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Auction Report: Phillips Retrospective 2000-2020

Phillips's most recent auction has seen some less traditional pieces come up for sale. This is not the usual onslaught of Patek Phillipe 1513's or tropical 6263's, as this auction celebrates the incredible watchmaking we have witnessed in the past 20 years. Whilst the two aforementioned names of Rolex and Patek are involved, let us take a look at my top 3 picks from other brands...

Phillipe Dufour Simplicity

The conversation around the best watchmakers in the world for me involves these three names: Roger Smith, Rexhep Rexhepi and Phillipe Dufour. Phillipe Dufour is unlike any other watchmaker. He works out of a tiny Swiss workshop, reclusively smoking a pipe and making possible the best time only wristwatches of all time.

His flagship watch, the Simplicity, was a project started 20 years ago. Phillipe's aim was to make 200 watches, and that was it. As a result, anyone lucky enough to have got on the list is the owner of one of the most exclusive and architecturally significant watches of all time. And anyone who did not make the list has had to wait for one to come up on the second-hand market, which so far X number have done, which you can all see below.

To commemorate the end of the line of Simplicities and the 20th anniversary, Dufour made a limited edition of 20 pieces. 7 in Rose Gold, 7 in White Gold, and 7 in Platinum. The one offered at the Phillips Auction is number 00/20, which is taken away from the run to make the 20 pieces. This example is featured in Rose Gold, and as you can see from the photos below, is just spectacular. As with any watch that Dufour touches, the movement is the undisputed star of the show. This Anniversary Simplicity is no exception. Everything from the subtle red rubies, the gentle curvature of the bridges, and the hand-applied Geneva waves culminate in a masterpiece of handcrafting.

I have no words... Just look at that thing

The estimate for this piece was a conservative CHF200,000 - 400,000. To the untrained eye, this may seem like a ludicrous amount for what is when you boil it down a three-hand, time-only wristwatch. However, the exclusivity of the piece itself, and the pure genius of the hands behind them, more than justifies the cost. The hammer price (including fees) was an eye-watering but not surprising, CHF1,361,000 (£1,134,000)

Urwerk UR-103

Urwerk is one of the coolest high-end independents around. In their 20 year history, they have developed a reputation for the unusual and bonkers case design and ways of displaying the time. One of their earliest models, the UR-103, is the watch in question that just sold in this auction.

This particular model was released in 2003. Unlike their previous two models, the UR-101 & 102, this watch completely broke tradition with its unusual rectangular and curved case design. The top of the case, with its cut lines running from 12 to 6, gives off an incredibly industrial, slightly Mad-Max vibe. Outside of the unusual case design, the method for displaying the time was also something very groundbreaking. A core design value of Urwerk is its use of rotating 'satellite' disks to display the time and this piece was one of the first to do it. The hours are mounted on three 'hands' within a cage that rotates as the 'hands' turn and this leads the hours to change. The seconds are displayed on a smiley face-shaped panel at the 6 o'clock position upon which an arrow moves from left to right to display the minutes.

Polarising for definite, but just so, so cool...

The groundbreaking case design, and a revolutionary way of displaying the time, has given this watch cult status and has placed it firmly in contention for the most iconic wristwatch of the past 20 years. Unsurprisingly, the price does reflect this avent-gard design. This particular example of the UR-103 hammered at CHF47,880 (£39,785).

Gronefeld 1941 Remontoire

Some of you may not be familiar with the final watch from my pick. What we have here is a watch from a small brand out of the Netherlands, which has actually been around for over 100 years. They have shot to fame in recent years for their superbly finished movements, and specialism in complications such as remontoire, tourbillions, and also superb three handers. They even collaborated with a small, not well-known watch blog called HODINKEE.

The watch offered in the Phillips auction is the 1941 Remontoire. Without a doubt one of the most technically exciting watches released in recent years. The team behind Gronefeld only ever made 188 Remontoire movements, so this is certainly a limited edition and a special one at that. Outside of the stunning salmon dial (a favourite of mine), the movement architecture is just stunning. Without making this segment a detailed history of the remontoire and how it works, if you would like to find out more, please click here for an in depth conversation with the Gronefeld brothers about this very watch!

Salmon, that movement, yes please...

Whilst to the masses this might seem like a watch from a widely 'unknown' brand, featuring a very niche complication that most people would not appreciate. However both the estimate and the final hammer price for this watch of CHF73,080 (£60,719) show that is is anything but. This watch is superb, as are the rest of the watches offered by Gronefeld, and I strongly advise you to head over to their website and check them out for yourselves.

Outside of this being a slightly unusual auction for Phillips to offer, it has presented watches which are not only iconic, despite some only being a mere 20 years old, but watches which have completely changed the we look at watch design, movement design, and the fundamental process of telling the time. It makes me appreciate that there are still so many ways of revolutionising time even to this day.

Please click here to look at the full auction catalogue. It is worth saying that everytime I looked at the catalogue I could have easily chosen a completely new favourite 3, this was not an easy pick! We would love to hear which watches from this catalogue you would have picked, so drop us an email or slide into our Instagram DM's!

Felix Arnold

Editor & Co-Founder

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