Swatch Auction Raises $800,000

Some $800,000 was raised for charity in the “Swatch Wristory,” the spectacular international auction of exclusive Swatch watches conducted in New York City by Sotheby’s auction house. The event, hosted Dec. 3 by the Swatch Group of Switzerland, also was broadcast live to Swatch stores in Milan, Berlin, and Zurich via satellite, with bidders phoning in bids from around the world.

The Swatch auction raised $400,000, with some individual Swatch timepieces going for more than $20,000. Nicolas Hayek Jr., representing the board of directors of The Swatch Group, announced at the auction’s end that Swatch would match the $400,000 figure, prompting wild applause by the 500-plus guests at the event.

Ninety percent of the proceeds from the auction were earmarked for the “God’s Love We Deliver” organization, a social service agency that delivers nutritious meals to people with AIDS. The other 10% went to the “Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund,” which supports loved ones of those who died in the Windows on the World or other World Trade Center restaurants in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The 25 Swatch lots up for bid included the Keith Haring collection from the 1980s, and Cinema specials designed by legendary filmmakers like Robert Altman or Akira Kurosawa in the early 1990s.

Of the 25 Swatch lots, the top money-raiser was the 1988 “Blow Your Time Away” collection (also known as the Puff Collection for the furry puffs surrounding the watches’ dials). A telephone bidder in Tokyo offered $105,000 for the collection.

“My Swatch” (the first opportunity for an individual to create and design their own limited edition Swatch in 100 pieces) went to philanthropist Henry Buhl for $40,000, and a limited-edition set of Swatches created for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games—in gold, silver, and bronze—sold for $21,000.

Ann Jackson, publisher of InStyle magazine, paid $11,000 for the quirky Hofkunst set of three food-themed Swatches, while socialite Blaine Trump, a co-chair of the evening, bought the United Nations 50 Swatch collection—which marked the 50-year anniversary of the U.N.—for $5,000.

Also sparking heavy bidding were Swatch’s prototype watches interpreting all 20 James Bond films. The collection, which included a trip to the set of the newest Bond film in London, sold for $23,000. The James Bond Collection debuted this year.

Capping the evening was the sale (for $15,000) of the gavel used by auctioneer Hugh Hildesley and designed by Swatch especially for the occasion. Created in Plexiglas, it contained the 51 components that make up Swatch watches.

Attending the glittering Dec. 3 event were avid Swatch collectors, officials of the watch and jewelry industries, members of the press, and various celebrities from the worlds of fashion, art, society, and cinema. Among them were Nicholas Hayek Jr., Donald Trump, TV personalities Star Jones and Deborah Norville, and the co-chairs of the event—socialite Blaine Trump, actor Matthew Modine, and model Heidi Klum.

Guests received a special Swatch watch and matching bidding paddle as their invitations, and the specially designed chairs on which bidders sat were later taken home in “Wristory”-themed gift bags.