Watch Specialists Select Their Favourites from Sotheby's Spring Auctions

Watch Specialists Select Their Favourites from Sotheby's Spring Auctions

The Important Watches auctions at the Hong Kong Spring Sales series present an array of timepieces, from vintage to modern, functional sports watches to charismatic dress watches furthered by a wide variety of stylish decorative clocks from antiques to modern. With a clear focus on quality, condition, and rarity the sales will offer watches that are bound to appeal to both the novice and connoisseur alike. Sotheby’s Watches specialists select their top picks from the sale. Scroll ahead to see their favourites.

John Chan

Patek Philippe, Reference 2524.

A possibly unique yellow gold minute repeating wristwatch with two tone dial, Made in 1950.

While the basic purpose of a timepiece is to tell time accurately, the needs of each wearer differ from one another, and therefore complications were invented to serve different purposes. Just as smartphone apps aid the user, complications perform parallel purposes. For example, a repeater function was an essential complication to indicate time using sound invented before electricity and nighttime illumination would become commonplace.

Patek Philippe, a household name of fine watchmaking and complications, is most notable for their creations of minute repeaters and have been crowned by collectors for its rich tonality and clarity where no other manufacturers can compete. This example of the Reference 2524 is one of the most historically important repeating wristwatches of Patek Philippe. Made in the 1950s, each component was carefully created by hand. The present reference, to the best of our knowledge, was only made in 50 examples with fewer than twenty examples identified back in the market.

Encased in a lavish yellow gold case, the watch is dressed with unorthodox avant-garde flared lugs and a silvered dial with subsidiary seconds that has never been known to exist. This example of the Patek Philippe Reference 2524 is a beauty, a fascinating piece that would rightly belong in a museum.

Cartier Panthére, Reference 315AF

A white gold, diamond, sapphire and emerald-set bangle watch, Circa 2011.

Haute Horology and Joaillerie go hand in hand in the division of luxury. Usually a manufacturer's brand identity would be known for one or the other. Cartier is one of the rare examples of a house who is great at both aspects.

Although Cartier’s name today is predominantly recognised for its designer jewellery collection, the maison’s heritage in horology is one that cannot be overlooked. With a long history since its founding in 1847, Cartier has contributed greatly to the world of horology with many iconic designs. It is a little-known fact that Louis Cartier was the first designer in history of the modern wristwatch. His design in 1904 led to the creation of the Santos collection.

The Cartier Panthére Reference 315AF unites the highest levels of haute horology and joaillerie together as one. Glistering in pavé-setting, the timepiece is encased in a bangle design where the watch would meet with Cartier’s signature resting panther. The elegant curves showcases the craftsmanship, as the sapphires accentuates the sleek contours of the panther. This exclusive piece would be reserved for important Cartier clientele only, seldom appearing on the secondary market.

Bryan Li

Vacheron Constantin, Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, Reference 4300V/120G-B945.

A brand new white gold ultra-thin anti-magnetic perpetual calendar wristwatch with day, date, moon phases, leap year indication and bracelet, Circa 2022.

Vacheron Constantin unveils two iterations of its refined, ultra-slim Overseas perpetual calendar during Watches & Wonders 2021. Although the technical specifications of the skeletonised model and the blue lacquered dial version are identical to previous ultra-thin perpetual calendar models, the novelty here is the white gold case. Like all Overseas models, the watches are fitted with Vacheron’s ingenious patented interchangeable strap device and come with an integrated white gold bracelet and two additional straps for maximum versatility.

The Overseas is an evolution of Vacheron’s sporty Reference 222 of 1977. Designed by Jorg Hysek and coinciding with the brand’s 222nd anniversary, the 222 was Vacheron’s interpretation of the luxury sports watch. Following an extensive revamp in 2016, the Overseas is now in its third phase of life.


Jaquet Droz, The Bird Repeater, Reference J031034200

A limited edition white gold and diamond-set minute repeating bird automaton wristwatch with hand-engraved and painted mother-of-pearl and onyx dial, Circa 2015.

In 2012, brand Jaquet Droz revolutionised wristwatches by creating a Bird Repeater collection, these haute horlogerie innovations are the culmination of all the house’s ateliers d’ art techniques in a single piece, combining traditional watchmaking aesthetic with a one-of-a-kind automaton expertise.

