It follows a Roger Smith Series 1 for $800,000 last year and another Philippe Dufour, a grande et petite sonnerie, for a record-breaking $7.6 million in 2021. While the latest Dufour comes at a fraction of its predecessor at A Collected Man, it is, needless to say, rather notable still thus it’s seven-figure price tag. “Philippe Dufour is still seen as the grandfather of independent watchmaking and the best movement finisher of our age,” says A Collected Man founder, Silas Walton told Robb Report. “He sits there in the pantheon with Roger [Smith], George [Daniels], Kari [Voutilainen] and, increasingly, people like Rexhep [Rexhepi]. This is a very special watch that will, most likely, be towards the end of the run of Simplicitys that is ever made.”
Part of a run of 22 watches Dufour created for the 20th anniversary of the his famous Simplicity, this timepiece is particularly special thanks to its brushed platinum case, striking blue dial with Breguet-style numerals, an expertly crafted guilloché center, and hinged officer’s caseback in contrast to the majority of the pieces created for the two-decade-long celebration which came with polished cases and exhibition casebacks. Within this particular Dufour oeuvre, this piece is part of a series of seven made with brushed platinum cases with blue dials and hinged officer casebacks. “It’s the first one to appear on the market from the series of Simplicities with its multiple limited or unique characteristics, I think it means it’s inevitably going to sit at the top end of the pyramid of pieces that he’s made,” says Walton. “Of course, some people will have a preference for a much earlier piece because of historical provenance reasons but in terms of what’s available relative to exoticism, this is definitely in the top 5%, perhaps even the top 3%. And in terms of his recent work, it’s definitely amongst the rarest. In any kind of classification, it’s a really unique piece.”
Dufour is said to have made just 215 watches during his career as an independent watchmaker, making the owners of said watches as rare as the timepieces themselves. Although the true number is up for debate, as it often is with independents—much to the contention of some collectors, who fear the watchmaker will end up making more and more of their once ultra-rare timepiece and to the delight of others, who presume that the more people that know about the watches the more the value of their own will continue to rise. “Look, my feeling is that it’s actually more than 215 and I think it’s probably north of 230, but I think with the information that’s publicly available 215 is the safe number,” says Walton. “This has always been the case with independents. I just found out the other day, asking Roger [Smith]—we were in the car doing a warmup race for the Mille Miglia three weeks ago in Italy—and at one point I said to him, ‘How many watches have you actually made in total?’ and he said stopped for a moment and thought to himself and said, ‘I think it’s about 140 or 141.’ No one has ever thought to as Roger how many watches he has made in the totality of his time as an independent watchmaker. I just thought to myself, ‘What a strange surreal moment to be the first person to ask.’” Similarly, Voutilainen’s Observatoire started out as a unique commission for an American client but ultimately turned into a run of 10 and then 50 and, according to Walton, may be north of 60 now. “The only limiting factor was that he couldn’t get more of the Peseux 260 Observatoire movements.”
While watch collecting can often turn into a game of ego with collectors hunting for the rarest in the world and bragging rights for numbered 1 of 1 editions, these watches are still exceedingly rare in the global context with few watchmakers on earth who can craft pieces to this exceptional mastery and Dufour, of course, it the master of them all. The piece comes directly from the original owner and will be sold at the fixed price of $1.3 million. For those that can put their hat in the ring, you better act fast. This is a timepiece that is sure to weather any future markets and will, one day, certainly be a historical treasure.