Watches of the 20th Century”. The most well‐attended watch auction ever with nearly 700 people in attendance, this historic sale achieved $28.8 million, breaking a nearly two-decade-old record for the highest sale total for a watch auction held in the U.S.