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Sotheby's watch auction sets new Swiss record

A sale of rare and important watches in Geneva by the international auction house, Sotheby's, has set a new record for the company in Switzerland.

The auction generated almost 7.3 million francs - way over the pre-sale estimate of four million, and a record for a Sotheby's watch sale in Switzerland.

"The total was well in excess of our pre-sale estimate and it was gratifying to see the market responding so enthusiastically to an exceptional sale," said Aurel Bacs, head of Sotheby's European Clocks and Watches department.

"The sale offered examples by all the famous names in the history of horology. The majority of the pieces were not only of top quality and in original condition, but also fresh to the market - a combination the market finds irresistible," Bacs said.

The highlight of the sale was a 1954 gold dual crown world time wristwatch with a cloisonné enamel dial depicting a map of Europe by Patek Philippe. Estimated at between 850,000 to one million francs, it eventually sold for 1.34 million - a record for a wristwatch at Sotheby's. Another Patek Philippe wristwatch fetched 1.16 million francs - a record for a single-button chronograph.

The sale was of great historical interest. As well as a collection of 72 English pocket watches, there was a deckwatch made by Paul Dittisheim, which was used for the first ever calculation of longitude by aeroplane.

The sale proved that a piece does not have to be old to be expensive: "Age has very little influence on the value of a watch. Quality is far more important - the complexity of the mechanism, its condition," Bacs told Swissinfo.

The auction also demonstrated how Geneva has become one of the most important centres for the sale of vintage timepieces: "I would say that Geneva is, if not the most prestigious, then one of the top two or three auction locations for collectable watches. Partly, but not only because it has a long and amazing tradition in watchmaking. Geneva benefits from a good reputation around the world for business, the quality of its client services, but also because most of the best names in watchmaking are still based here," Bacs said.

by Roy Probert

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