The Important Watches auction has the highest collective value of any watch sale held by Sotheby’s in nearly 10 years, with an estimate of up to CHF 18 million. This demonstrates the continued growth in fine watches auction sales, insatiable appetite from collectors for rare models across the price spectrum and growing engagement for very complicated watches, which typically are among the most valuable.
Leading the watches category this time round, is the largest selection of models designed by Gérald Genta (1931-2011), the “Picasso of Watchmaking”, ever assembled at a sale by Sotheby’s. Chief among them, his very own Royal Oak – the iconic design he created for Audemars Piguet, 50 years ago, which has become one of the world’s most coveted watches. The news that Genta’s own Royal Oak – arguably the one he most preferred to wear – would go on sale for the first time this spring, has attracted unprecedented attention since it was made public in December last year.
A modern horological icon, The Royal Oak revolutionized the industry as the first luxury sports watch to be made of steel. Designed overnight by Genta, the watch took inspiration from a childhood memory of seeing a man being sealed into an old-fashioned diving suit near the Mont Blanc bridge in Geneva. The revolutionary octagonal-shaped bezel mirrors the shape of a vintage diving helmet, with the eight hexagonal screws securing it to the watch as a helmet would attach to the diving suit.
The Genta collection on sale in May includes 4 rare oil on canvas by Genta, demonstrating his artistic talent beyond watch designing. Each of the four works reference a particular watch design from the watchmaking legend, subtly integrated within an abstract aesthetic that shows off Genta’s love of colour (each work has an estimate of 20,000 – 30,000 CHF).
This year’s Important Watches live auction boasts over 140 lots, half of them imagined by Genta for brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and even his own eponymous brand, Gérald Genta – moreover, a further 38 Genta designed watches will feature in the Luxury Week online only auction sales.
- Star highlight among them is the ‘Genta’s ‘Jumbo’ Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet – a favourite from his personal collection. Historically important, the stainless-steel wristwatch, with date and bracelet, was made circa 1978 for Genta with the unique specification of a 18k yellow gold bezel that Genta produced and added at his own workshop in Switzerland (est. CHF 300,000 – 500,000);
- and the Patek Philippe ‘Jumbo’ Nautilus, yellow gold wristwatch with date, tropical dial and bracelet, made in 1979 (est. CHF 200,000 – 400,000);
- Another highlight from the Genta selection is the rare Royama G2144 yellow and white gold diamond and sapphire-set skeletonised watch, estimated to have been made in 1980 (15,000 – 20,000 CHF)
Beyond the outstanding Genta curated edit, the star lots within the wider watch selection entail:
- the Rolex Daytona “Dutch National Team World Cup 2010 Edition” commemorating the achievements of the Dutch football team at the World Cup, and made only in a series of 30 customised watches (price 60,000 – 100,000 CHF);
- the Patek Philippe platinum minute repeating perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch with moon phases, leap year and day/night indication from circa 2013 (price 500.000 – 800,000 CHF);
- the Omega ‘Broad Arrow’ Speedmaster, in stainless steel chronograph wristwatch, made in 1958 (price 200,000 – 400,000 CHF);
- the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 seconde Contemporain Serti, limited edition white gold and diamond-set tourbillon wristwatch, with tourbillon rotation and power reserve indication, from circa 2015 (price 300,000 – 500,000 CHF);
- and the MBF Horological Machine n°7, limited edition titanium three-dimensional tourbillon wristwatch with spherical time display and platinum rotor, from circa 2017 (price 80,000 – 120,000 CHF).
Emerald and diamond necklace
Magnificent and Noble Jewels
Sotheby’s Geneva will hold its Spring sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels on 10 May, bringing together a curation of extraordinary jewels which tell the story of jewellery design from the late 19th century and the emblematic Art Deco period to contemporary pieces of today. The selection will showcase an impressive group of rare diamonds and exceptional coloured stones, as well as signed jewels from some of the world’s most renowned jewelers and storied pieces from aristocratic families.
In the wake of unprecedented demand for the finest, world-class, coloured diamonds – where just this week in Hong Kong, ‘The De Beers Blue’, 15.10 step-cut Fancy Vivid Blue diamond, sold for $57.5m, ranking among the highest prices ever achieved, for diamonds of any colour, on the open market – the Geneva auction will be led by a group of sought-after stones in pink and blue hues. The allure of pink diamonds is exemplified this Spring by a trio of superlative examples, including:
- a Fancy Intense Purple-pink diamond ring, weighing 7.17 carats estimated to achieve in excess of CHF 4.5 million;
- along with a heart-shaped Fancy Intense Orangy Pink diamond ring, weighing 15.23 carats (est. CHF 3,730,000 – 5,585,000);
- and an exceptional cushion-shaped Faint Pink Type IIA diamond ring, weighing 12.39 carats (est. CHF 930,000 – 1,400,000);
- The selection of coloured diamonds also comprises a rare cushion-shaped Fancy Intense Blue diamond ring weighing 3.14 carats (est. CHF 1,675,000 – 2,230,000).
