Creation of a New Watch Trade Show in Geneva in Collaboration with the Fondation DE La Haute Horlogerie

Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard and Tudor leave Baselworld to create a new watch trade show in Geneva with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. The show will be held early April 2021 at Palexpo, at the same time as Watches & Wonders. This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations.

The new show, which will be linked to Watches & Wonders, organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, is to take place at Palexpo. The aim is to offer partner brands the best possible professional platform, applying a shared vision to successfully meet future challenges in the watchmaking industry. It will also give crucial prominence to the sector’s expertise and innovations, both in Switzerland and internationally.

Other brands may also be added, according to terms that have not yet been defined. This new event will be geared predominantly towards retailers, the press and VIP customers.

Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Chief Executive Officer, Rolex SA, and Board Member, Montres Tudor SA, said: “We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw. Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”

Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe said: “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event. But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present.

We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible.

That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.“

Frédéric Grangié, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery said: “Like its partners, CHANEL shares the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This initiative marks a key milestone in the history of CHANEL Watchmaking and is part of a long-term strategy, which began with the launch of this activity in 1987. This exhibition will allow us to present all of our new creations in an environment that meets our high-quality standards.”

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President Chopard et Cie SA said: “Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964 with a stand of some 25 square metres. After careful consideration, our family decided to support the Rolex initiative and retire from Baselworld – a painful decision. The creation of this new watch show in Geneva, in parallel to Watches & Wonders, will allow us to better serve our watchmaking partners and our customers. Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”

Jérôme Lambert, on behalf of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council said: “The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is delighted to welcome a new salon which will strengthen the historical Watches & Wonders event in Geneva next year in early April.”

Further information will be published at a later date, in particular concerning the name of the new watch fair and its organization.

Patek Philippe

The Christie’s annual Hong Kong autumn auctions (22-27 November) achieved a total of HK$2.6 billion / $337 million (including buyer’s premium), and saw artist records established for Asian and Western artists, including Sanyu, Kim Whan-Ki and Eddie Martinez.

Patek Philippe

Almost 14,000 visitors came to see the extraordinary breadth of objects spanning 20th Century and Contemporary Asian Art, Chinese Paintings and Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, as well as jewels, handbags and wine. The series, which spanned five days and 17 live sales, drew bidders from 50 countries and a new generation of collectors, with over 20 per cent of buyers classified as ‘millennials’.

Patek Philippe

Among the many stand-out results of the season were a Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 in pink gold, which realised HK$70,175,000, becoming the most expensive wristwatch ever to be auctioned in Asia; and an exceptionally rare six-bottle case of Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 1999 burgundy, which fetched HK$937,500 in the Fine & Rare Wines and Spirits auction.

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime set a new world record as the most expensive watch ever sold!

The Grandmaster Chime in steel became the world’s most expensive watch after being sold at the Only Watch 2019 auction for a staggering price of 31’200’000. – USD.

The Grandmaster Chime reference 6300A-010 was created specially for Only Watch 2019. It stands out as the first and only version of this timepiece ever produced in stainless steel. The one and only Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime made in stainless steel.

It is the first Patek Philippe grande-sonnerie wristwatch ever added to the company’s current collection. The grand complication Ref. 6300A-010 unites accomplishment and elegance in this new and unique stainless steel version boasting two dials in rose gold and black ebony. The reversible case, adorned with a guilloched hobnail pattern, is notable for its patented reversing mechanism.

This exceptional grand complication features 20 complications in its stainless steel case, including no fewer than five chiming modes, two of which are patented world firsts: an acoustic alarm that strikes the preselected time and a date repeater sounding the date on demand.

The shine of this metal, rarely used with a Patek Philippe Grand Complication, is particularly striking when combined with the hand-guilloched hobnail pattern which perpetuates the tradition of rare handcrafts.

The special words “The Only One”, which appear at 12 o’clock on the auxiliary dial, further enhance the exclusive value of this unique timepiece.

Complicated watchmaking is the supreme test of the designer’s expertise and watchmakers’ skill. Patek Philippe masters all horological complications and has twice this century built the world’s most complicated portable timepiece.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeating Wristwatch

Getting on for 100 years old, this rare minute repeater was the first Patek Philippe wristwatch ever owned by the 20th century’s most celebrated watch collector. Sabine Kegel, Head of Watches in Geneva, explains why it is such an important object.

On 16 June 1928, Henry Graves Jr. walked into the headquarters of Patek Philippe in Geneva — located then, as now, at 41 rue du Rhône — and collected the watch pictured above, a yellow gold tonneau-shaped Patek Philippe minute repeater, which he had ordered a year earlier.

Graves had another three complicated pocket watches on order from Patek Philippe at the time, as well as the Supercomplication, which would become for 56 years the most complicated watch the world had ever seen. But the man was insatiable. His passions ranged from paperweights to motorboats to Old Master prints. Yet more than anything, he loved to collect watches.

‘He was American aristocracy, the son of the financier Henry Graves Sr., and became extremely rich through banking and investments in the railroad,’ explains Sabine Kegel, Christie’s Head of Watches in Geneva, where the watch sold for CHF 4,575,000 in November 2019. ‘Among watch collectors he is a legendary figure.’

