Swatch ‘Wristory’ auction raises $800,000 for charity

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

The Swatch auction raised $400,000, with some individual Swatch timepieces going for over $20,000.

Nicolas Hayek Jr., representing the board of directors of the Swatch Group, announced at the end of the auction that Swatch would match the $400,000, bringing the total raised to $800,000, prompting wild applause by the event’s more than 500 guests.

The Swatch Wristory benefited the “God’s Love We Deliver” organization (receiving 90% of the proceeds), a social service agency with delivers nutritious meals to people with AIDS. The other 10% went to the “Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund,” which supports loved ones of people who died in the “Windows on the World” or other World Trade Center restaurants in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the WTC.

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.

The top money raiser for $105,000 (from a telephone bidder in Tokyo) was the 1988 “Blow Your Time Away” collection (also known as the Puff Collection for the furry puffs surrounding the watches’ dials).

“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. A limited edition set of Swatches created for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games – a gold, a silver and a bronze – sold for $21,000.

Ann Jackson, the publisher of trendy 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 U.N. 50 Swatch collection, marking the 50 year anniversary of the United Nations, for $5,000.

Also sparking heavy bidding were Swatch’s prototype watches interpreting all 20 James Bond films, and which included a trip to the set of the newest Bond film in London. They sold for $23,000. The James Bond Collection will debut in 2002.

Capping the evening was sale 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 of 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, in addition to 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 that bidders sat on were later taken home in Wristory-designed gift bags.