Important Watches Part I
Live Auction: 11 May 2021 • 1:00 PM CEST • Geneva

Important Watches: Part I 11 May 2021 • 1:00 PM CEST • Geneva

I n this first section of our inaugural Important Watches Sale Geneva we are delighted to present a tightly curated selection of just 100 pieces. The sale offers extraordinary examples of the most collectible and sought-after wristwatches and includes pieces from the finest brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Cartier, as well as from famed independent makers such as F.P. Journe and Grönefeld.

Sale Highlights

Hidden Wonders | Bucherer x Sotheby's

FP Journe

As a field, watchmaking, as with watch collecting, has in many ways always been focussed on innovation, on the next new thing; be it in accuracy, a new form of complication or purely design. It is this shared appreciation that has in turn led to the symbiotic relationship between collector and maker, specifically independent makers.

Independents also serve to cater for the collectors almost primal desire - to have a piece that few others, if any, can have. Independent makers are, in many ways, to watchmaking what Saville Row is to tailoring; they offer a bespoke and beautiful and very personal alternative to owning ‘just another watch’.

Of course, a watch as an item, is a personal one regardless of whether it comes off a production line of millions of pieces or a bench, for example, that produces just 10 or fewer a year. That said it cannot be disputed that knowing your watch belongs to a group of just a handful of others like it, and moreover, the opportunity to forge a relationship with those that created it certainly serves to elevate this feeling.

Building his first tourbillon at the age of 25, Francois-Paul Journe began his watchmaking career in 1985 making unique watches for private clients from a small Parisian workshop. Dedicated to providing the highest quality and craftsmanship Mr Journe sees a depth, an emotional element to watchmaking.

"The art of watchmaking is more than a matter of making fine watches – it means giving a part of oneself… as a legacy bearing witness to one’s time"

He was to spend 15 years developing his brand until, in the year 2000, he opened his first boutique in the heart of Geneva’s contemporary art scene. There, with a team of 50, the now ‘F.P. Journe – Invenit et Fecit’ were producing three to four watches per day.

With boutiques worldwide F.P Journe is a multi-award winning watchmakers deservedly renowned for that standard of quality and craftsmanship that Mr Journe insisted upon over 30 years ago.

Patek Philippe

When it comes to the world of luxury watches Patek Philippe holds a weight few others other can, and perhaps even, will.

Founded 182 years ago in 1839, the manufacture has dedicated itself to producing only the finest quality timepieces with exquisite attention to detail. The house epitomises luxury not only through its demonstrable skill and craftsmanship but also through its underratedness.

We are proud to present a select few of Some of Pateks most desirable and exclusive creations from stainless steel sports watches to highly complicated minute repeaters and perpetual calendars.


Ask anyone to name a watch brand and Rolex is likely to be the first answer. Rolex has a long and exciting history dating back to 1908 when Hans Wilsdorf first registered the name. Renowned the world over, for its unmistakable design, the manufacture has dressed some of the most important wrists in world history from movie stars to Presidents.

Audemars Piguet - Royal Oak

The most vital characteristic of a watch is, of course, that it has to tell the time accurately. But design has increasingly become almost as important as functionality. For decades, watches have moved on aesthetically as much as mechanically, evolving from necessity to accessory. And even as the modern world has somewhat diminished the need for a wristwatch, innovation and variety in design – balancing utility with beauty – has ensured they remain relevant, and inspired passion and intrigue in collectors.

Developed during the quartz crisis, which strongly hit Swiss watch-making in the late 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, the Royal Oak revolutionised the industry and created a new category: 'stainless steel sports watches'. The novelty, designed by Gérald Genta, coincided with the fashion for less ostentatious watches, as preferences shifted towards understatement and quality. The Royal Oak was an all-purpose watch – a playful and slight audacious choice, a watch that was just at home under the cuff of a denim jacket as it was the cuff of a dinner jacket.

Its popularity today is a testament to the timelessness of its design and the innovation and genius of its creator, Gerald Genta.

Almost in contrast to the simplicity of the design the Royal Oak has seen many iterations, some including significant complications and extravagant gem set pieces. This sale features a selection of these from simple time only examples to skeletonised perpetual calendars, and diamond covered chronographs.

Property From A Distinguished Texan Collector

Tastemaker: The Patek Philippe Calatrava

We are pleased to offer the first of a two-part collection of fine timepieces from a distinguished Texan collector. Any student of vintage Patek Philippe would hope to own a fine Calatrava wristwatch. Our collector was a prolific curator of the Calatrava, amassing over 20 pieces throughout the years.

There was a particular interest in the progression of the automatic wristwatch starting with the Reference 2526, a superlative self-winding model introduced in 1953 with the cal. 12-600 AT movement, now classic amongst collectors. This sale features three unique references bearing the original self-winding caliber: the reference 2526, 2551, and 3403. In the 1960’s the famed movement was succeeded by the cal. 27-460 which remained in production until 1985. The movement was much improved by an adjustable balance spring stud carrier, and a revamped rotor ball bearing to manage the oversized and heavy gold rotor. Lots featuring this caliber include: Lot 86, 87, and 88. A modified caliber for a date complication, the 27-460 M is featured in the Reference 3445 as lot 88.
It is rather interesting to note that these early automatic models did not feature sapphire display backs, but the movements were nonetheless incredibly elaborate and dressed for display.

Completing this collection of thoughtful time-only Patek Philippe wristwatches include the popular Spider Lugs Reference 1578, a Reference 3454 with reeded bezel, and a charming and whimsical Reference 2555 with crinkle-cut applied indexes. Click through our slideshow below for a more in-depth look at each model.

Sotheby’s is excited to offer the second half of this important collection in our New York Important Watches sale this June, 2021.

Exceptional Diamond Handcrafts

Diamonds have long amazed collectors all over the world and not only impress on rings, necklaces or tiaras, but just as much on watches. Almost any brand or maker out there has pieces adorned with diamonds in their collection and Sotheby’s is delighted to offer an exciting array of pieces in this auction. From highly complicated diamond-set pieces such as the L.U.C. Chopard tourbillon, to an impressive full-set Vacheron Constantin bracelet watch, or the highly attractive and sought-after Cartier Crash and Baignoire designs, there is something for everybody.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

Sell with Sotheby's

Sell with Sotheby's

Curious to know if your item is suitable for one of our upcoming sales?

Provide information and share images to request an online estimate now.

Start Selling
arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top