Steel Patek Sets World Auction Record

A world record for a stainless steel wristwatch was set at the Nov. 11 auction held in Geneva, Switzerland, by Antiquorum, a leading horological auction house.

The unique 1926 Patek Philippe watch–with single-button chronograph, vertical registers and pulsometer–was sold for $1,129,500 to a private Swiss museum.

Another record was set with the sale for $$685,400 of a Breguet & Fils pocket non-gold chronometer with jumping hour hand, Peto cross escapement, and four-minute tourbillon regulator. The buyer was also a private Swiss museum.

Also noteworthy was the sale of a spectacular astronomical, three-week, weight-driven ‘resonance’ double pendulum wall regulator, with two independent trains, created in 1800 by eminent Parisian horologer and royal clockmaker Antide Janvier. The buyer, who paid $924,535, was F.P. Journe Invenit et Fecit, a leading independent Geneva, Switzerland, manufacturer of complicated mechanical luxury watches. (Journe and Harry Winston this year co-produced Opus One, a collection of very limited luxury mechanical watches). The acquisition of the long-case clock, Journe told auctioneers, is a ‘tribute to Janvier and create a historic link between Janvier’s research and today’s accomplishments in the application of resonance in horology,’ a study in which Journe also specializes.

Other standouts included the sale of a rare 1826 Vacheron & Constantin 18k ‘grande et petite sonnerie’ clock-watch, with quarter repeating and visible works (sold to the Vacheron Constantin museum for $35,000); five Breguet documents (purchased for $128,579 by a Middle East collector); and a masterpiece by German watchmaker Alfred Helwig (of Glasshutte, Germany): a rare 1927 slim gold keyless, double barrel, one-minute flying tourbillon regulator pocket chronometer, with 36-hour power reserve (sold for $412,112 to a private U.S. collector).

The total amount raised at the horological thematic auction–a concept developed by Antiquorum–was $11,270,924. The auction focused on precision and complicated timepieces, and the collection of Thomas Engle, a renowned research scientist and collector of timepieces, especially those of legendary French watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet.

The section on precision and complicated timepieces made $7,342,420. The auction of the Engel timepieces reached $3,926,505–double their estimated pre-auction value.

During the auction, some 1,800 people viewed the live auction broadcast on Antiquorum’s website ( ) with 52 registered for bidding online.

Overall, ‘I was struck by the euphoric atmosphere and fierce bidding of the sale,’ says Osvaldo Patrizzi, Antiquorum chairman. ‘From a commercial standpoint, it was most interesting. A watch is now seen as an objet d’art, and the results demonstrate that beautiful pieces always sell well, even in difficult times.’