The Bird Repeater model are sized at 47 mm and cased in white gold, on top of the minute repeater, it is also an automata, which boats eight animations including the birds feeding their fledgling, the spreading wings, the flowing water, the hatching egg, a worthy tribute to the humanoid automata created by Pierre Jaquet Droz and his son in the 18th century.

The dial is also a masterpiece, the painstaking work of a master craftsman, painter and enameller, with meticulously rendered details, the vivacity of the colours, the attention paid as much to the eyes as to each wisp of straw.

Philip Leung

Patek Philippe, Reference 5217

A brand new platinum and diamond-set minute repeating instantaneous perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch with day, date, moon phases and leap year indication, Circa 2015.

It's rare to come across Patek Philippe perpetual calendars with a fan shaped retrograde date, let alone one in the calibre of the Reference 5217, a full upgrade from the Reference 5216 fully embellished with diamonds on the bezel. Of course, this example boasts not only the perpetual calendar, but also the tourbillon and minute repeater as well – i.e., all three of the most important grand complications into one. The tourbillon is showcased through the sapphire case back of the watch, aligning with Patek Philippe’s philosophy of keeping the beauty of the dial unobstructed. The minute repeater, on the other hand, performs a serene chime that will draw the attention of every listener. The harmonic balance of the watch’s design and spectacular architecture of the movement are the most fascinating features of the Reference 5217. Preserved in brand new condition, this example represents the first time a Reference 5217 is offered to the public market, and I am very excited to see this watch presented at our April auction.

F.P. Journe, Octa Réserve de Marche

An early platinum wristwatch with date, power reserve indication and brass movement, Circa 2002.
It is a privilege as a cataloguer for Sotheby's to handle many extraordinary and vintage pieces. In my experience, nothing has interested me more than this F.P. Journe Octa Réserve de Marche. It is just unlike any other F.P. Journe watch I have ever seen. Pink gold dial, platinum case, brass movement – three different materials, all exhibiting their intriguing traits. The movement is crafted in brass and decorated with a straight Côtes de Genève finish, a feature that can be identified towards the earliest generation of brass movements produced, out of the only 2000 brass movements produced across all collections. Next is the case, with a case number ending in “02”, an indication of the watch being produced approximately in 2002. Finally is the dial, pink gold and in a first generation configuration, which has even developed a slight patina along the edge. Pink gold dials are more common in the second generation, not impossible in the first generation, but very uncommon. In fact, the first generation of the Octa Réserve de Marche are mostly found with the yellow gold dial. The present watch has transitional traits across generations of the Octa Réserve de Marche, making it extremely interesting and a highly collectible piece.

Alvin Lau

Patek Philippe, Reference 5016

A possibly unique white gold minute repeating perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch with day, retrograde date, moon phases, leap year indication, black dial and red accents, Circa 2012.

Since the invention of wristwatches, manufacturers were striving to encompass sophisticated complications into the movement as they are practical features especially in the past without the aid of smartphones.

Of the Patek Philippe Grand Complications, the minute repeating, tourbillon and perpetual calendar sit at the top of the ladder, each requiring years of painstaking research and delicacy to master. Not one, not two, but all three in the same watch – that is monumental to say the least, and yet Patek Philippe perfected them in elegance. Reference 5016 was at one point the most complicated wristwatch ever created by the maison and the present example is even more alluringly attractive with a unique red accent on the dial. It's a true holy grail, not to be missed.

Greubel Forsey, Philippe Dufour and Michel Boulanger, Le Garde Temps- Naissance d'Une Montre Project, "Montre École”

A brand new limited edition white gold semi-skeletonised tourbillon wristwatch, Circa 2016.

Along with the accelerated success of technology and mass production since the 1970s came many innovations that spurred on the vastly digitalisation of the watchmaking process. Although most watches assembled would show a higher level of precision than ever before, classic watchmaking techniques started to fade and this would have a significant impact on the traditional values of Swiss watchmaking.

I have always been fascinated by watchmaking masters' commitment to their passion, artisanship, and heritage. This watch features a brilliant story of watchmaking legends Greubel Forsey and Philippe Dufour nurturing a next-generation watchmaker Michel Boulanger with traditional Swiss watchmaking knowhow. Using only hand-operated tools, the amount of dedication and emotions are fully converted into creating one of the most gorgeously finished tourbillon wristwatches in recent years.

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