At the 29th Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva last year, attendees were buzzing over Audemars Piguet’s latest breakthrough. The Swiss manufacturer then presented a prototype that its makers named as RD#2, the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar. Now called the Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, the watch reimagines a three-level complication into a single, 6.3 MM piece. A remarkable display of engineering, it is, quite simply, one of the most coveted watches in the world.
This is why its inclusion into Finale Auctions’ third Watches and Jewelry show is such a coup. “What makes this special is that this is the first time in the world that this is being offered in auction,” says Finale partner and watch specialist Paolo Martel. “It was just launched this year, but we have it. It’s new, it’s rare, everybody wants it.”
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Why exactly is it so desired? “One, it just came out. Two, it’s very difficult to buy. If you walk in an AP store, you cannot buy this. They only make 50 to 70 a year, they say, worldwide. It’s so new that they can’t even tell how far along you would be on the waitlist,” Martel says. “So there are a few collectors, they’ve spent millions of dollars, they get first priority. Most of those people, they want to keep their watches. But I was lucky enough that the owner of this [watch] is a Filipino who bought it from a Dubai collector.” Otherwise, Martel says that he would never been able to get this as brands like AP are strict. “If they sell that to their end user collector and they catch that collector selling, they could be blacklisted. We’re lucky.”
The Ultra-Thin is in line with the Swiss house’s technical heritage. Ninety-eight years ago, it came out with the thinnest pocket watch ever at 1.32mm thick. In 1967, it created the caliber 2120, the thinnest self-winding thickness at 2.45mm. Nineteen years later, the brand birthed the Caliber 2870, the word’s thinnest self-winding automatic tourbillon, a distinction that it held up until last year.
The piece features a number of innovations for this new caliber 5133, including two patented mechanisms: the end-of-the-month cam’s integration into the date wheel, and the month cam’s combination with the month wheel. The Ultra-Thin makes use of a slight and subtle case, with its signature octagon design at 41mm from the front and an elegant 6.3mm from the side. Combined with a titanium case and 950 platinum bezel and center links on the bracelet, the watch wears light on the wrist thanks to all its technical accouterments.
Two of a kind
Finale’s last watches and jewelry auction of 2019 also has another headliner in its roster. Martel says that within the last month, a pair of two-to-three-year-old Tiffany-signed Patek Philippe Nautilus watches managed to be added to the lineup.
“If you look at the dials of each of these watches, they’re actually co-branded with Tiffany. The packaging is also a little different; it comes in the Tiffany blue box,” Martel explains. “What makes it so special is that it’s extremely rare. They say that for every 100 regular Patek Philippes, only one comes signed by Tiffany. These have a crazy waitlist, and are often reserved for a few choice clients.” These normally go into auction in New York, Geneva, and Hongkong, according to Martel, and the October 20 sale will be the first time this will go under the hammer in the country. “The Nautilus brand of Patek Philippe is already coveted by collectors. They normally carry a five- to eight-year waitlist. So to have that, and to have the Tiffany sign on it makes it extremely special.”
Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. have had a strong relationship since 1851 when Antoine Norbert de Patek met Charles Tiffany in New York over dinner. The two signed an agreement making Tiffany the first retailer in US to carry Patek. The Tiffany-signed Nautilus being so rare, it is not surprising that they have broken records in the few times they have appeared at auction. Martel says that the exact same watch sans the Tiffany co-branding, normally sells for US $65,000. “The Tiffany-signed pieces can go up to US $200,000, just for the signature.”
The two Tiffany-Patek Philippe pieces that Finale will put under the hammer carries with it a lot of history. The first is a Patek Philippe Moon Phase Ref. 5712, which was introduced in 2006 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus collection. This version of the 5712G is encased in 18k white gold, and bears the Tiffany & Co. mark below the two sub-dials. The second is a Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar “Tiffany” Ref. 5726 has the Swiss house’s celebrated calendar complication, and is powered by its Caliber 324 S QA LU 24H/303 with a 21k gold rotor, a 28,800 vph oscillating frequency, and a 45-hour power reserve. The entire movement is visible via the display case back.
“I have a very good relationship with the Patek Philippe Salon in New York, which is located at Tiffany & Co. They are very strict and want to avoid situations where people buy these very rare Patek Tiffany watches just to flip them on the gray market,” Martel shares. “I am so careful with my relationship with them that I actually called them to inform them that I had two Patek-Tiffany watches for consignment for our next auction. I wanted to make sure that it would not compromise my relationship with them in anyway.” His friend replied saying that it was fine as long as they were not any of his watches.
The upcoming auction will also feature a Rolex Paul Newman watch, a fixture in Finale’s sales. “It’s interesting that we’ve actually sold them, all to local collectors,” Martel says. “This current one, a 6262, has an estimate of PHP10 to 12 million. This is a transitional model; they only made it for one year, in 1970. It has limited numbers.”
Martel explains that about 90 percent of the pieces they sell are consigned. “I’ve been doing this for quite some time. I more or less know which watches belong to which collections. Some of the collectors, they want to upgrade, they want to change for a variety of reasons. And thankfully they trust us as the venue to sell our pieces,” he says. “Before people would sell among friends. Not like in the auction platform, you bring the piece and the market dictates the price.” And when it comes to Finale’s auctions, they deal with an international market who does online bidding, bringing it to a much wider audience.
And since interested parties come from all over, Finale Auctions, naturally, is quite particularly with the pieces that they sell. “Number one, we look at rarity. It has to be rare. Every piece there needs to have something special or unique,” Martel says. Next, they look at condition. “We look across all pieces, whether it’s PHP 100,000 or PHP 10 million, they have to be in good condition,” he continues. “Then we look at completeness. What does that mean? These three watches are full set. They have box, papers, etc.”
Apart for being so coveted, one other thing ties the three highlight pieces together: Gerald Genta. The famed watch designer is responsible for both AP’s Royal Oak and Patek’s Nautilus, the latter first coming out in 1976. “It made a lot of noise because at that time it was so expensive for a stainless steel watch. Those days, what were in vogue were solid gold watches from old school brands like Piaget, Cartier,” Martel says. “For them to spend so much money on an all steel sports watch was like wow. So it’s significant to have all three under one sale.”
Finale Auctions’ Watches & Jewelry Sale will be on October 20, 2019 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati. A preview will be held at the same venue on October 11 to 19 at. For more information, please call 813-2310, email [email protected], or visit finaleartfile.com.
Photographs by Mia Villareal