The 11 Biggest Watch Auction Results from a Crazy Spring Season
A million here, a million there
By Wikipedia’s count, only 160 watches have ever sold for more than $1.5 million at auction. Ever. In the first four-plus months of 2022, we’ve already added another 10 watches to this list.
Oh, to be a rare, in-demand watch, with collectors the world over bidding you up to heights previously unknown.
Let’s take a look at the biggest auction results of 2022 through the spring auctions in Geneva. Of course, there are more auctions — the fun never stops — in Hong Kong and New York over the coming weeks. The top five are all Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronographs, but we start to mix it up after that, so scroll to the end.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 2499 ‘Gobbi’: $7.68m
Let’s start with the Patek Philippe 2499 in pink gold, selling for 60.3m HKD (~$7.7m). The Gobbi 2499 set a world record for the perpetual calendar chronograph reference, of which Patek only produced 349 examples from 1950 until 1985. Amazingly, this piece has held the record for the 2499 before, when it sold at Sotheby’s back in 2007 for CHF 2.7m. Most recently, its record was surpassed by the Asprey 2499 (sold at Sotheby’s for CHF 3.9m in 2018).
The Patek 2499 is perhaps the most important collectible reference in all of vintage Patek, beloved by collectors for its bold case proportions, lugs, and round pushers (seen here and introduced in the second series of the 2499). These modern features of the 2499 set it apart and make it more desirable than the earlier (and more rare) reference 1518 (more on these in a moment).
So why the record result for this Gobbi-signed 2499? Only nine pink gold second series 2499 examples are known, and this is the only example with a retailer signature. On top of that, it’s in outstanding original condition. This 2499 came from The Nevadian Collector sale, a standalone sale hosted by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April — we’ll see more of his collection on this list.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 1518 ‘Pink on Pink’: $3.3m
There are two pink-on-pink Patek Philippe ref. 1518 examples on this list, and for good reason. Only 14 are known to the market, so it’s an event whenever one comes up at auction. Last year, a crispy example from the former Prince of Egypt achieved the highest result of a watch at auction, selling for $9.57m.
This year’s pink-on-pink 1518s weren’t in quite the perfect condition of that example, so results are slightly lower, but still very impressive. This one sold at Phillips in Geneva for CHF 3.3 million.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 2499 ‘Luminous’: $2.98m
This Patek Philippe 2499 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph also comes courtesy of the Nevadian Collector, the owner of thepink gold Gobbi 2499. Like that lot, this one’s also possibly unique, the only known example of a second series reference 2499 with a luminous dial. Further, of all 349 reference 2499 examples, only five are known to have luminous dials.
In other words, perpetual calendar chronographs are already rare, and this is one of the rarest of the rare. Sotheby’s sold this example for 23,365,000 HKD in April.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 1518 ‘Pink on Pink’: $2.9m
Next up, another pink-on-pink reference 1518, this one from The Nevadian Collector. It sold for slightly less than the example at Phillips, with an all-in result of 22,760,000 HKD.
Patek Philippe ref 5217 Grand Complication: $2.28m
The first non-perpetual calendar chronograph on the list. But no worry, it’s still a Patek Philippe Grand Complication. This thing’s a monster, with a perpetual calendar, tourbillon, moonphase, all housed in a platinum case dripping with diamonds.
Unlike the Pateks so far, this Patek 5217 is thoroughly modern, current-day Patek at its most luxurious. Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold Grand Complication for 17,920,000 HKD.
Rolex ref. 6062 Pink Gold Moonphase: $2.2m
And now, the first non-Patek of the list — and it’s a good one. This is a pink gold Rolex reference 6062 triple calendar with moonphase in absolutely pristine condition. As one of only a few truly complicated Rolex references every produced, the 6062 is already a desirable reference. Add in the rarity resulting from the fact that Rolex produced it for only a few years in the 1950s.
Personally, I love the juxtaposition of the complicated caliber packed into Rolex’s trademark Oyster case — the combo of a robust waterproof case and moonphase is Rolex at its most sporty and elegant. Monaco Legends sold this pink gold 6062 for €2,106,000 in April.
Gerald Genta’s Personal Royal Oak: $2.1m
So far, the prices of the watches on this list have been driven by the watches themselves. But watches are all about stories, and this Royal Oak’s got one. It was the personal Royal Oak of Gerald Genta, the designer of the Royal Oak.
