Currently, we are seeing a significant increase in the interest of collectors in watches created by independent watchmakers and small creative brands. We intend to support this trend through our work – in searching for important and attractive timepieces, in making accurate assessments of their prospects, and in researching and providing information that we publish while presenting watches we have selected for auction. Watchmaking, and above all the works of independent watchmakers and small creative brands, needs explaining = and a good amount of publicity. Without this, how else can one explain the value and difference between a timepiece produced by an independent watchmaker and an ordinary watch bought in a regular store? They both have hands, and they both tell us the time…
The topic of ‘independents’ seems to us – and we hope to the growing circle of our clients, friends and followers of our pages on social media as well – extremely exciting and important. We are, therefore, going to dedicate our May auction solely to independent watchmakers and small creative brands, and, moreover, mainly to unique pieces and extremely rare watches. The market of previously-enjoyed timepieces has already formed a list of ‘blue chips’, yet we are sure that this list is still far from complete. Many masters and their excellent watches deserve special attention.
We are going to dedicate our May auction solely to independent watchmakers and small creative brands, and, moreover, mainly to unique pieces and extremely rare watches.
We always strive to give special care and attention to these timepieces, ensuring they are noticed by connoisseurs and collectors if we believe that they remain underestimated. Our approach is based on a simple idea, which can be summarised thus: the number of independent watchmakers and small creative brands seems considerable and it increases every year, though the total result of their production on a planetary scale is extremely small. At the same time, the attractiveness of the watches they create and the charisma of the personalities behind them are often so high that we will soon encounter what for professionals in the market would be a concerning phenomenon – the owners of the best examples will not rush to part with them, even with the temptation of making a good profit.
The preparations for the May auction are still very much in progress at the moment, however, we can already share a few snippets about some of the fundamentally important lots and the watchmakers and brands that created them.
Gérald Genta is now considered one of the most influential designers in contemporary watchmaking. His legacy is outstanding. The most important part of it, the design of the Royal Oak and Nautilus watches, is now arguably more overrated than underestimated. However, among the numerous versions of these designs, there are still a few models that, in our opinion, remain underrated. The reputation of the creator of Royal Oak and Nautilus, as well as hundreds of other designs, is higher than ever. Therefore, many of the beautiful creations of the brand he founded (Bulgari now owns the trademark Gérald Genta) have very good prospects in the secondary market.
This applies in particular to collector’s watches – produced as one-of-a-kind pieces, commissioned, or used as an illustration of the brand’s technical excellence. It should be noted here that in most cases, the downward price correction relative to the official retail price that occurs in the market is fair, something which is true of the watches of many other independent watchmakers and small creative brands. Often, their list prices are perceived by collectors as too high, overpriced compared to other brands, with the secondary market currently taking away an unfair, unjustified part of the cost.
The most important part of it, the design of the Royal Oak and Nautilus watches, is now arguably more overrated than underestimated. However, among the numerous versions of these designs, there are still a few models that, in our opinion, remain underrated.
For the collector and discerning connoisseur, this situation cannot but be seen as favourable. For a fraction of the price, they can purchase outstanding timepieces with good growth potential. These findings allow us to take a fresh look at models such as the Gérald Genta Grande Sonnerie Carillon Westminster Tourbillon Ref. GS1.X.20.893.CN.BA Piece Unique. The ultra-complex movement with the functions of a grand chime on four gongs, a minute repeater and a tourbillon, marked by the Poinçon de Genève quality mark, is the obvious asset of this watch. Another positive is the branded design of the Aréna collection, close to the Empire style, which is complemented by the baroque aesthetics of the finishing of its caliber, right down to the luxuriously meticulous relief engraving of the fleurisanne style. A subtle but very significant aspect for the connoisseur is the reversed hand-fitting scheme of the caliber, so that the chiming and repeating mechanism, which is usually situated under the dial, is fitted on the reverse side of the watch, while the time indication, tourbillon, striking hammers and gongs are on the dial side of the watch. This scheme was used in Gérald Genta Grande Sonnerie watches extremely rarely – much less often than other, self-winding versions which lacked this feature. Therefore, the introduction of this extremely rare hand-wound timepiece to the market is an important event.
Kari Voutilainen is one of the brightest members of the independent watchmakers’ community. He started his own brand in 2002, offering watches with restored and largely modernised vintage calibers, most often repeaters and famous chronometric calibers. In 2011, he introduced the Vingt-8 watch, equipped with a caliber of his own design and completely manufactured in his workshop – the first fully Voutilainen in-house watch movement, unique even in the design of the escapement. The Voutilainen in-house calibers are perceived as aesthetically superior, with connoisseurs primarily noting the large balance and the exquisite tourbillon-style balance bridge. Both the vintage calibers and Voutilainen's own calibers feature a very high level of fine finishing on all components. This aspect is extremely highly valued by collectors and connoisseurs, and the reputation of the master in this regard is undeniable.
Voutilainen’s unique pieces appear extremely rarely on the market, for a simple reason – the owners of his watches, as a rule, do not want to part with them.
An attractive additional feature of Kari Voutilainen watches are dials with a guilloché decoration. In this craftsmanship, the brand is also very highly rated, especially after 2014, when Voutilainen acquired the watch dial manufacturer Dialtech (now renamed Comblémine SA). Ineichen’s May auction will feature the 28INV-1/1 Unique Piece with a hand-wound in-house caliber in an unusual one-of-a-kind custom version with reversed hand-fitting and golden caliber parts. Voutilainen’s unique pieces appear extremely rarely on the market, for a simple reason – the owners of his watches, as a rule, do not want to part with them. Therefore, the appearance of this unique piece is a truly exciting event and we look forward to the start of the auction.
François-Paul Journe has arguably been the biggest news generator on the auction market in recent years among independent watchmakers, with his watches, especially early and rare examples, having shown incredible dynamism. François-Paul Journe, from the very moment of the launch of his brand F. P. Journe Invenit et Fecit in 1999, sought to position it by distancing itself as much as possible from the trends and moods existing on the market. In this sense, he should be seen as the leader of the independents’ motion in watchmaking, if not formally, then at least in terms of the reputation and status he has earned. This status imposes its requirements on the master himself and his creativity – he continues to follow his own path, which is determined by his own feeling and passions in watchmaking.
Journe’s early style, especially with regard to the design of the caliber, shows a clear influence of the creative heritage of Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Journe uses only his own calibers, which since 2004 have been made almost exclusively of solid 18k rose gold. However, sometimes – very rarely – he resorts to brass movements when his plan and historical correctness require it. Historical correctness was the main reason for this choice in the production of the limited edition 30 Years Anniversary Tourbillon Ref. T30, which will be presented at the Ineichen auction in May, 2023. Both in the case and dial of this watch and in the execution of its caliber 1412, François-Paul Journe has sought to reproduce the characteristic features of his first pocket watch from 1983, the 30th anniversary of which this limited edition launched in 2013 celebrates. The brass parts of the caliber 1412 are gilded in the traditional frosted finish technique, as on his first pocket watch from 1983.
Journe’s early style, especially with regard to the design of the caliber, shows a clear influence of the creative heritage of Abraham-Louis Breguet. The strictly symmetrical arrangement, the clear straight and round contours, the large blued screws and the wide rectilinear tourbillon cage are reminiscent of the movements of the historically important pocket watches created by Abraham-Louis Breguet in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This is a very rare but extremely attractive design for a modern wristwatch. This factor determines the unique status of the Ref. T30 in the master’s collection, making it an extremely attractive target for collectors. We’re very pleased to present this rare timepiece to the connoisseurs of F. P. Journe watchmaking art.