Phillips, Hong Kong, May 31 2016
Sold for: HK$19,720,000
The word among collectors in Asia is that the once thriving Hong Kong watch auction market is currently faltering due to a combination of circumstances, including a glut of new, unsold watches being on offer at bargain prices and the mushrooming of “collectors’ clubs”, whose members trade among themselves without having to incur the famously high buyer’s premiums charged by the top houses.
Anyone who followed Phillips’ second Hong Kong auction at the end of May 2016, however, would have seen a very different picture: not only did it raise more than HK$150,000,000 ($19.3million) but it established a new record for any watch bought at auction in Asia.
The house is sufficiently confident in the future of watch sales in the region to have recently appointed former Sotheby’s man Sam Hines as international head of watches, just two years after he joined Phillips in the role of specialist – and, judging by the result of this sale, that confidence is well placed.
Yet again, it seems watch auction wunderkind Aurel Bacs has read the market to perfection, alighting on the fact that the top Asian collectors have rapidly developed a sophisticated eye for vintage pieces and are now veering away somewhat from their previous focus on pristine, contemporary, high-end complications.
Few serious vintage watch collectors would not want a Patek Philippe ref. 2499 in their collection – especially when it features the possibly unique combination of a “flat” dial and pink gold case. So the fact that this example became the costliest wristwatch ever sold at an Asian auction should come as no surprise.
In summary: The Patek ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph is considered by many to be a key component of any serious collection. The “ultimate” pieces come from the first series, but this third series example, one of only six in pink gold, could hardly be regarded as a second-rate buy.