The spring watch auction season is getting underway, with Sotheby’s out of the gate in New York with a $4 million sale earlier this week. According to the Mercury Report, which tracks watch auctions, the five main auction houses sold a record CHF 702 million (about $749 million) in 2022. That’s an 11 percent increase over 2021’s sales of CHF 634 million (about $646,000,000), and a whopping 80 percent over 2019, before the pandemic. (The survey tracks sales by Phillips, Christie’s Sotheby’s, Antiquorum, Bonhams and Poly Auction.)
This year, however, may have less monumental moments with global economies suffering. Sotheby’s New York sale didn’t set any auction records, but it did include some notable pieces that collectors covet as solid investments. Among them was a provenance piece: a Patek Philippe Ref. 2526 owned by Andy Warhol. Made around 1955, the watch is a classic time-only Calatrava in pink gold with an eggshell enamel dial. It was double-signed Serpico Y Laino, Patek Philippe’s exclusive retailer in Caracas, Venezuela, and sold for $101,600. Sotheby’s first sold the watch as part of The Andy Warhol Collection estate sale in 1988 for $5,500.
The top lot was a platinum and diamond-set Patek Philippe Ref. 5271P, the latest model of Patek’s signature perpetual calendar chronograph model that started in the 1940s with the Ref. 1518. This one, which is extra special because of its 4.84 carats of diamonds on the bezel, sold for $279,400. Sotheby’s says only six 5271Ps in any gem-set variation have returned to market since being made circa 2021.
The sale included three Rolex Paul Newman Daytonas, all selling above their pre-sale high estimates. They sold for a combined total of $656,350. A Ref. 6240 made circa 1967 led the group, selling for $254,000. The others, both Ref. 6239s sold for $120,650, and $190,500. A more modern platinum Rolex Daytona with an ice-blue dial sold for $114,300.
There were several other complicated modern Patek Philippes, including a Ref. 5270R-001 perpetual calendar chronograph produced in 2018 that fetched $139,700; and a Ref. 3970 platinum perpetual calendar chronograph made around 2004, also selling for $139,700.
The sale also included two top-selling Richard Mille models, a brand outperforming many independents at auction recently. A RM 005 AGTi Felipe Massa sold for $101,600, and an RM 055 AN Ti Bubba Watson sold for $254,000. Richard Mille watches were prominent at auctions in 2022. According to the Mercury report, two Richard Mille references were among the top five sellers at all auctions last year: $7,078,000 for a Richard Mille RM52-01 Skull Tourbillon sold by Antiquorum; and $3,661,673 for a Richard Mille RM56-01 sapphire and titanium sold Christie’s. The remaining three models in last year’s top five were Patek Philippe, Rolex and George Daniels.
Sotheby’s January sale of Fine Watches in Hong Kong totaled 24,269,065 HKD ($3,092,000). The top lot was a Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike Honeygold that sold for 1,143,000 HKD $145,600. While the house’s January sale in London totaled 3,524,504 GBP ($4,188,838), with highlights including a Richard Mille RM 012 AG Proto1 Tourbillon, selling for 609,600 GBP ($724,504).