10 horological pieces of 2022 to remember !
Paris, Hong Kong, New York, Geneva or Monaco… This year’s watch sales set new records and sometimes surprising prices! An ultra-dynamic market that confirms the prime position that old and contemporary watches occupy in the world of collectors’ items.
Among the thousands of objects presented for sale this year, let’s take a look at 10 watch pieces that marked the year 2022.
1. Patek Philippe, ref. 2499
Patek Philippe has once again marked the year 2022. After the historic record set in 2021 for its reissue of the Nautilus in collaboration with Tiffany & Co, it was a model born in 1950 that set the auction on fire at Sotheby’s on April 25 in Honk Kong: a ref. 2499 bearing the double signature of the legendary Italian retailer Gobbi in Milan.
Produced from 1950 to 1985, the ref. 2499 is an essential model in the Patek Philippe collections, as it is the second chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon phases produced by the manufacture.
This watch, presented at auction at “The Nevadian Collector” (lot 2018, April 25, 2022), came from the incredible collection built up by a Patek Philippe enthusiast over a period of 30 years.
It is estimated that only 349 pieces of the ref. 2499 were produced. Considered one of the rarest watches, its value has continued to rise over the past 15 years.
Selling for over 7 million euros, it is the most expensive watch sold in 2022.
2. The Rolex of the last Comex diver
156 000 €
In January, Artcurial, the leading French auction house, opened the 2022 auction by offering a very special Rolex watch in Monaco : “The last one”, the watch of the last diver of the Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise de Marseille).
Highly prized by collectors, the watches delivered to Comex are rare pieces often charged with strong stories and emotions. In the 1970s, Rolex signed a partnership with the Marseille-based company specialising in underwater work. From then on, Rolex diving watches with Comex dials have been worn by the world’s elite divers.
For several years now, Artcurial has been recording the best results for these Rolexes “made in Marseille”. The French firm has made Comex watches one of its flagship specialities and notably holds a world record for a ref. 5514 sold for €318,000 in 2021.
“The last one” was sold for €156,000, a record price for a Submariner ref. 16610 produced in 2003, which can be explained by the sale of the Comex marine branch in 2020. By separating from this entity, Comex Marseille will no longer have any divers in its workforce and is thus turning a decisive page in its history. The Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise de Marseille has built up an international reputation since the 1960s and the Rolex endowment watches that equipped its divers have become true collectors’ items for all tool watch enthusiasts over the years.
The last Comex diver was hired in 2008 when he was only 20 years old, his watch was given to him personally by Henri-Germain Delauze, the founder of Comex. This watch was given to him by Henri-Germain Delauze, the founder of Comex. This watch represents the end of a legendary story: the unparalleled collaboration between Rolex and Comex.
3. Gerald Genta’s personal Royal Oak
2 100 000 €
2022 will be the year of the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak. This mythical model signed by Audemars Piguet was celebrated by the entire watchmaking world. Among the most impressive pieces presented at auction this year, it was the auction house Sotheby’s that created the event by offering for sale Gérald Genta’s personal watch: the Royal Oak of the creator of the Royal Oak. Gerald Genta, designer of this watchmaking jewel which he considered his masterpiece, owned a steel model with a yellow gold bezel, ref. 5402. This watch was sold on 10 May 2022 under No. 72 for over 2.1 million euros.
Purchased on 15 May 1978 by Gerald Genta, this watch was unique as Genta had himself “customised” it by replacing the steel bezel with a gold bezel that he had made himself in his workshop.
This watch would have been purchased by the Audemars Piguet Museum.
4. Singing bird automaton, attributed to Frères Rochat
330 000 €
This year, it was the French firm Aguttes that thrilled collectors of antique watches. Presenting an exceptional collection to which it dedicated a special sale “A History of Time, Old B. Collection”, Aguttes invited collectors from all over the world to Neuilly sur Mer to attend the next auction. Aguttes invited collectors from around the world to Neuilly sur Seine on 28 September 2022. Among the hundred or so pieces offered for sale, the most spectacular is a watch mounted in a gold enamelled snuff box with a singing bird made by the Rochat brothers in the 19th century.
Impressively preserved, this object had not been seen on the market since 1954. It was first sold in Cairo by Sotheby’s during the dispersal of King Farouk’s gigantic collection “The Palace Collections of Egypt”, one of the most important auctions of the 20th century, and it was at this event that its owner, a great French connoisseur, acquired it.
Sold for more than €330,000, this singing bird automaton unleashed the passions in the auction room. Attributed to the Rochat brothers, and produced around 1815, this collector’s item was one of the most accomplished and sought-after examples for the period.
5. The Henri Verneuil personnal watch
39 360 €
Because it was designed by a watchmaking genius or because it belonged to a talented man, a watch can mark the history of watchmaking forever.
One of the watches that thrilled collectors this year had both of these characteristics. It is a perpetual calendar with moon phases and minute repeater signed by Gerald Genta and belonging to the world-renowned French film director Henri Verneuil. This watch is extraordinary for its provenance, but also and above all for the story of friendship it tells.
