Ones to watch: Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI

Jean-Claude Biver's exceptional Patek Philippe collection and more go under the hammer this month

Watches & Jewellery 15 Jun 2020

Patek Philippe pocket watch Ref 605 HU from 1950 in pink gold (estimate SFr 250,000-500,000)

Phillips is kicking off its first live watch auction of 2020 in style. Taking place in Geneva on 27 and 28 June, the auction features an enviable collection of rare timepieces, including four Patek Philippe’s from the private collection of watch industry titan Jean-Claude Biver.

Biver, who has played a pivotal role in the success of brands including Tag Heuer, Omega, Hublot and Blancpain, is an passionate horophile, once saying, ‘When I was at Audemars Piguet I wanted to buy Patek Philippe, when I couldn’t, I started collecting their watches’. Across the decades, he has compiled one of the most impressive and carefully curated collections of timepieces, the quality of which is demonstrated in the four Patek Philippe watches to go under the hammer in this upcoming auction.

This includes a rare Reference 1518 from 1948 (estimate SFr 1,200,000-2,400,000). This perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch was first produced in series in 1841, with only 13 examples presented in this variant made in pink gold with pink gold dial. The direct successor of the 1518 is the Reference 2499, which was made with either Arabic numerals or applied batons. The incredibly well preserved example up for auction from Biver’s collection is in yellow gold with applied batons (estimate SFr 1,000,000-2,000,000), and is one of only 20 created.

The remaining two include a Ref 96HU world time from 1937, an ultra-rare pre-series prototype made by Patek Philippe to test the market ahead of its first Ref 1415 world time in 1939. Meanwhile, also available is one of only three known platinum Ref 1579 from 1946, which is differentiated from the other two with scale and markers in blue.

Beyond Biver’s collection, there’s an expansive selection from both traditional and contemporary watchmakers, including an exquisite and previously unknown Patek Philippe pocket watch Ref 605 HU from 1950 in pink gold (estimate SFr 250,000-500,000). Rolex is also well represented with a series of scarce Submariner models, including a reference 5513 from 1963 featuring a rare ‘Explorer dial’ (estimate SFr 100,000-200,000) and a Rolex Submariner ‘Big Crown’ reference 6200 (estimate SFr 250,000-500,000) recently found in an antique shop in Alexandria.

Highlights from the wealth of lots from independent watchmakers include FP Journe’s original Tourbillon Souverain ‘Souscription’ (estimate SFr 150,000-300,000), limited to 20 pieces and initially offered to friends and clients through a subscription system, as well as the subsequent model Resonance (estimate SFr 80,000-160,000). Other exceptional pieces include the Opus 3 (estimate SFr 60,000-120,000), made for Harry Winston by Vianney Halter, and a unique GMT model by Kari Voutilainen (estimate Sfr 50,000-100,000), with an engraved and enamelled caseback featuring Triton and a mermaid.

Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI, 27 and 28 June 2020;