Antiquorum, New York, 30 September 2014
Sold for $603,750
There were some pretty crazy horological designs being bandied about before the global financial crisis of 2008 spoiled some of the fun. A year earlier, for example, Vacheron Constantin collaborated with Geneva’s Barbier-Mueller museum – home to one of the world’s greatest collections of tribal art – in order to create a series of watches in its “Metiers d’Art” collection called “Les Masques”.
As the title implies, each watch was decorated with a superbly executed, three-dimensional mask based on examples found in the museum, and each year for three years Vacheron Constantin released a boxed set of four watches featuring different masks in a limited series of 25 sets to form a complete collection of 12 watches.
Featuring a rotating disc display and with each case made from a different precious metal (pink, white and yellow gold and platinum), “Les Masques” cost around £165,000 per set.
The set offered by Antiquorum – the first I have seen at auction – was dated 2008 and comprised pieces bearing masks from Mexico, Gabon, Japan and New Guinea. Described as being in virtually untouched condition, the set proved to have been a cast-iron investment – it sold to a Chinese collector for around 50 per cent more than the original price.
And to think that some of us struggled to stifle our giggles when ‘Les Masques’ was unveiled back in 2007.