Auction Review: Sotheby’s Fine Watches Summer Sale

Shreeya Maskey
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Sotheby’s Fine Watches Auction came to an end on September 2nd, 2021. The sale brought together a wide range of collectible watches and clocks by luxury brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, and others.

Audemars Piguet reference 15305OR.OO.D088CR.01 Royal Oak wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.
Audemars Piguet reference 15305OR.OO.D088CR.01 Royal Oak wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.

An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak wristwatch highlighted the recent Sotheby’s fine watches sale. With an estimate ranging from USD 40,000 to $100,000, the piece achieved $88,200.

Invented in 1972 by designer Gérald Genta, the Royal Oak wristwatch changed the course of technology and design in the watch industry. Powered using a 2120/2800 movement, the stainless steel watch became one of the most popular Audemars Piguet models. The name “Royal Oak” was inspired by the Royal Oak battleship that saved King Charles II of England in the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

Rolex reference 116519 Daytona Beach wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.
Rolex reference 116519 Daytona Beach wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.

Rolex’s reference 116519 Daytona Beach wristwatch also led the auction. The timepiece sold for $63,000. As Rolex stepped into the 1960s, the company found great success from the launch of the first Daytona model. Named after Florida’s Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona watch celebrated the association between Rolex chronographs and motorsport. This watch, which features an 18-karat white gold case, also has an automatic chronograph movement.

Since the development of quartz watches in the 1970s, the Swiss watchmaking industry has been striving for innovation. In the 1980s, the industry shifted from quartz to mechanical watches. However, Philippe Stern, then the president of Patek Philippe, decided instead to strengthen the brand’s heritage by launching the Patek Philippe reference 3940 watch. It is recognized as one of the first highly complex timepieces ever produced.

Patek Philippe, reference 3940 First Series perpetual calendar wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.
Patek Philippe, reference 3940 First Series perpetual calendar wristwatch. Image from Sotheby’s.

“It marked a return for high-end watch brands. At the moment, I think the 3940 is more important to Patek Philippe themselves than to collectors, as they know just how significant this release was for the continuity of their brand,” said Sean Song, a vintage watch dealer and collector, about the reference.

The yellow gold wristwatch has a perpetual calendar with indications of moon phases, leap years, and the time on a 24-hour clock. Produced in 1987, Patek Philippe reference 3940 watches are best known for their elegant looks and simple design. In the recent Sotheby’s fine watches auction, an example was offered with a high estimate of $100,000. It sold for $56,700, just over the low estimate. This watch dates back to Patek Philippe’s first series of the reference 3940 watch, which included a German dial.

Looking for more reviews of recent events in the auction industry? Read Auction Daily’s coverage of a Phillips NFT sale featuring the work of ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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