If there’s one watch designer that’ll go down in history among the ranks of fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld, it’s Genta. And the Royal Oak is his greatest achievement, perhaps the one watch that can be legitimately described as a sculpture. It’s why the catalog for this lot calls Genta the “Picasso of Watches.”
Sotheby’s calls this Royal Oak “possibly the most important example that has ever been made,” and it’s hard to think of one that'd be more important. AP archives confirm it was acquired by Genta in 1978.
Genta’s Royal Oak is made more interesting by the gold bezel, the first stainless steel 5402 with a gold bezel known to the public. According to Genta family tradition, the bezel was made by Genta’s atelier. There’s no record of it in AP’s archives either, which seems to corroborate the story. Sotheby’s sold this Royal Oak for CHF 2.1 million.
Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 ‘Crazy Doctor’: $1.7m
First, the name: this particular gold Daytona 6239 was dubbed the “Crazy Doc” in Ultimate Rolex Daytona by Pucci Papaleo Editore. It’s the only known 6239 with a pulsaton dial, having been originally sold to famous collector Eric Clapton, who later sold it as part of an auction in 2003.
Of course, collectors love the vintage Rolex Daytona, so it’s no surprise this result sold for a big number at Phillips in Geneva. Add in the lore of it having once been owned by Clapton, and the $1.7 million result seems reasonable. Oh, and the condition looks pretty crispy too.
Cartier London Crash: $1.65m
The Cartier London Crash is one of the hottest watches in the planet over the past few years. I wrote an in-depth story on the history of the Crash over on Hodinkee, so check it out if you want to learn more.
There are less than a couple dozen original London Crash examples known from the 1960s and 70s, so it was exciting when online auctioneer Loupe This brought a fresh-to-market Crash to auction in May 2022. Even better, this was likely one of the very first Crashes ever, having hallmarks dating it to 1967.
See Loupe This
Rolex Daytona ref. 6269: $1.61m
The Rolex Daytona ref. 6269 is ridiculous. The bezel and dial are covered in factory set diamonds, sure. But the 6269 is also rare. Less than a dozen or so have come to market. It feels like the predecessor to the ever-popular modern “Rainbow Daytona”, and somehow more subtle than the RBOW.
Just imagine buying this in the 1980s when Rolex released it — everyone on Wall Street was going two-tone, with their Cartier Santos or Pasha. But that wasn’t enough for you. No! You needed to go up a level. And then another level. Until you arrive at this Daytona, the “Jack of Diamonds.” Christie’s Geneva sold this example for CHF 1.61 million in May.
Patek Philippe ref. 1503 ‘Wiesenthal’: $1.36m
Finally, perhaps the watch with the best story of the season — the Patek Philippe ref. 1503. The watch is nicknamed “the Wiesenthal”, because it was likely once owned by Holocaust survivor and human rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal.
In John Goldberger’s book Patek Phillipe Steel Watches, there is a picture of Mr. Wiesenthal at his desk, wearing a teardrop-lug timepiece which is most likely this reference 1503. Another image of him wearing the present timepiece is published in Getty Images under "Portrait Of Simon Wiesenthal".
“The Wiesenthal”, as it is known since its first appearance on the market in 2007, represents the most elusive - and arguably the most attractive - iteration of reference 1503: only one other example is known with black lacquered dial and Breguet numerals, making this a one-of-two watch. This compounds the already remarkable rarity of the reference in itself - which was made for only 4 years from 1941 to 1944. Phillips sold The Wiesenthal for CHF 1.36 million in Geneva.
Amazingly, we’re ten lots in and haven’t even featured every lot that’s sold for more than $1 million this. AND, there’s only one Royal Oak in the top 10.
Here’s a look at other results around $ 1 million so far in 2022:
Rolex Rainbow Day-Date ‘Khanjar’, sold for $1.21 million
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘A2’, sold for $1.06 million
Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar ‘Asprey’, sold for $1.02 million
Rolex ref. 6036 ‘Killy’, sold for $998,000
Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5723, sold for $998,000
Another highlight of Phillips’ Royal Oak 50th sale was the “Lagerfeld” PVD Royal Oak, selling for $937,500.
Interested in hopping into the way-back machine? Check out the 10 biggest watches to sell at auction in 2021.