Swiss watchmaking in November 2014

Illustrating a tighter situation on some markets, watch exports saw their value fall by 4.4% compared to November 2013. They attained a level of 2.1 billion francs. Part of the decline can be attributed to the number of working days, though this cannot conceal the less favourable environment in which the sector finds itself.

All main materials saw their value fall in November. Steel watches set the tone, with bimetallic products losing ground more sharply. Gold timepieces remained stable, however precious metals were penalised by the decline in platinum Super Omega Replica Watches. In volume terms, downturns clearly exceeded the few slightly more positive fluctuations.

All price segments were affected by the downswing, both in value and volume terms. Below 3,000 francs (export price) negative performances were fairly uniform with a result of -7.3% by value and -7.0% by volume.  Top Quantity Breitling Replica Watches costing more than 3,000 francs were affected to a lesser degree, with -2.0% by value.

Variations on the different markets took a different turn in November. After two positive months, Hong Kong recorded a marked decline. The United States meanwhile continued its favourable trend by registering one of the largest increases. Among the three main European markets, Italy was situated close to the world average, whereas Germany and France recorded steeper losses. While Singapore remained stable, the other main Asian markets showed a negative trend: Japan put an end to twelve months of strong growth, China (-27.6%) lost a lot of ground, finding itself in ninth place, and even South Korea (-1.7%) caught its breath after 16 months of strong and uninterrupted growth.

Women’s timepieces prevail at Watches&Wonders

Women were at the heart of the 2014 edition of the Haute Horlogerie exhibition in Asia. And what better way to appeal to their sense of beauty than to combine the métiers d’art with mechanical art. An alliance that might almost have overshadowed the collections for men.

Is Watches&Wonders guilty of sexism? Were men not welcome at this second edition of the fair? Was this a ladies-only event? A slight exaggeration perhaps, but only to be expected: wherever visitors turned, displays were overflowing with timepieces for women’s wrists. Had brands come to some prior agreement, or was this symptomatic of a space waiting to be filled? A space, but no longer a gaping hole as the mechanical 2015 Newest Omega Replica Watches continues to score points among female admirers of fine timepieces. Or perhaps we can put it down to efforts made by watch brands these past few years in their sudden awareness that there is a substantial “new” audience out there.

Mechanical magic

Whatever the reason, the results are plain to see. Roger Dubuis‘ Velvet line, introduced in 2013, already accounts for 30% of sales, and this without any real promotional campaign to back the launch. These timepieces are now hot property, says Alvaro Maggini, Creative Director of the brand. So much so, in fact, that Roger Dubuis has decided to give the line its full attention, with new designs and a new campaign fronted by Stephanie Seymour. The fact remains that Roger Dubuis has to work harder in Asia than in Europe to win women’s hearts. Granted, the fairer sex in China or Korea have learned to appreciate the ticking of a mechanical watch, but still less so than their German or Italian counterparts. That said, Roger Dubuis has permanently banished quartz from its timepieces, all of which are Poinçon de Genève certified.

Jaeger-LeCoultre‘s experience is no less telling. Barely three years after launching Rendez-Vous, this eminently feminine collection has cornered 40% of sales in quantity. Not that the brand has spared any effort. Having already equipped its Rendez-Vous with a tourbillon, followed by a Perpetual Calendar and a moving star chart, Jaeger-LeCoultre came to Hong Kong with a Rendez-Vous Ivy Minute Repeater, driven by the new 942A calibre. “When we introduced the first Rendez-Vous, we proposed the steel models in two versions, one with a quartz movement and the other mechanical,” explained Chief Executive Daniel Riedo. “However, we quickly realised that our women customers were buying the quartz models because the mechanical versions had sold out. We therefore ceased production of the electronic version. In a way, this confirmed our choices for this collection.”

Destination métiers d’art

As for the choice of when and where to preview their workshops’ latest creations for women, numerous brands opted for the Hong Kong fair. Baume & Mercier took the opportunity to show off Promesse, a collection that takes inspiration from the brand’s archives and a design first seen in the 1970s. Montblanc, meanwhile, put on a sparkling display with an original collection by the name of Bohème, spearhead of the brand in Hong Kong much as the Meisterstück Heritage had been in Geneva, but in a masculine vein. All that remained was for IWC to warm the atmosphere with a hint of la dolce vita, as the watchmaker returned to its favourite Italian resort for the launch of the Portofino Midsize, its gift to women who aren’t immune to a hint of Latin charm on their wrist.