The Supercomplication for which he is most celebrated had a remarkable 25 complications — including a sky chart that displayed the correct spacing of the stars in the Milky Way above his Manhattan home at 834 Fifth Avenue.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeating Wristwatch

Between 1922 and 1951 Graves ordered no fewer than 39 watches from Patek Philippe. To realise them, the manufacturers engaged the services of not only the finest master watchmakers of the first half of the 20th century, but also the most brilliant astronomers and mathematicians. It’s probably fair to say that Graves’ commissions would help to keep the company afloat after its finances were damaged by the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

‘After three years in development, Graves needed to sign off the final drawings for the Supercomplication,’ Kegel continues. ‘Graves and his wife Florence sailed for Europe in the RMS Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic. It was in the midst of doing this that he acquired this minute repeater — his first Patek Philippe wristwatch, and also thought to be the first minute repeating wristwatch made by Patek Philippe.

Sabine Kegel, Christie’s Head of Watches in Geneva

‘Bear in mind that wristwatches had only evolved some 20 years previously, and were often little more than modified pocket watches,’ the specialist continues. ‘A wristwatch fitted with a minute repeater, in an age when watches were entirely made by hand, presented enormous challenges.’ Indeed, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Patek Philippe is thought to have made fewer than three dozen minute repeaters.

Graves owned three of them. In 2014 Christie’s sold a Patek Philippe with a cushion-shaped platinum case for CHF 1,205,000, then equivalent to around $1.34 million. Another platinum minute repeater, but tonneau-shaped like this gold one, is housed in the Patek Philippe Museum Collection. Which means that the Geneva auction represented possibly the last opportunity to purchase a Graves minute repeating wristwatch for a very long time.

The Graves Family Motto, Esse Quam Videri

‘Not only is it a very good-looking watch, it is also an attractive size,’ says Kegel. ‘At that time men’s watches were smaller, more like the size of women’s watches today. This is huge — almost 4cm long — even by today’s standards.

‘It has the added advantage of improving the sound of the minute repeating mechanism, which is also enhanced by the relative softness and malleability of gold, in comparison to platinum.’

John Reardon, Christie’s Senior International Watch Consultant, is equally enamoured of this rare treasure. ‘Few watches capture my imagination more than this one — it was Henry Graves Jr.’s first wristwatch repeater, and it was a watch that he actually wore on his wrist and used occasionally, unlike his pocket watches, which were typically hidden away,’ he comments.

‘Everything about Henry Graves Jr. was discreet, and the understated elegance of this watch is trumpeted with the Graves family crest and motto, Esse Quam Videri [To Be, Rather Than to Seem] on the caseback. For watch collectors, owning a piece from Henry Graves Jr.’s collection is the ultimate grail. To be able to own an oversized complicated wristwatch owned by Graves surpasses even that dream.’

Pascal Grenacher: Dear John, it’s great to see you again, this time in London. Can you tell us something about this Dubai Watch Week Forum in London?

John Reardon: When it comes to London, you could say that it is a hotbed of horology. Although we do not have many watch sales here, many of our clients have come to live and work here. That is why we often spend time in London – one of the central hubs of horology. Not to mention that purchasing power and craftsmanship are at a very high level in London, especially when it comes to the watch industry. It is exactly why we are here. It is all about tradition here in the UK. That is why we think this is the perfect place for Dubai Watch Week.


Pascal Grenacher: Before we delve deeper into the subject, I would like to thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome; here in your lovely London Headquarters. Now, could you please tell us more about Christie’s and it’s early days, before we move on to your watch business?

John Reardon: Of course. For Christie’s, it all began in the 18th century. Back then, it was only a small house. Today, we are proud to say that Christie’s Auction House is one of the leaders in art business around the globe. The progress made throughout all these decades and centuries is truly something special. Quite an extraordinary story, really. I would say that all the people involved are at the core of its amazing development. From our department and management to the administrators and people who work here at Christie’s, every single person contributes with their heart and soul to help reach success. It is all about fine art, luxury items, and creating something beautiful – which is what makes working at Christie’s a unique and enjoyable experience.

If you compare our world, the watch industry, to other branches, like jewellery making, you can see that we are still very young. Timepieces have always been my passion, and even though we have created something extraordinary with Christie’s in our field of expertise, we have to keep in mind that there are masters of similar craft who have been around for much longer than us. You could say that watch collecting did not really hit the stride until the late 1980s. Look at the 1989 Patek Philippe auction – it was then that the traditional auction houses truly began to grow. In other words, that was when things became interesting for watch enthusiasts and, of course, for Christie’s.

We embraced various sales channels, mainly those regarding watches, of course, and our business expanded beyond auctions. Today, we have numerous clients and our online business is consistently thriving. At the moment we have a few live sales online, with up to 200 pieces being uploaded monthly, bringing in new clients, and new price points.

We are at a point where we are successfully attracting buyers who possibly never even thought of buying a watch at an auction house in their life; at least not until they became familiar with Christie’s.


Pascal Grenacher: When did the online business really took off for you, what do you think? Two, three years ago?