Coming directly from the heirs of the French filmmaker, this timepiece bears witness to the strong ties between Henri Verneuil and Gerald Genta. It was in 1973 that Verneuil discovered Genta’s design talents with the Royal Oak. The two men soon met and Henri Verneuil became fascinated with Genta’s production, which he supported by buying several pieces from him when Genta founded his own brand.
The watch sold for nearly €40,000 by Artcurial in July 2022 was Verneuil’s favourite piece, the one he always wore for “special occasions”. It was the watch he wore on his wrist when he won the 1996 César award for lifetime achievement in film.
6. Rolex « Jack of diamonds »
Rolex is once again the strongest brand on the market, and remains widely represented at auction. Among the profusion of models sold in 2022, 2 Rolexes marked the year.
The first is a yellow gold Daytona, ref. 6269, known as the “Jack of diamonds” sold by Christie’s on 9 May in Geneva. This reference 6239 is extremely rare, as few examples were manufactured by Rolex.
Entirely paved with diamonds and sapphires, this gold chronograph is very rarely seen at auction and is particularly interesting, as it is one of only two models listed with the mention “Sté*R” meaning “Société Rolex”. Marked with a French guarantee stamp, this model was delivered to the French market, probably in Paris. This specificity earned this watch the nickname of “The Owl Grand Duke” given by the great connoisseurs.
The reference 6269 is very little known to the general public, as it is a model distributed exclusively to a few very prestigious customers of the brand.
If at the beginning of the 1980s, the Daytona set with diamonds was a “nonsense”, over the years the brand recorded some requests, certainly very rare, but coming from important customers for set models.
Faced with this exceptional but significant demand, Rolex imagined in the middle of the 1980s an excessively extravagant model: the ref. 6269, a sports watch with the appearance of a jewel. Produced in very limited quantities, the model was only distributed until 1987.
7. Richard Mille
281 000 €, the auction record on drouot.com
Richard Mille is one of the strongest brands on the market today. Demand and prices at auction have continued to rise this year.
The strongest result at auction this year was recorded by Christie’s for an RM56-01 Skeleton Tourbillon in sapphire crystal and titanium. This ultra-limited edition piece sold for nearly €3,700,000 (lot 2096, Legendary & Unique Auction, 6 November 2022, Geneva).
But the Richard Mille timepiece that made its mark at auction in France this year was the RM 35-01 RAFA model sold on February 2, 2022 (lot 110) by the French state, the watch having been seized by the Agrasc. Estimated at €40,000, this exceptional collector’s item was sold for €281,000, making it the most expensive watch ever sold on drouot.com.
8. Audemars Piguet, Unique piece from 1927
170 000 €
A unique piece produced in 1927 on commission by Audemars Piguet and kept in the same family ever since, this is certainly one of the most sensational pieces of the inter-war period that complication watch lovers could rediscover in 2022. This complete calendar with moon phase in platinum was delivered by the Swiss manufacture to Egouvillon Lafont & Cie for Van Cleef & Arpels. The first owner is said to have acquired the watch from the Parisian jeweller, as Audemars Piguet did not have a boutique in Paris at the time.
Presented for the first time on the market by Artcurial (lot 139, sale of 18 July 2022), this museum-quality piece was sold for over €170,000.
9. Rolex « Crazy Doc »
1 745 000 €
The other unmissable Rolex this year is the famous “Crazy Doc” which sold for €1,745,000 by Philipps on 7 May in Geneva under No. 116. This yellow gold Daytona ref. 6269 has a particularly unusual pulsometer scale, which makes this watch probably unique.
Already known to the general public and to the most seasoned collectors, this Daytona was indeed presented for the third time in its history at auction. In 2003, it was Christie’s auction house that introduced this watch for the first time on the market (lot 175, sale of 5 June 2003).
At the time, this remarkable collector’s item came directly from the personal collection of guitarist Eric Clapton and was sold in New York for nearly $42,000. In almost 20 years, the value of this watch has increased by a factor of 40, a testament to the dynamism of the market over the past two decades.
Originally, watches with pulse dials were used by doctors or medical staff. The pulsometer or pulsometric scale is designed to measure heartbeats per minute. As early as 1930, it appeared on some Rolex chronographs. To use the pulsometer scale, the doctor would start the chronograph function and stop it according to the number of heartbeats counted as indicated on the scale, in this particular example 15 (hence the base 15 beats). The stopped chronograph hand would show the exact number of heartbeats per minute on the pulsometer scale, without taking the whole minute.
Cartier « Cheich »
1 003 000 €
The “Cheich” is the Cartier watch that will have marked the 2022 auction. Sold by Sotheby’s on 30 September (lot 1 sold online from 16 to 30 September), this historic model achieved more than 5 times its estimate! This unique piece is unusual in that it takes the House of Cartier to where it is least expected, on the roads of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Cartier became involved in this legendary race in 1978 by founding the “Défi Cartier”, a challenge that consists of winning the rally twice in a row…and in the same category! The winner will receive a Cartier watch specially designed for the challenge, a yellow gold model with an audacious design.
Gaston Rahier was the only winner of the “Défi Cartier”, so only one watch was produced. It was this unique piece that was presented at auction and sold online! The watch had remained untouched for 40 years, preserved since the death of the pilot in 2003 in the family of the triple world champion of motocross.