This horological red carpet laid out before the ladies visiting the fair could only lead to one place: the workshops where the brands’ craftsmen and women explore the métiers d’art in which these Maisons excel. Piaget gave one of the most convincing demonstrations. A consummate master of extra-thin timepieces whose achievements include a double record for the thinnest watch in the world (Altiplano 900P – 3.65 mm) and the thinnest self-winding calibre ever (1208P – 2.35 mm), the brand has added a new string to its bow in the form of skeletonwork. The two together have opened up a whole new playground for Piaget, which naturally didn’t come to Watches&Wonders empty-handed. It presented two new versions of the Altiplano Skeleton Automatic, driven by the 1200S calibre which set its own record in 2012. On one, both sides of the movement are engraved; on the other, bridges and plate are enamelled. An achievement made all the more impressive by the wafer-thinness of the parts, some a mere 0.7mm high.

Diamonds and dragons

Similarly dizzying heights were achieved at Cartier, where the five one-off Les Heures Joaillières  Fake Rolex Watches, along with the Pasha 42mm Skeleton Dragon Decor and its diamond-set, engraved 9617 MC calibre, left no doubt as to the brand’s brilliant mastery of the métiers d’art. Chinese mythology represents the dragon as a force of nature, and this creature of legend certainly wasn’t going to miss an event of this calibre on Asian soil. Richard Mille proposed a meticulously crafted dragon in the form of its Tourbillon RM 57-01 Phoenix and Dragon – Jackie Chan. Its movement is inhabited by the two legendary creatures, carved from rose gold then engraved and incised by hand. In the brand’s own words, “miniature tools had to be made specifically to achieve the desired artistic rendering of the two creatures. There then followed a long and painstaking process of micro-painting to ensure absolute realism, even on parts that will not be visible.” More dragons were on view at Vacheron Constantin. Its extraordinary Empreinte du Dragon houses astronomical complications inside a case whose surface is completely covered in “dragon scales”. They are the work of one of the most experienced master hand-engravers of his generation.

Having contemplated this masterpiece, visitors could then marvel at the other major production which Vacheron Constantin took to Hong Kong: the Maître Cabinotier Astronomica. This pièce de résistance brings together a full fifteen complications inside the new, hand-wound 2755-B1 calibre. Among the other rarities on show at Watches&Wonders were Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight Planetarium, a wrist-sized replica of the solar system, unveiled to the public earlier in the year, and two Watches&Wonders exclusivities, namely the Roger Dubuis Hommage Minute Repeater Tourbillon Automatic and the Montblanc Metamorphosis II, whose face transforms from a simple hours, minutes and date configuration to a monopusher chronograph by means of a mechanism that substitutes one dial for another. As for A. Lange & Söhne, it turned the spotlight on the Langematik Perpetual, the Glashütte firm’s first ever automatic Top Omega Replica  Watches with perpetual calendar and oversized date, presented in white gold with a black dial. Watches&Wonders couldn’t have hoped for more for its second edition. Nor could the 16,000 visitors, women and men!

Patek Philippe well feted for its 175th anniversary

Excluding the Henry Graves Supercomplication, which went for an astounding CHF 23.2 million, this November’s Geneva sales realised CHF 25.4 million with Patek Philippe alone. Antiquorum, Christie’s and Sotheby’s closed their autumn sessions on a total CHF 78.6 million.

It would be an understatement to say that Geneva’s salerooms paid a vibrant tribute to Patek Philippe this November for its 175th anniversary. Of course there was the headline-grabbing sale of the Henry Graves Supercomplication at Sotheby’s for CHF 23,237,000, making it the most valuable timepiece ever in auction history. This sparkling finale was, however, far from being the only moment when the Genevan watchmaker stole the show. Christie’s had its celebration planned too, with a thematic sale of 100 lots for which bidders packed the room. It totalled CHF 19,400,000 in three hours. In all, 340 Patek Philippe watches were put on the block between November 8th and 11th, representing a fifth of total lots. They garnered – minus the Graves Supercomplication – CHF 25,400,000 or 32% of takings. Add the Supercomplication and figures rise to 62% of the CHF 78,600,000 total.

A historic moment

Patek Philippe claimed the top spot at every sale over the course of this extraordinary weekend, beginning with Sotheby’s, of course. Shortly before 6.45pm on November 11th, a buzz ran through the audience that had filled the room at the Beau-Rivage hotel. As though acting on cue, hundreds of mobile phones were held aloft, including by members of staff. Lot 345 had just appeared on the screens behind Tim Bourne, Worldwide Head of Latest Omega Replica Watches. Such a historic moment had to be captured with a photo.