John Reardon: From day one, my drive, my passion was directed towards selling watches, and doing it online was a very interesting proposal. But it didn’t really launch up until, let’s say, about four years ago. Luckily, since then, we have managed to create a valid business method, with clients that trust us. Out of nowhere it really exploded and started becoming bigger and bigger. In the past, having a million-dollar sale online was unheard of. For us, today, it is no big deal. As of now, we are working on our first potential two-million-dollar sale online, with other sales planned for October, and December. The best thing about it is, it is a completely independent business and in no way does it affect the rest of our plans and projects. The same team is working on both ends.


Pascal Grenacher: Are the people who buy from you online the same clients you encounter at auction houses or private sales?

John Reardon: At the end of the day, when I look at the list, where we have hundreds of names of the people that bought from us, there will always be many, many people I do not know. Then again, if we take a look at specific live sales where we can see who the buyers and underbidders are, there will definitely be names that we are already familiar with. Sometimes, these people are Christie’s art clients, sometimes it is a completely new audience – which is what makes this type of business extremely profitable. They might have simply seen an advertisement on social media and chose to trust us in helping them buy their first $10,000 watch. Another thing that is incredible, we are able to track people’s journeys through these online sales. They would start by buying a watch and possibly end up shopping for some new jewellery, painting, etc. Thus, our clients can explore our whole world of luxury brands from the comfort of their own home.


Pascal Grenacher: Do you use this data as part of a marketing strategy, with the purpose of perhaps finding new solutions and ideas for future customers?

John Reardon: That all depends on the opt-in; what the customer chooses to do. If they are looking for more information and suggestions from us, the platform is intended to provide it. Let’s say that someone is interested in Patek Philippe. They will, of course, receive appropriate suggestions of watches that appear automatically, but also via our team. We are always focused on providing clients with the pieces they find interesting. It is also possible to help clients find new pieces they never heard of before, by combining all the necessary information, from our platform, private sales and traditional auctions.


Pascal Grenacher: How many people work at Christie’s for the timepieces department?

John Reardon: Our team consists of twenty-seven people, from all around the world. When I started doing business in the watch industry, or watch auctions, to be more precise, in the late 1990s, it was hard finding reliable and valid information. Back then, there were no watch communities, at least not like today. You had books and people who were watches specialists and knew everything there is to know about this line of work. Luckily, today, Christie’s watch department is a global network, consisting of specialists, ready to give clients the right information right away. Whatever a client needs, whether it is information about vintage Rolex pieces or Vacheron Constantin, we have someone focused on that particular branch that will provide all the necessary information.


Pascal Grenacher: Talking about specialists, you mentioned Patek Philippe. Could you tell us more about your collaboration and how it all started?

John Reardon: Yes, I came across Patek Philippe while working for another auction house in the late 1990s, right after graduating college. At first, I was quite fascinated with Rolex, which people who know me today might find really funny. It did not take long for Patek Philippe to become my main ’obsession’ and after spending four years in the auction world, I got the dream phone call. Patek Philippe offered me a job, and for a decade I worked for Patek Philippe USA. I had the most amazing experience working with them.

While working there, my only exposure to professional vintage pieces was when they were coming in for service. Incredible pieces passed down from generation to generation, that would never be sold at an auction. I felt the need to further satisfy my passion, and so I wrote three books on the history of the company while working for them. It was a kind of a love letter, a way to show my gratitude to the brand and the manufacturer. Ten years have passed so quickly, and it was these books that helped me realize how much I had missed watches. That is why coming to Christie’s remains one of the best decision I have ever made. A wonderful opportunity to work with the greatest Patek Philippe collectors on a daily basis yet again, constantly travelling and meeting them. I do not actually see them as my clients now; I consider them my lifelong friends. Our work together is nothing short of a wonderful and thrilling journey – one that I hope will last many years to come.


Pascal Grenacher: Well said, it is clear how much this means to you and how much passion you have for this business.

John Reardon: Indeed, it is a great company. So many beautiful, innovating timepieces, so much intelligent people working hard, and pleasant surprises along the way.


Pascal Grenacher: Speaking of Dubai Watch Week, we talked about the connection with the event taking place in Dubai for the first three editions. Now, for the first time, it does not actually take place in Dubai – how did this opportunity for you arise?

John Reardon: Actually, Christie’s has had the pleasure to be part of Dubai Watch Week from the very beginning. I, personally, was part of the first and third edition. Christie’s has been involved in all three. The idea of bringing it here to London appeared shocking to me at first. But, when you think about it, what the vision of Dubai Watch Week presents; it is unlike any other event. Normally, politics and similar nonsense tend to find their way into these things.

Dubai Watch Week is different because it is so pure and positive. It is about the exchange of ideas, an event from which people walk away feeling good and happy. You have all the brands, auction houses and collectors in one place, which is fantastic. We all have the same vision and a common goal, which is to share knowledge and grow together in this business that we so dearly love. When all is said and done, bringing Dubai Watch Week to London undoubtedly makes sense; and not just London – this wonderful concept should be spread around the world for people to take part in and enjoy.