Online luxury auctions have proven so alluring in the pandemic age that even Phillips, a big believer in the enduring appeal of live auctions, is now offering dedicated digital sales more frequently.
This week, for example, the auctioneer’s Hong Kong team is staging two dedicated online-only sales, “Hong Kong: Watches Online Auction I,” which runs July 21 to 27, and “Jewels: Online Auction,” which runs July 22 to 28.
While Phillips has held summer online auctions of jewelry for the last few years, this week’s watch sale — the majority of which is made up of modern pieces — marks the house’s first dedicated online watch auction without a charity component.
“This new online auction is in response to strong demand in the finest timepieces,” Ingrid Hsu, Phillips’ public relations director in Asia, tells Robb Report.
Besides ensuring that prospective buyers no longer need to worry about placing phone or online bids in the middle of the night, the digital format appeals to people new to the auction scene because it offers more convenience and lacks the intimidation factor of live sales.
“Auction is a really ancient way to sell things, and it’s very effective,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ head of watches in the Americas. “As more and more people are digitally savvy, online auctions make sense. There’s room for many people and participants in this space.”
Timepiece and jewelry lovers should take note of the following lots in particular, says Hsu.
Audemars Piguet Ref. 26579CE
“In 2017, Audemars Piguet shook the world of haute horlogerie once again by introducing its state-of-the-art Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic,” Hsu says. “Although the brand has been known to offer bezels and cases in this material, a ceramic bracelet was previously never imagined.
“Inspired by calibre 2120, the slender case on the ref. 26579 houses an automatic calibre 5134, connecting its visual and technical complexity to its predecessors,” she adds. “Along with the traditional calendar functions, the present Royal Oak is presented with weekly indication and a beautiful moon phase display, depicted by a photorealistic moon on an iridescent aventurine background. As the genesis of its line in full ceramic livery, this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic is one of the hottest models, not to mention the most unattainable.”
A. Lange & Söhne Ref. 704.025
“With the Lange 1 originally released in 1994, the Lange 1 Tourbillon was released as a limited edition in precious metals in 2000,” Hsu says.
The 18 pink gold version was made in 250 pieces, Honey gold in 165 pieces in and platinum in just 150 pieces, she adds.
“The Lange 1 Tourbillon steals your attention with its ample aperture showcasing the stunning tourbillon carriage at 6 o’clock,” says Hsu. “The present example numbered 122 of a limited edition of 150 pieces is presented in attractive overall condition. The interesting factor of this present piece is the patina that has developed on the original silver movement, which has now developed uniformly to a much warmer gold hue creating a wonderful contrast against the desired and rare platinum case.”
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5164A-001
“The present timepiece is offered in ‘like new’ overall condition with extremely minimal signs of use and wear,” says Hsu. “The Patek Philippe Aquanaut was launched in 1997 and was the first Patek Philippe to be worn with a resistant rubber strap. Introduced in 2011, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut reference 5164 Travel Time is the very first complicated Aquanaut model.”
Taking its rarity to a whole new level, however, is the fact that the dial bears the Tiffany & Co. name, she adds.
Rolex Ref. 116748SA GMT-Master II
“The present example is a GMT-Master II with a lavishly set bezel in baguette-shaped blue sapphires and white diamonds,” says Hsu. “Pairing the carefully handpicked stones with a warm 18k yellow gold case, the ref. 116748 SA at hand is most certainly a winner according to John Goldberger, famed author of ‘Time to Race’ and long-time connoisseur of Rolexes with a penchant for golden-era vintage Swiss watches.
“With only a handful of examples that have surfaced on the market so far, this is an extremely rare specimen, the last of its kind to feature its highly distinguishable non-diamond-set lugs,” adds Hsu. “Offered in excellent overall condition with its original presentation box, this collectible, historically important and distinctive sports watch will be a beautiful addition to any collection.”
On the jewelry side, keep in mind that about 75 percent of the lots are offered at no reserve, while approximately 25 percent are signed jewels from iconic makers including Bulgari, Chopard, Chaumet, Cartier, Graff, Harry Winston, Mikimoto and Van Cleef & Arpels, with starting bids as low as HK$800, or about $102.
The top lots include a ring set with an 86.22-carat aquamarine in a diamond frame by the Hong Kong-based designer Alexander Laut, best known for his use of rare natural stones; a 2.39-carat Colombian “no oil” emerald ring accented by colored diamonds; a pair of diamond earrings with pear-shaped emerald drops totaling nearly 90 carats and a pair of elaborate earrings centered on bi-colored tourmaline on a backdrop of diamond- and colored sapphire-studded leaves.
“The Alexander Laut piece presents a very large look with a very attractive estimate,” says Hsu. “And the 2.39-carat Colombian ‘no oil’ emerald with pale pink diamond surround is a sweet ring to wear during the summer. The emerald is nice quality with good saturation color.”
Hsu adds that the sale is rife with plenty of pieces that should appeal to “people who want to start or add to their jewelry collections.”