At the back of the room, a well-known watchmaker from La Vallée de Joux, there to  Replica Cartier Watches this incomparable timepiece make its second auction appearance, spent the opening minutes of the session recounting the rivalry between Henry Graves Jr., a fabulously wealthy New York banker and the original owner of this Patek Philippe n° 198.385, and the industrialist James Ward Packard who made his fortune in automobiles. Legend has it that the two men, both enthusiastic collectors, went dollar-to-dollar in a battle to own the most complicated watch ever made. An urban legend, it transpires. As journalist Alan Downing wrote in Watch Around magazine in 2013, Packard took delivery of his most expensive Patek Philippe in 1916, whereas Graves only became interested in fine watches in 1919. When he travelled to Geneva to order his Supercomplication in 1928, his rival, whom he probably never met, had been dead for several months.

Suspense at its height

From a starting price of CHF 9 million, bids quickly climbed to 13 million, in steps of one million, then rose to 17 million before tantalisingly long minutes at CHF 18,750,000. Two men in the room weren’t using their mobile phones to take photos. Rather they were talking to the bidders on the other end who were gauging the full measure of the amounts at stake. Raising his gavel, Tim Bourne was about to put an end to the suspense when a hand was raised: 19 million! Applause from the public, more tension for the bidders. “Well fair, last chance!” Three more times the gavel hovered ominously over the block and three more times bidding resumed: 19.95, 20.5, 20.6… The hammer finally came down amidst general commotion. Just time to hang up, and the two intermediaries threw their arms around each other. Buyer’s premium and tax included, final price came to CHF 23,237,000. An unprecedented figure. The watch had been estimated at CHF 15,000,000.

Talk has it that a Russian oligarch, close to political power, is behind the winning bid. One thing is for sure: the Patek Philippe Museum won’t be adding this trophy to its collection. Perhaps it consoled itself with Reference 3974, a Perpetual calendar minute repeater with moon phases, manufactured in 1991 in yellow gold, which at CHF 329,000 took second place on the rostrum (lot 344, est. CHF 230,000-350,000)? Or with Reference 3448, a perpetual calendar with moon phases made in 1972 in white gold, featuring a unique engraving of the emblem of the Sultanate of Oman. It fetched CHF 311,000 (lot 359, est. CHF 270,000-400,000)? Huge amounts which nonetheless pale in comparison.

CHF 200,000 on average

While Sotheby’s did an admirable job keeping interest in the Supercomplication high throughout the weeks preceding the sale, with a final total of CHF 31,600,000 it in fact came second to Christie’s which closed its session on an impressive CHF 34,100,000. Much of this was courtesy of the Patek Philippe anniversary sale during which no less than nine world records were broken. The 125 seats in the room were reserved days in advance, while 320 bidders from around the world registered to take part. An exploit for this type of session.

The highlight of the sale was Reference 2499 in pink gold. Manufactured in 1951 and part of the rare first series, this perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases went for CHF 2,629,000 (lot 59, est. CHF 1.6-2.6 million). A year earlier, the same model, this time made in 1957, sold for CHF 1,985,000, also at Christie’s. The first three watches on the block exceeded CHF 2,000,000, when the average sale price came to CHF 200,000.

Some rare historic pieces

This thematic sale was something of a warm-up for the traditional session, held the following day, with 370 lots up for grabs. The Breguet Museum in Paris left with two gold pocket Best Quality Replica Omega  Watches, including an exceptionally rare quarter repeater fitted with the first free escapement with natural lift ever made by Abraham-Louis Breguet (n° 1135). This timepiece is an important discovery both from a technical and a historical point of view. Workshop records show that it took almost four years to manufacture.

Lastly Antiquorum, which scheduled its session over the two days of the weekend. It dispersed close to a thousand modern and vintage timepieces for a total CHF 12,900,000. Two items clearly stood out. The first was a heart-shaped quarter repeater with automata, made circa 1820 and attributed to Isaac Daniel Piguet. Produced for the Oriental market, it is richly decorated with pearls and embellished with an enamel miniature depicting two children on a see-saw, a lady playing guitar and a windmill; all three are automated. It tripled its low estimate at CHF 303,750 (lot 579, est. CHF 100,000-200,000). The second was an exceptional cage clock with a singing bird that jumps from one perch to another. Manufactured circa 1785 and attributed to Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Jean-Frédéric Leschot, it went for CHF 291,750 (lot 578, est. CHF 200,000-400,000).