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Phillips’s New York Watch Auction Scores a Record $35.9 Million in Sales

Phillips’s watch department put an eight-figure exclamation point on its already superlative 2021.

The auction house’s annual New York sale brought in $35.9 million over the weekend. The two-day event sold 100 percent by lot and value, and set a new record for the highest-value watch auction in US history.

The figure brings the annual total for Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo—which is the full name of the auction house’s watch arm—to a staggering $209.3 million, according to the auction house. That represents a new single-year record for an auction house, as well as an 89 percent increase over 2019, the last pre-pandemic calendar year.

1969 Rolex Ref. 6241 yellow gold chronograph with a Paul Newman “John Player Special” dial and bracelet

1969 Rolex Ref. 6241 yellow gold chronograph with a Paul Newman “John Player Special” dial and bracelet  Phillips

The headline sale of the auction, by a considerable margin, was the first Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711 in Tiffany & Co. blue. The one-of-170 timepiece, which will be the final version of the coveted reference, sold on Saturday morning for $6.5 million (including the buyer’s premium). That’s more than 130 times its pre-sale estimate of $50,000 and 124 times its retail price of $52,635. The Tiffany-blue Nautilus’s sky-high gavel price also set a new record for a wristwatch sold online.

Three other timepieces cracked the $1 million mark. These included a George Daniels yellow gold one-minute tourbillon pocket watch that sold for $1.66 million (it had a high estimate of $1.2 million pre auction). A 1969 Rolex Ref. 6241 yellow gold chronograph with a Paul Newman “John Player Special” dial and bracelet sold for $1.24 million ($1.22 million), and a 2012 Richard Mille Ref. RM022 AM CA skeletonized carbon dual-time tourbillon sold for $1.18 million ($500,000). Also of note was Ralph Ellison’s Omega Speedmaster, which sold for $667,800, or more than 33 times its $20,000 high estimate.

Ralph Ellison's Omega Speedmaster

Ralph Ellison’s Omega Speedmaster  Phillips

“It was a pleasure to welcome bidders back into our New York saleroom for such a historic sale—and the first watch auction at Phillips’s new headquarters in 432 Park Avenue,” Paul Boutros, Phillips’s Head of Watches, Americas, said in a statement. “Across two days, we saw tremendously spirited bidding from nearly 75 countries, leading to game-changing prices for vintage and modern wristwatches alike.”

Phillips wasn’t the only auction house to see increased demand for collector-caliber timepieces. Christie’s most recent sale, which ended on Friday, brought in $5.5 million, while Sotheby’s sold a Patek Philippe “Pink on Pink” Ref. 1518 for $9.6 million that same day, according to Barron’s. The latter sale, which more than quadrupled the pre-sale estimate, set a new wristwatch record for the auction house.

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