Get To Know The Auction House That Sells Some Of The Rarest Watches In The World

Watches & Jewellery

November 22, 2017 | BY Benjamin Fitzgerald

The luxury watch auction takes place in Hong Kong on November 28—here's what to expect from Phillips Head of Watches in Asia, Thomas Perazzi

The countdown is on for the next luxury watch auction in Hong Kong. And you don’t want to be (even a minute) late for this one. 

International auction house Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, will host the hotly anticipated Hong Kong Watch Auction: FIVE

After selling off the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona for a world auction record price (a whopping US$17,752,500) in New York last month, Phillips is all set for its next watch auction in Hong Kong on November 28.

Curated with Asian tastes in mind, the auction features a fine selection of timepieces originating from the world’s best watchmakers, including independent contemporary innovators as well as historic firms with a long lineage.

Kicking off with a five-day watch auction preview opening tomorrow till November 27, we sat down beforehand with Thomas Perazzi, Head of Watches in Asia, to get his view on the luxury watch market right now. Thomas—a connoisseur of watches in his own right—even discloses his personal watch favourites from the auction itself.

 Set your clock ladies and gents, all pieces will go under the hammer at the stunning Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong on November 28.

Phillips and Bacs & Russo launched the first auction in Hong Kong in late 2015, and in less than two years, the house has achieved mega status among watch auctions in Asia season after season. What's the secret behind this rapid success?

Asia represents one of the most important geographies for the international watch market both now, and in the future.  Throughout the year, we have an international team of specialists who search relentlessly around the world for a comprehensive selection of superb timepieces, hoping to appeal to various watch collectors across the markets.

When talking about vintage wristwatches, we look for timepieces that are in impeccable condition and with notable provenance, including independent and contemporary innovators that are fresh to the Asian market.

Phillips is known to offer some of the world’s rarest watches, achieving record-breaking prices at past auctions. The Rolex “Oyster Sotto”, for example, was sold in 2010 and then again in 2016, attracting more than four-times the sale amount six years earlier. How would you explain this jump in price?

In recent years, the collectors’ market has dramatically shifted to a higher level. That said, we have also noticed a new collector generation approaching the auction world with specific interests in iconic watches, which may explain the price differences. Some watches are simply deemed as priceless, like the “Oyster Sotto.”

That Rolex is extremely rare and boasts an attractive stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with ‘tropical’ Paul Newman dial, tachometer bezel, and an outer red 1/5 seconds division track and bracelet. In  2010, it sold for CHF 464,500 at auction, and in May 2016, we sold it for CHF 1,985,000.

There seems to be a market boom in vintage watches in recent years, and Asia is picking up on this trend. Any tips for those looking to start a collection in this area?

For any new collector, I'd strongly recommend that they pay attention to at least three main aspects. Firstly, rarity, and look at how many examples have been manufactured. Secondly, quality. Consider how the timepiece has been preserved over its lifetime. And thirdly, provenance. Find out if the watch has belonged to an important person in history.

Talking of vintage watches, can you highlight a few favourites that are up for sale in the next auction?

The star watch of this sale would have to be the Patek Philippe Reference 2523. Steeped in aeronautical history, the timepiece is recognised for its pioneering and balanced design that harks back to watchmaking that was ushered in by the jet age.

It features a yellow gold world time wristwatch made for the rising “jet-set” in 1953, and the model, together with its sister model, the 2523/1, are the only known Patek Philippe references to feature two crowns. The case of this watch has never been polished, making it one of the best-preserved examples to appear in recent memory.


Next up: a much fresher addition to the market and straight for the original owner—this Rolex “Lemon” with a Daytona chronograph. It features the rare “Lemon” Paul Newman dial, which stands out with a vibrant yellow background—as well as black subsidiary dials featuring white numerals.  Better still, the ‘tropical’ black subsidiary dials have turned a pleasing shade of brown, making it one of the most exciting “Lemon” models to have been discovered.

As for the contemporary timepieces, what should we look out for in the upcoming auction?

Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity: Very few versions of Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity make it to auction, and this time around we have the largest version of it. Manufactured in 2012, the watch features a pink gold case measuring 37mm and is fitted with a stunning guilloche dial, making it just so tastefully timeless. Preserved in excellent condition, it comes complete with its original presentation box and certificate too. 

Laurent Ferrier double spiral tourbillion: The elegant Laurent Ferrier is at first glance a simple time-only wristwatch, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, the deceptively simple case houses the masterpiece double spiral tourbillon. As the name suggests, two hairsprings beat in unison, each set in opposition to the other. But the uniqueness is the watch’s magnifying lens, fitted into the glazed back. It’s actually one of only three made with this back on the market.

Patek Philippe’s minute-repeating wristwatch: Made to commemorate the inauguration of watchmaker’s new manufacturing plant in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, this watch was produced in extremely small numbers—just 10 were made in yellow gold, 10 in pink, and 10 in platinum—and only the most respected clients were originally selected to receive these masterpieces.

Looking beyond the auction now, how does Phillips plan to secure itself as a global market leader?

Passion, dedication and willingness. If you love what you do, you will find the hard work all worthwhile. The team comes alive when we find rare pieces with such fascinating stories behind them, especially when we find them appreciative collectors as their new owners.



PHILLIPS The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Five

Public viewing: November 23-27, 2017, 10am-6pm

Auction: November 28, 2017, 1pm & 4pm

Venue: Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central

Registration is now open for online bidding here.

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