On Tuesday, Sotheby’s Geneva sold an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak owned by famed watch designer Gérald Genta for $2.13 million, setting a new record for the most valuable vintage Royal Oak ever sold at auction.
The final price—more than seven times its low estimate—was reached after a spirited eight-person bidding battle that lasted 6 minutes.
The watch—said to be one of the few that Genta would regularly sport—marks the first time a Genta-owned timepiece has come up for auction. It includes an 18k yellow gold bezel that Genta produced and added at his Swiss workshop in 1978.
The record-setting sale was the highlight of an auction that included some Genta-owned oil paintings as well as 100 original designs from Genta’s personal archives, each paired with a non-fungible token (NFT). In June, Sotheby’s will present another sale in New York City, Gérald Genta: Icon of Time, which will feature the most valuable Disney-themed watches produced by the designer.
Mikael Wallhagen, Sotheby’s head of European Watches in Geneva, said in a statement: “Over the course of my career, rarely have I seen such an emotional response to any horological object, both by connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike, making today’s result all the more rewarding.”
A portion of the sale’s proceeds will benefit Gérald Genta Heritage and its mission to encourage a new generation of designers in the watch industry, with initiatives such as the Gérald Genta Prize for Young Talent. Gérald Genta Heritage was launched in 2019, following the designer’s death in 2011.
“Gérald was an artist before all else,” Evelyne Genta, the designer’s widow and business partner and president of Gerald Genta Heritage, said in a statement. “His Royal Oak was, of course, one of his most iconic watches, and such an exceptional piece can only go to someone who appreciates this.”
Genta designed the first Royal Oak in 1972, taking inspiration from a childhood memory of seeing a man being sealed into an old-fashioned diving suit.
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