More than twenty exceptional white diamonds in various cuts and clarity grades will also be on offer, led by a magnificent step-cut diamond and ruby ring by Chopard weighing 80.08 carats (estimated to achieve in excess of CHF 8 million). The beautiful stone is D Colour – the highest possible colour grading for white diamonds – has excellent polish and symmetry and belong to the rare subgroup of Type IIa diamonds – which comprises less than 2% of all gem diamonds, including the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamonds which are part of the British Crown Jewels. Type IIa diamonds often boast exceptional optical transparency.
To the delight of connoisseurs, the sale features an array of exceptional sapphires of Kashmir, Ceylon and Burmese origin, Colombian emeralds and Burmese rubies set into iconic designs signed by the most prestigious maisons. The sale is distinguished by a private collection offering the best of classic French jewellery, combining design, elegance and gemstones of the highest quality, including three ruby and diamond pieces (a necklace, bracelet and pair of ear clips) by M. Gérard and an impressive 56.52 carat Burmese Sapphire ring in a Cartier mounting (est. of collection CHF 765,000 – 1,355,000). Alongside these pieces is:
- a captivating Emerald and diamond necklace composed of sixty-three Colombian emerald beads (est. CHF 820,000 – 1,500,000);
- an impressive cushion-shaped spinel weighing 21.02 carats by Maison Avani (est. CHF 380,000 – 480,000);
- and a rare Imperial Green jadeite ring weighing 24.86 carats offered without reserve (est. CHF 400,000 – 600,000).
Of particular note this May, the auction will offer an extraordinary Art Deco piece emblematic of this highly sought-after era, widely recognised as the ‘Golden Era’ of jewelry creation: a colorful gem set and diamond ‘Birds in Flight’ bracelet by Oscar Heyman & Brothers dated to 1927 (est. CHF 470,000 – 745,000). Of museum quality, this unique bracelet is one of the finest Art Deco bracelets to come to the market in recent years. The sale also features a delightful modern example of Cartier’s “Tutti-Frutti” design, in the form of a gem-set and diamond bracelet (est. CHF 300,000 – 480,000).
Widely recognised as one of the most talented jewelers of his generation, Joel Arthur Rosenthal’s creations – under the name JAR – frequently command strong prices at auction thanks to their unique design and extraordinary workmanship. This superb gem set, sapphire and diamond ‘Moghul’ pendant-brooch, of Indian architectural inspiration set with a fancy cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 14.77 carats, perfectly illustrate his unique talent (est. CHF 400,000 – 600,000).
Among the rich selection of Noble Jewels to be featured in the auction is a rare and impressive natural pearl and diamond brooch, formerly in the collection of Princess Anna zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1865-1954) (est. CHF 120,000 – 200,000). The Hohenlohe-Langenburg family is a German princely house, with its origins tracing back to the 12th century. In 1890, she married Gottfried Karl Joseph Prinz zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1860-1933) who was the head of a branch of the Hohenlohe-Langenburg family with important landholdings in Rothenhaus, Bohemia. As such the couple’s residence was established in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and their marriage was celebrated in Vienna where Anna held the position of lady-in-waiting to the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The pearl and diamond brooch were gifted to her on her son’s wedding in 1959, and it has remained with her descendants ever since.
Hermès, Noir Epsom Sellier Kelly Mini II 20 Gold Hardware
Handbags & Accessories
Handbags and Accessories are one of the fastest growing categories in Sotheby’s Luxury Division, with dedicated auction sales multiplying by over four times since 2019. Offering exceptional examples of the finest craftsmanship from the most coveted brands, the sale will feature the rarest accessories on the market, from the Hermès Sellier Mini Kelly in Noir (est. CHF 18,000 – 24,000) – one of the most highly sought-after sizes on the secondary market – to the Hermès Noir Swift and Toile Birkin 35 Cargo (est. CHF 35,000 – 40,000). The sale also features an amazing collection of vintage Chanel Fashion jewelry, including a Multicolour Gripoix, Stass and Faux Pearl Baroque Style Gold Metal Maison Goossens Pendant Brooch, c. 1960 (est. CHF 800 – 1,200).
Calendar of Exhibitions and Sales
Exhibition at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva
Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, Quai Turrettini 1, 1201
Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels, alongside Handbags & Accessories
6–9 May | 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
5–8 May | 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Important Watches: Part I, 10:00 AM CEST
Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels, 3:00 PM CEST
Important Watches: Part II (27 April – 11 May)
Important Jewels (28 April – 12 May)
Handbags & Accessories (29 April – 12 May)
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*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium or overhead premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium and overhead premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.