Nineteenth century watch fetches $2.25 million at U.S. auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 115-year-old Patek Philippe pink-gold calendar watch fetched $2.25 million in a day-long sale, nearly double the expected price, Christie’s auction house said.

The 18-karat, open-face watch, manufactured by the famed Swiss watchmaker in 1898, had been estimated to fetch up to $1.5 million during sale on Tuesday, but enthusiastic bidding by collectors from some 30 countries drove the price to $2,251,750 including commission.

Christie’s said the buyer was an American private collector. Top bids at “Christie’s Important Watches” sale, which totaled $7.9 million, came almost exclusively from American and Asian collectors.

The price was not a record, but was the most expensive watch Christie’s had ever sold at its New York headquarters, and the highest-priced watch at auction this year.

It also set a record for one of the noted watchmaker’s multi-featured “Grand Complication” timepieces.

“This spring, the market continued to yield record-breaking totals across salerooms in Geneva, Hong Kong and New York and we look forward to continued success in the fall season,” said Douglas Escribano, Christie’s’ head of sales for watches.

The watch includes a perpetual calendar and moon phases, split-second chronograph and “grande and petite sonnerie,” the French term for quarter and hourly striking mechanisms.

Watches, along with other luxury items such as fine art, wine and even cars, continue to draw escalating prices, especially at the highest echelons of the auction market.

Christie’s did not identify the seller of the watch, known as the “Stephen S. Palmer Patek Philippe Grand Complication No. 97912” after its original owner, an industrialist who died in 1913.

Last November, an Asian collector bought a platinum chronograph Patek Philippe once owned by guitarist Eric Clapton for more than $3.6 million, while a Patek Philippe supercomplication watch soared to more than $11 million in 1999.

Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Sandra Maler