Bonhams New York Watch Sale Breaks World Record, and Totals More than $1.5-Million

Department director Charles Tearle, transferred from Bonhams London to the US in early 2006, established the US Watch Department only 18 months ago- the first sale was held in New York in December 2006. After this successful watch sale – the first for the New York gallery – Charles was able to consign an array of interesting and fresh-to-the-market watches from collectors across the United States. This impressive sale of 209 lots was conducted on June 12, 2007.

The highlight of the sale was, without doubt, the stainless steel Rolex moonphase calendar wristwatch that Charles described as in ‘exceptional original condition.’ Tearle commented, “After 17 years of involvement in fine vintage watches, it was the finest I have ever seen offered for sale at public auction.” His enthusiasm for the rare Rolex was reinforced by bidders with the successful buyer paying $201,600, a new world record for this model. Interestingly, only three weeks earlier, Bonhams London’s fine watch sale also established a new world record for a Rolex watch, according to the auctioneers, establishing both the UK and US departments as future market leaders.

Other June highlights from Rolex included an Oyster cased version of moonphase calendar wristwatch, this example in 18k gold, selling for $98,400, a rare stainless steel Rolex made for Officine Panerai and issued to Italian Navy Frogmen during World War II proved desirable at $69,000. Several lots provided a clear sign in market demand for steel Rolex sport watches made as recently as 1978, with two versions of the famous Daytona model from that year being acquired for $39,000 and $27,600. Similarly, two steel Rolex GMT models exceeded expectations with a fine original 1959 model selling for $28,800 and a 1960 version for $13,200.

Tearle commented, “There is clearly a very strong demand for good original 1960s and ‘70s steel Rolex sports watches of all types at the moment.” Attracting strong interest is the vintage Rolex Daytona, a watch that could be bought new as recently as the early 1980s for only $1,000. Today it can make 30 times that figure.

Cartier watches inspired predicted strong bidding for a unique platinum Tank, platinum and diamond 1920s cocktail watch, and for a 1930s 18k gold Tank Americaine, all hammered down by the auctioneer within the pre-sale estimates. Vintage Patek Philippe watches provided strong bidding with pocket watches generally exceeding their estimates — a Russian market example finally hammering after strong bidding at almost four times its pre-sale low estimate and a fine minute repeating split-second chronograph example achieving more than three times its low estimate, bringing $27,000.

In an synopsis of the sale Charles Tearle remarks, “Overall I am pleased with the results achieved this month, it has proven without doubt that Bonhams New York is competitive in the marketplace and can attract strong bidding both domestically and internationally.” Successful buyers participated from London, Paris, Sweden, Italy and Hong Kong (where Bonhams has recently opened an office and where the firm will be holding their first watch auction in November this year).

As a final comment, Charles added: “I believe the Bonhams Watch Department in America will see multi-million dollar watch auctions being held in New York within a very short period.”