Proving once more that Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, remains the main destination for collectors on the hunt for rare vintage timepieces, the auction house concluded the seventh edition of its Hong Kong Watch Auction by selling 93% of the lots offered and bringing in a total of US$14 million.

Attending a Phillips watch auction feels a lot like a giant reunion. People travel from all over the world to be in the auction room, collectors show each other their latest acquisitions while the Maestro Aurel Bacs greets people while switching between English, Italian, French and German. Although everyone is friendly towards each other before the auction begins, once the sale is underway, it’s no holds barred.

As is the staple at auctions in present market, making up the Top 10 lots from the Hong Kong Watch Auction: SEVEN are the same two brands: Rolex and Patek Philippe. Out of these we’re glad to be able to say that, seven of these were covered in our preview video, which you should re-watch here. Now on to the top three performing lots from this auction.

Gold medal – Lot 876 Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 “John Player Special”

Lot 876 at the HKWA7, a Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 “John Player Special”, sold for US$779,580 (Image © Revolution)
Lot 876 at the HKWA7, a Rolex Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6241 “John Player Special”, sold for US$779,580 (Image © Revolution)

The watch, which achieved the best was result Lot 876, a fresh to market, Rolex ref. 6241 “John Player Special”, or “JPS”, in 18K yellow gold in astounding condition.

The “JPS” gets its name from the cigarette manufacturer John Player & Sons, which used to sponsor the Lotus Formula 1 team (1968-1986).

It was in 1976 that the Lotus team dressed the Lotus 76 in a gold and black livery matching John Player & Sons’ corporate colors, which explains why collectors chose the nickname of “John Player Special” to this version of the Rolex Daytona.

The watch achieved a price of US$779,580 including buyer’s premium.

Silver medal – Lot 888 Patek Philippe Ref. 5004A-001

Lot 888 at the HKWA7, a stainless-steel Patek Philippe Ref. 5004A-001, sold for US$549,54 with buyer’s premium
Lot 888 at the HKWA7, a stainless-steel Patek Philippe Ref. 5004A-001, sold for US$549,54 with buyer’s premium

888 being a lucky number in Chinese culture, it comes as no surprise that this lot performed extremely well.

The ref. 5004 from Patek Philippe is essentially ref. 3970 with a split-seconds chronograph but throughout its lifetime, due to the difficulty of producing this split-seconds chronograph caliber, only 12 per year were able to come out of the manufacture, which makes the reference scarce in itself.

Add to that the fact that when the maison decided to retire the reference they decided to encase the last 50 watches in steel, and you got yourself an instantly elevated desirability factor.

And the result for this rarity, did not disappoint, selling for US$549,540 with buyer’s premium.

Bronze medal – Lot 840 Patek Philippe pocket watch from 1929

Lot 840 at the HKWA7, a Patek Philippe pocket watch with a James C. Pellaton tourbillon carriage, which received the first-class prize at the Geneva 1929 Observatory timing competition and a further Honorable mention in 1931. Sold for US$419,184
Lot 840 at the HKWA7, a Patek Philippe pocket watch with a James C. Pellaton tourbillon carriage, which received the first-class prize at the Geneva 1929 Observatory timing competition and a further Honorable mention in 1931. Sold for US$419,184

I have to be honest, I did not pay attention to this pocket watch when flipping through this auction catalogue, but when the lot opened it was as if someone turned some knob on the auction floor to 11. Bidding kicked off fast and furious, and swiftly passed the high estimate. The watch may appear simple but the movement features a James C. Pellaton tourbillon carriage, considered the master Swiss tourbillon maker of the 20th-century. The watch was the recipient of the first-class prize at the Geneva 1929 Observatory timing competition, and won a further Honorable mention in 1931. In the 19th century, observatories were holding “time contests” to judge the precision of timepieces and awarding rating certificates based on their performances. Given the horological significance of the pocketwatch and its relation to James C. Pellaton, it’s hardly surprising that the watch hammered for US$419,184.

For full auction results, log on to Phillips.com/Watches

Onward now to Phillips’ New York sale, on December 5 before we wrap up the year of auctions.

STYLED. Timeless Watches & How to Wear Them
5 December 6pm EST
450 Park Avenue, New York (map)

*Admission to this sale by ticket only. To request tickets, please email [email protected]

Viewing 30 November – 5 December
Friday-Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday 12pm-6pm
Monday-Tuesday 10am-6pm
Wednesday 10am-2pm