4 crazy things that happened at Geneva auctions this weekend (that aren't actually that crazy)

Cartier, Journe, and Lange results that actually make sense?

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Skimming through the results from the Geneva auctions this past weekend is as humbling as it is awe-inducing. First, there are the watches: Perfectly chocolatized vintage confections sit beside wonderous modern tourbillons that make one’s head spin with wonderment.

Then, there are the results: Numbers with more commas than a run-on sentence you might find in this ‘sletter, numbers that make you think the world’s gone mad.

And sure, some results are crazy. (100k for a box?! someone just screamed at me into their keyboard. It went to charity, okay?) Before we get to a few of the crazy things that happened, let’s get this out of the way: Phillips alone had over 2,000 bidders registered. When that many people register for anything, there’s no telling what might pop off.

A Speedmaster could go for $3.5 million, for example, at a time when literally no one was talking about vintage Omega anything going into the season.

So let’s take a look at a few of the crazier things that happened this weekend, that, if you look a little closer, might actually make some sense. Note this article is focused on Phillips and Antiquorum. Don’t worry, Only Watch, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s, you’ll get your turn.


Honey Gold Lange 1 creates buzz, selling for $200k

Over the past year or so, Lange has finally started getting some love. We discussed it in the Geneva Auction Preview of the new Significant Lots podcast last week (see below): While Lange hasn’t had the same rocket-ship trajectory as other haute horology brands (see FP Journe, infra), that seems to be changing. Ridiculous Pour la Merite Tourbillons are starting to go for $500k+, early and rare Lange 1s are sold as soon as they’re posted on sites like ACM, etc.

The Lange 1 is the brand’s most iconic model, so it makes sense it’d catch a slipstream off of the Lange love. Sure, people have long coveted steel Lange 1s, but the Honey Gold Lange 1 is uniquely, well, Lange.

The Lange 1 ref. 101.050 “Honey Gold” was quietly introduced to celebrate 20 years of Lange back in 2015. Collectors were asked not to speak about it, so not much was known about it for awhile. It was a limited edtion of just 20 released exclusively to previous Lange clients. Honey gold is this beautiful gold alloy created by Lange and rarely used that happens to be much harder than typical gold, with a tone somewhere between rose and yellow gold. Different dial and movement finishings on the 101.050 make it drop-dead gorgeous. Upon release, MSRP was $60k, if you could get your hands on one, that is.

The Honey Gold Lange 1 selling for CHF 189k at Phillips wasn’t the only Lange that performed well this weekend either. Just look at the other results from Phillips: Some tourbillon went for $630k; even a pilot’s watch “made in 1939 for the German army” (we all know what that means, come on now…) sold for $100k.

Yea, nearly $200k is a lot for a Lange 1, but $200k for a 1-of-20 Lange that was never technically released to the public? Honestly, it doesn’t sound so bad to me. Dr. Crott sold an example for €104k back in 2019, so it’s a big jump from that, but not out of line given what’s happened elsewhere in watches.

Not so crazy Cartiers: On Tank Guichets and 8 Days

In my Monaco Legends 88 Cartier preview last month, I highlighted a 1-of-3 Cartier Tank Guichet in yellow gold, saying it should sell for six figures or more. Well, I was wrong. Or rather, early. That example only sold for €78k. But, Antiquorum had another one of these 1-of-3 Guichets for sale this past weekend, and this one performed much better.

Quick background: Back in 1996 for Antiquorum’s Magical Art of Cartier Sale, Cartier produced three sets of three limited edition Tank Guichets in platinum, pink gold, and yellow gold. Just whisper Magical Art of Cartier in my ear and chills get sent down my spine.

This time around, Antiquorum’s yellow gold Tank Guichet sold for CHF 200k all in. That’s more like it! As others have pointed out, six figures is a lot for any neo-vintage Cartier, no matter how rare. But to me, if you’re going to drop a ton of money on one, this is it. (Congrats to the Monaco buyer for getting an apparent steal, by the way.)1

Now, for perhaps my favorite lot of the weekend: A vintage Cartier Tank 8 Day, sold by Antiquorum for CHF 250k. This Tank features a ridiculous movement with an 8-day power reserve. Imagine engineering that in the 1940s. I love it because most of Cartier is so design-driven, but this one’s all about the movement.

It’s rare too: In research, we’ve come across less than a dozen of these, mostly in yellow gold. CHF 250k for a legitimate vintage Cartier, of which less than a dozen exist on the planet? Not so crazy.

Understanding early Urwerk

This is another brand I wouldn’t have been paying attention to, but for it being mentioned in our podcast chat. Early (vintage?) Urwerk is hot, and it had a hell of a weekend in Geneva.

An early Urwerk UR-102 sold for CHF 100,800 at Phillips (off an est. of 20-40k). It looks like a big result, until you flip over to the Antiquruom results and see that a prototype UR-102 sold for CHF 150k.

The prototype was literally displayed by Urwerk in the booth at their first Baselworld after the brand launched in 1996. The UR-102 features the brand’s immediately recognizable wandering hours display, a complication that has come to define Urwerk. Along with the UR-101, the UR-102 is a founding timepiece for the brand. So both of these pieces are a part of the brand’s founding lore — for a brand like Urwerk that’s come to define the booming indie space of the last 20 years, that’s important.

Watch collecting is a hobby obsessed with firsts: “first watch on the moon,” “first automatic chronograph,” and so on. So it makes sense a couple of collectors would spare no expense to buy into one of the “firsts” from one of the first (and most important) indie brands of the modern era.

Journe Souscription Tourbillon doubles in price, again

Ah, what to say about FP Journe, that unassuming rocketship of a watch brand.

On Friday, Phillips sold a 1-of-20 Souscription Tourbillon Souverain for CHF 3.54m. Even better, this was the actual 1-of-20, for whatever that’s worth (it even says so on the dial!).2 The result comes not even a month after Sotheby’s sold a Souscription Tourbillon for “just” CHF 1.9m in its Hong Kong sale.

An FP Journe nearly doubling in price in less than a month? At this point, why not?

But if you zoom the frame out a bit more, you’ll see that Phillips sold a Souscription Tourbillon for CHF 1.4m in June 2020. When you think of how much Journe has boomed over the 18 months since that sale, it starts to look like the CHF 3.54m sale is the one that does make sense, and the buyer at Sotheby’s Hong Kong last month got a steal.

The takeaways from the auctions are endless, and we’ve still got a few sales left (I tuned into Christie’s for a bit on Monday, and I’ll definitely be watching the London Crash at Sotheby’s later this week.) Stay tuned for more.

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Significant Lots

We have a podcast! I sent it out last Friday, but I know *technical difficulties* prevented some from listening. It’s finally indexed on major podcast platforms, so please give us a follow wherever you listen to podcasts (I won’t always send it out like I did last week). Links for Apple and Spotify below, and here are the links for Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts.

Significant Lots is a joint effort between Eric Wind, Charlie Dunne, Gabriel Bedanor, and myself.

Episode 1 is a Geneva watch auction preview, and while most of the auctions have passed at this point, our discussion is broad enough that it’s still worth a listen. Hot takes about Only Watch, a look at tasteful and distasteful auction house practices, Eric gets some drilling done on mic (while Gabe blows some leaves), and more.

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1

Elsewhere, 1-of-100 Guichet went for CHF 100k a day earlier at Phillips. this makes less sense given one sold for just CHF 50k at Christie’s in April.

2

Honestly, in this crazed world we live in, that’s probably worth what, another 10% on the hammer price?