Timepieces spanning 250 years of history auction for a total of $12.5 million at Sotheby's New York
June 29, 2015: Timepieces spanning from 1760 to 2015 brought Sotheby’s its highest-ever total for a ‘various-owner’ sale of Important Watches in New York, achieving $12.5 million with 88.8% of lots sold.
The centerpiece of the auction was a magnificent private collection of 22 Swiss enameled automata that together brought $6.1 million. The collection offered the finest examples from the golden age of Swiss watchmaking during the Industrial Revolution, when noted makers such as Jaquet Droz and Piguet & Meylan married technology and artistry to create miraculous objects in miniature.
The Singing Bird Scent Flask, made for the Chinese market by Jaquet-Droz & Leschot, Geneva, circa 1785, sold for $2,530,000. It was purchased by famed Swiss collector Maurice Sandoz in 1942 from the New York dealer, A La Vieille Russie, for $2,997, and entered its most recent collection in 1957. The automaton features an articulated ivory bird – measuring just 12 millimeters tall - which is accompanied by a highly intricate, miniature organ to replicate the bird’s song. The superbly-decorated and constructed scent flask is covered in enamel and jewels, centered by a recessed medallion with a magnificent scene that showcases varicolored gold sculpture representing a branch with leaves with the singing bird automaton perched atop.
The Patek Philippe ‘Heures Universelles’ with Enamel Dial, made in 1951, sold for $982,000. A similar example with serial numbers differing in only one digit (mvt 931073 case 683466) belongs to the Patek Philippe Museum Collection – in fact, the two examples differ only in that the cities in the Museum's example are listed in French, whereas the present example lists the cities in English. With its unbroken provenance, stunning condition and the sheer rarity of such an example, the present piece is a true trophy.
The Richard Mille ‘Yohan Blake’ sold for $478,000. The watch is aptly named after Yohan Blake, the Jamaican sprinter of the 100 and 200 meter sprint races. The RM59-01 is a fascinating case study as it presented the unique challenge to create an exceptionally aerodynamic piece of absolute lightness and ruggedness to withstand the challenges of the track and not interfere with its wearer's speed. To that end, Richard Mille incorporated nearly weightless carbon nanotubes into the case, which absorb shock.