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Christie’s auctions first Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon

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Christie’s Hong Kong is claiming to be the first auctioneer in the world to sell an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon at what it is calling its Marvel(ous) online sale running from today (August 24) until September 7.

The watch was launched as a 250-piece limited edition in April this year priced at CHF 150,000 (around $165,000) and the brand reserved one of the watches for charity. It sold for $5.2 million.

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Christie’s has given the watch an estimate of $380,000 to $650,000, a potential 400% profit for whoever is consigning the piece.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon was launched with the sort of fanfare normally reserved for Hollywood premiers, with comedian Kevin Hart and Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias hosting a live(ish) event in Los Angeles with stars including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Ian Poulter, Anthony Joshua, Lu Han, Jon Gray and Mark Ronson in attendance over video links.

Nothing about this watch launch is aimed at the traditional (older) buyer for high five-figure watches, and that could prove to be a smart long term play with so much wealth creation now in the hands of tech billionaires who grew up immersed in cinematic universes like Marvel’s.

Christie’s has benefited from launching high frequency online auctions at the height of the pandemic last year, and is capitalizing now on the wider audience it attracted to become the world leader by value of watches sold.

Christie’s H1 sales of CHF 84.5 million ($92.6m) was almost double the value of watches sold in the first half of 2019, causing it to leapfrog Phillips to become the biggest auctioneer for timepieces in the world.

Christie’s operated 18 events in the first six months of 2021, of which 14 were online, a model that is attracting a new cohort of younger watch collectors who are the ideal target demographic for the Black Panther piece.

“Following our strong first half, we are thrilled to kick off the second half of the year with a stunning online sale spanning vintage and contemporary, including the famous Audemars Piguet ‘Marvel Black Panther’. This particular example of the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, Lot 46, is the first to be offered for sale at auction, a fantastic opportunity many collectors will no doubt relish,” says Alexandre Bigler, vice president and head of watches at Christie’s Asia Pacific.

The only other known sale of the Black Panther watch was donated by AP to a charity project.

“A one-off version of the same model, created to raise funds for two charities, First Book and Ashoka, sold for US$ 5.2 million, making it the most expensive Audemars Piguet model ever sold. Inevitably, the sale of this unique timepiece has heightened the desirability of the  “Black Panther” of which only 250 were made and all sold,” Mr Bigler describes.

Christie’s Marvel(ous) auction

Other notable watches in the Christie’s sale (described by the auction house) are:

Audemars Piguet Tropical Dial Royal Oak

LOT 45 – Audemars Piguet Tropical Dial Royal Oak Ref. 5402ST ‘A Series’ is much sought after by watch collectors and is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

This particular example is particularly rare as it features a highly desirable ‘tropical’ dial.

This can be traced back to an era when watch companies applied a chemical primer to help the dial retain its showroom fresh appearance.

Ironically, the presence of the chemical caused the dial to assume different tones when exposed to sunlight. The resultant appearance is unique to the dial and is not easily replicated. Needless to say, the ‘tropical’ is in much demand among the watch collecting community.

Consistent with other steel ‘A Series’ models, the AP logo is positioned in the lower portion of the dial, located between the 9th and 11th line. The correct ‘SWISS’ text is stamped and sits below the index at 6 o’clock.

With the passage of time, the black dial has acquired unique areas of bronze-gold hues. When released, Audemars Piguet produced 2000 examples of the ‘A Series’ before it progressed to making the ‘B Series’. This particular example is 843/2000.

Est. HKD 400,000–800,000 / US$ 50,000– 100,000).

Gérald Genta Minute Repeater with Jumping Hour and Retrograde Minutes

LOT 96 – Gérald Genta Minute Repeater with Jumping Hour and Retrograde Minutes. In this instance, Christie’s present a rare watch encompassing a green guilloché dial and platinum case with a distinctive ribbed profile.

The model pairs one of the most technically challenging complications, a minute repeater, with two indications often associated with Mr Genta, jumping hours and retrograde minutes. The minutes are presented on an arcing track.

A lone hand sweeps clockwise from ‘0’ to ‘60’, before returning to its point of origin as the jumping hour, shown at 6 o’clock, advances forward. This particular composition expresses meaning with a notable flurry of style.

Est. HKD 400,000–800,000 / US$ 50,000– 100,000).

Patek Philippe Steel Nautilus with Date Ref. 5711/1A-001

LOT 2 – Patek Philippe Steel Nautilus with Date Ref. 5711/1A-001.

First released in 1976, this iconic sports watch has attracted numerous column inchesand discussions relating to rocketing resale values pervade the collecting community.

Moreover, with several references now discontinued, the pre-owned route is the only means of acquiring a coveted reference from yesteryear.

Housed in a 40mm stainless steel case with a black/blue dial the watch is equipped with an automatic movement and integrated stainless steel bracelet.

