Rough Diamonds: Avant-Garde Watches from Horological History

Rough Diamonds: Avant-Garde Watches from Horological History

A groundbreaking underground auction features 24 of the most daring watches ever made by the world’s greatest manufactures.
A groundbreaking underground auction features 24 of the most daring watches ever made by the world’s greatest manufactures.

E very April the watch world descends on Geneva – the historic home of haute horlogerie – for Watches and Wonders, a weeklong fair where the world’s greatest manufactures reveal their newest timepieces. It’s a week typically dedicated to the latest trends in modern mass-market watchmaking – except this year, when a groundbreaking auction, held deep underground in a hidden wine cave, will showcase 24 of the most compelling vintage watches to have been consigned to history.

Titled Rough Diamonds, the auction showcases two dozen unusual watches made by Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoulture, Vacheron Constantin and more. But it’s not your typical collectors’ fare: there are no Nautiluses or Reversos on offer here. There’s the Patek Philippe reference 3290 designed by the visionary Gilbert Albert, an organically shaped enamel-dial watch set with pearls and rough-cut gemstones on a gold bracelet. There’s a Cobra – a watch whose integrated bracelet resembles snake scales; it was designed by Gérald Genta and released by Audemars Piguet the same year as his storied Royal Oak. And there’s an original Piaget Polo, which was recently relaunched with only a fraction of the character on offer in this ultra-rare PVD reference. Each daring timepiece expresses the unusual and the avant-garde of horological history.

“Vintage watch collecting has been enjoying a resurgence as collectors increasingly seek out unique or differentiated pieces as a way to express themselves,” says Josh Pullan, the global head of Sotheby’s luxury division. The auction is produced in collaboration with heist-out, a Geneva-based collective of Gen Z watch enthusiasts. “We’re excited to bring to market an entirely new auction concept that offers a curated focus on rare and unconventional timepieces intended to capture the imagination of vintage watch aficionados and new collectors alike.”

All 24 timepieces will be on public view at Le Corne à Vin, a wine cellar located at Rue de Lausanne 47bis, from 8-10 April. Then, on 11 April at 6pm local time, the lots will go under the hammer. Bidders may participate in person, over the phone or online.

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