A 1947 Omega Tourbillon set a new world record price when it sold at auction in Geneva last week.
Phillips Bacs & Rosso Auction Six in Geneva put a pre-sale estimate of CHF 100-200,000 on the timepiece, but it eventually went under the hammer for CHF 1,43 million (£1.1 million).
Collectors bought into the historical importance of the Omega watch, which was produced as a prototype in 1947 and never intended for sale.
Phillips describes the significance: “In 1947, Omega created twelve Calibre 30 I tourbillon movements of only 30mm in diameter to run in the “wristwatch” category of the Geneva, Neuchatel and Kew-Teddington Observatory trials. In these trials, manufacturers would submit one or several specially prepared movements for competition. Interestingly, these watches were never meant for sale, the purpose of these trials being not only competition but also a testing ground for research on chronometry and of course a marketing and communication tool for the manufacturer in selling their regular production watches.
“In 1987, seven of these twelve movements were discovered by Omega and entirely rebuilt, they were then cased in gold and silver livery and offered to a select group of collectors.
“However, whereas it was always believed that these movements had only been created to participate in Observatory trials, illustrations and information contained in letters preserved at the Omega Museum showcase plans for a 30mm tourbillon movement to be housed in a wristwatch, at least one such movement was created thus increasing the total count of cal. 30 I to thirteen.
“In a letter dated 1947 and preserved in the Omega Museum, Mr. Marcel Vuilleumier, head of the Watchmaking School of the Vallée de Joux, dreading the arrival of American and British timepieces, underlines the necessity of the Swiss watchmaking industry to concentrate on precision timepieces and suggests creating a tourbillon wristwatch. Recently, an original drawing from the year 1947 of the design of a tourbillon wristwatch prototype case was discovered that further illustrates the proceedings towards the integration of the Calibre 30 I tourbillon movement into a production wristwatch.
“The present watch is proof that this project was advanced far enough to produce at least one pre-series model with the 30mm. tourbillon making it superbly and historically relevant.”