Est. HKD 650,000 – 950,000 / US$ 85,000–  125,000).

Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 1579R

LOT 20 – Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 1579R with original certificate.

This exquisite timepiece is housed in a pink gold case. With only 82 known examples of the Ref. 1579R produced in pink gold, this particular watch is very rare, and both gold marks remain visible.

The watch is endowed with so-called ‘spider lugs’. It is largely untouched and is presented in wonderful condition. The dial exhibits a charming mellow aged appearance. The two registers are encircled by applied pink gold Arabic numerals and square indexes.

Unusually, the watch is supplied with the original ‘Certificate of Origin’.

Est. HKD 1,300,000–2,000,000 / US$ 165,000– 250,000).

Patek Philipe Platinum Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref. 3939

LOT 1 – A possibly unique and magnificent Patek Philipe Platinum Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref. 3939.

This paragon of fine watchmaking is wonderfully understated, a characteristic which belies the mechanical complexity within.

The two high complications, a two-gong minute repeater and a tourbillon escapement, require the expertise of the most talented watchmakers and an inordinate amount of time and patience.

Surprisingly, despite such complexity, the platinum case measures a modest 34mm in diameter.

The enamel dial is dressed in black while the hours are denoted with white gold Breguet numerals.

This latter combination differentiates this specific example from the ‘standard’ versions of the Ref. 3939 which came with a white enamel dial.

Indeed, this model, crafted in 1999, is believed to be one of only a few specimens equipped with a black dial.

The ‘Certificate of Origin’ makes reference to the ‘émail noir’. Est. HKD 1,000,000–2,000,000 / US$ 130,000– 230,000).

Patek Philipe Platinum with Date Ref. 3445

LOT 21 – Patek Philipe Platinum with Date Ref. 3445.

Typically this reference was presented in a white or yellow gold case. However, this particular example is housed in platinum, making it one of the rarest and most coveted versions of the Ref. 3445.

The slender hour and minute hands converse with baton style indexes. A date display, often termed ‘monodate’ by collectors, is postioned at 3 o’clock, while a small seconds indication resides above 6 o’clock.

At the heart of this elegantly, understated, watch is the Caliber 27-460, an automatic movement produced by Patek Philippe and finished to the exacting standards of the Geneva Seal.

This provides the perfect opportunity to secure one of the ultimate examples of this Patek Philippe classic.

Est. HKD 400,000–650,000 / US$ 50,000– 85,000).

Rolex Ref. 8171 ‘Padellone’

LOT 177 – Rolex Ref. 8171 ‘Padellone’.

This impressive pink gold example of the legendary Ref. 8171 ‘Padellone’ is of particular distinction as it is one of only six examples to feature the ‘HL Mark II Officially Certified Chronometer’ type dial. The watch is presented in pink gold, again contributing to its rarity.

Indeed, only about 350 pieces were produced in pink gold over a 3 year period, and it is estimated that a mere 32 examples have appeared on the open market in the last 70 years.

The case measures 38mm in diameter, which was considered large when it was produced.

The watch is equipped with dauphine-style hour and minute hands, lapped bullet-style indexes, a small seconds display above 6 o’clock and pointer-style date indication.

Two calendar windows sit beneath the ‘tall’ Rolex crown. The watch has been cleaned perhaps only once or twice throughout its life and the dial now benefits from a prepossessing patina that is highly prized by connoisseurs.

Est. HKD 1,200,000 – 2,000,000 / US$ 150,000–  250,000).

Roger Dubuis Limited Edition White Gold Double Tourbillon

LOT 152 – Roger Dubuis Limited Edition White Gold Double Tourbillon.

This version of the  Excalibur Double Tourbillon has been produced and finished to the exalted standards of the Geneva Seal.

The open-worked hour and minute hands are positioned above a mother-of-pearl dial. An arc-shaped minute track, positioned between 9 and 3 o’clock, provides the basis for the unusual retrograde minutes display.

Two flying tourbillons reside at the base of the dial and are framed with silver-coloured circlets.

Unlike a ‘conventional’ tourbillon, a flying tourbillon eschews an upper bridge/bar, affording superior views of the escapement, regulating organ and cage in motion.

The two flying tourbillons are linked by a differential, augmenting precision.

Housed in a white gold case, this model was produced in a limited series of 28 pieces (this example is No. 9/28).

Roger Dubuis, a fully integrated Manufacture, currently describes its watches as ‘Hyper Horology’ and avant-garde styling aside it is widely accepted that the Genevan firm’s watchmaking prowess is beyond reproach.

Typically, the Maison’s double flying tourbillons attract six-figure pricing, whereas the estimate for this example (Est. HKD 240,000-400,000 / US$ 30,000–50,000) provides a potential opportunity for making a substantial saving on new.

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