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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

In this series we showcase mechanical and artistic wonders that were especially designed for women and others originally for men that come alive on spirited ladies’ wrists. The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction X lined up a number of instantly loveable pieces. We browsed the lots at the preview and selected a few.

UPDATE – you can see all the results of the GWAX auction here.

The blooming watch auction market is a great opportunity for gentlewomen to hunt down interesting and unusual timepieces. In former decades smaller sizes met designs that are far more daring in many cases than the shapes of today. A Breitling Chronomat with that busy flight-computer dial from the late 40s on 36mm is probably one of the best steel accessories a cool lady can get for a workday in 2019. Even the jewellery pieces have a rare spirit hard to find in a new-born. For all these reasons, a growing number of women take part in these auctions, actively bidding for the targets of their desire.

Let us highlight a couple of master pieces from the sale preview. Some are edgy and masculine, while others more delicate, jewellery-like feminine examples.

Lots 236 and 237 – Piaget Manchette

The loud and buzzing 60s and 70s had a great influence on Piaget’s creations. In 1967 they started making watches with dials in coloured hard stones; such as lapis-lazuli, jade, rubellite, onyx, tiger’s eye or hawk’s eye. These are extremely feminine and fine pieces, which can even be worn as jewellery. Great examples for this style are the signature Cuff (or Manchette) watches – also worn by Elizabeth Taylor. One of her Piaget pieces (a yellow gold watch with a green hard stone dial) was auctioned by Christie’s at ‘The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor’ sale in 2011 (hammer down at USD 80,500).

Piaget is well known for its emblematic women’s watches – basically every season brings new creations in which high jewellery meets horology. Since the Maison has workshops specialising in gold-smithing and jewellery, the timepieces often feature exceptional silky or textured metal bracelets.

Phillips offers two lots, one in yellow gold and another in white gold, which is much rarer. The Lot 236 is an 18k yellow gold, diamond-set beauty from 1972 with a malachite dial, with brilliant diamonds and malachite cabochons scattered throughout the bracelet – looking like tiny leaves on the twisting gold branches.

Lots 236 Piaget Manchette 18k yellow gold, diamond set
Lots 236 Piaget Manchette 18k yellow gold, diamond set
Lots 237 Piaget Manchette white gold openwork textured bangle watch with lapis lazuli dial
Lots 237 Piaget Manchette white gold openwork textured bangle watch with lapis lazuli dial

The Lot 237 is slightly more reserved, but still a statement piece from 1973 – a white gold openwork textured bangle watch with a lapis lazuli dial. The oval shaped dial (35mm x 24mm) is integrated on the bracelet, perfectly illustrating Piaget’s expertise in both worlds: jewellery and watch making.

The timepieces have the thin calibre 9P. This movement enabled the brand to excel in design by not compromise on mechanical reliability and comfort.

Piaget brings this design back in contemporary models, such as the Extremely Piaget cuff watch or the Limelight Couture Précieuse Cuff Watch. The Graceful Ballet Cuff Watch from the Piaget Sunlight Escape high jewellery line also appeared in the high jewellery collection. At the 2016 Haute Couture Fashion Week a white gold cuff watch with diamonds and a dial in lapis lazuli was presented too.

Lot 238 – Patek Philippe Ref. 3588/2

I love when a watch and bracelet create an unrepeatable unity. The texture on the dial, the bezel and the bracelet of the white gold, 35.5mm Patek Philippe 3588/2 from 1974 reminds me slightly of the classic Missoni patterns.

The black Breguet numerals and the cool silvered surface show a nice contrast. To date, not more than four examples of the Reference 3588/2 have appeared on the market in this particular configuration (there are other models with a plain dial or diamond set bezel).

Lot 238 Patek Philippe Ref. 3588/2
Lot 238 Patek Philippe Ref. 3588/2

Lot 205 – Patek Philippe Ref. 3497/1

For those beating for asymmetric designs, the next lot will be a real treat. The white gold Patek Philippe Ref. 3497/1 is set with about 30 diamonds on the sides and 4 baguette-cut gemstones in the indexes. The white gold bracelet connects invisibly to the 27.5mm wide case.

Reference 3497, produced between 1963 and 1965 only is incredibly rare. Like the previous Patek Philippe lot, only four pieces of this reference have appeared at auctions.

As Phillips declares in the catalogue the watch is meant to be worn as a dress accessory with a tuxedo for gentlemen – I think it is a very dashing choice for gentlewomen as well. Just picture it with a black smoking or a crisp, white, elegant shirt.

Lot 205 Patek Philippe Ref. 3497/1
Lot 205 Patek Philippe Ref. 3497/1

Lot 181 – IWC Yacht Club model with enamel dial

Phillips often dedicates separate chapters to artistic watches, including enamel decorated timepieces. There were many great examples at former auctions, for instance a Rolex ‘La Caravelle’ Enamel Watch Ref. 6102 or the Patek Philippe World Time Pocket watch with a cloisonné enamel dial in the same article.

This IWC 35.5mm watch is a hot Yacht Club model in 18k yellow gold with a Gay Frères bracelet and an astonishing enamel dial. The dial is unusual for this model, but also for that time, since in 1977, when this piece came to be, cloisonné enamel dials were already over their fashion in the 1950s/60s. The interesting configuration has raised questions whether the watch was born like this, but the heritage department of IWC Schaffhausen and the experts of Phillips have opined that it was.

The flower motif was created with the ‘cloisonné’ technique, where small strips are added on top of the metal dial to create the enamel compartments. These strips are extremely fine (around 0.07mm) and they are bent and applied by hand to the dial, creating individual cells. Colours are then picked out for each cell in order to create the cloister effect, the moist powder enamel fills each cell. Multiple layers of enamel are applied to the cloisonné dial for more depth. If you are interested in enamel techniques, please visit our article here.

Lot 181 IWC Yacht Club model with enamel dial
Lot 181 IWC Yacht Club model with enamel dial

Lot 111 – Audemars Piguet Ref. 5419BC

The beginning of the 70s brought along one of the watch world’s great icons. ‘To break the rules, you must first master them’ – is how Audemars Piguet characterises the Royal Oak collection. In 1972 they shocked the industry with the series designed by Gerald Genta and named after the ships of the British Royal Navy. It was not only the size that was far larger than what was in vogue at the time, but the models also came in steel and in an unusual shape.

The shape universe of Audemars Piguet was particularly rich in this era and the following timepiece is also the result of their design experiments.

The Ref. 5419BC can be an ever-classy, elegant addition to a watch-wardrobe. It has a 39x35mm oval case in white gold and without any lugs. The dial is quite unusual too. Depending on the light it sometimes looks black other times grey or even dark blue. It has white Roman numerals and a date window at 3 o’clock. The Audemars Piguet extra slim calibre 2121, measuring a mere 2.45mm helps to keep a nice, slim proportion.

Lot 111 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5419BC
Lot 111 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5419BC
Lot 111 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5419BC
Lot 111 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5419BC

Another thematic auction by Phillips Watches lined up pieces Double Signed by brands and retailers. Check out our selection here.

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