Four Extremely Rare And Important Philippe Dufour Watches To Be Auctioned

Four Extremely Rare And Important Philippe Dufour Watches To Be Auctioned

By Richard Fox

“One of the most eminent watchmakers of our time”

Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo

Any discussion about current leading independent watchmakers will without doubt include mention of Philippe Dufour. Auctioneers, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo have just announced that they will offer a full set of four Philippe Dufour watches at their upcoming Geneva Watch Auction: XIV to be held in November 2021. 

The four watches have been consigned by a private collector and all are fresh to the auction market. The group of four includes a Grande & Petite Sonnerie pocket watch Number 1 in yellow gold, a Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch number 1 in yellow gold, the Duality in pink gold and the Simplicity (37mm) in platinum. Phillips note this will be a “unique opportunity” and the first time in auction history that these four watches will be offered by one auction house at the same auction. 

An independent watchmaker since the late 1970s, Philippe Dufour restored antique and vintage timepieces, which led him ten years later to develop a very small series of pocket and wrist Grande Sonnerie watches. These were followed by the Duality, the world’s first wristwatch incorporating a double escapement, and finally the Simplicity, featuring a movement architecture designed to demonstrate hand finishing and decoration. In the span of over 30 years since he created his eponymous brand, Dufour created only these four models under his name.

A Philippe Dufour wristwatch achieves over a million pounds at auction. 

Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo have previously auctioned Philippe Dufour watches. At their ‘RETROSPECTIVE: 2000 – 2020’ auction in Geneva, 8 November 2020, a Philippe Dufour, Simplicity 20th Anniversary wristwatch in pink gold from 2020, sold for CHF 1,361,000 (approximately £1,076,000), including buyer’s premium. The auction estimate was CHF 200,000 – 400,000. The watch was catalogued as ‘incredibly rare’. This sale shows how some of his timepieces are now attracting very high bidding by collectors.  

“To us and a huge community around the world, Philippe Dufour is the horological equivalent of Michelangelo, the importance of his work cannot be overstated… Dufour is a living icon, and his creations are as coveted as oeuvres by the greatest artists of our time. How awe-striking that we are offering the very first Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch ever made!  We are honoured to have been entrusted with this collection from an owner who had the vision and passion to patiently assemble a collection like no other. Dufour’s lifetime output is smaller than paintings by masters such as Modigliani and Manet and for any Dufour connoisseur, this collection represents the Grand Slam of Dufour collecting.”

Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant Bacs & Russo and Alexandre Ghotbi, Head of Watches, Continental Europe and Middle East, for Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo

The Four timepieces – as described by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo: 

Grande & Petite Sonnerie Pocket Watch Number 1, (a unique timepiece).

Estimate CHF 400,000 – 800,000, (approximately £ 316,300 – 632,600).

A Grande Sonnerie is a timepiece that automatically chimes the hours on every hour and hours and quarters on every quarter, and when on Petite Sonnerie mode the watch will only chime the passing of the quarters. Phillipe Dufour began his work on the Grande Sonnerie with a series of five pocket watches made for a large brand in the early 1980s. This led him to create his own Grand & Petite Sonnerie pocket watch in the late 1980s. The present example is number 1 and the only Dufour Grande & Petite pocket watch made that bears his name on the dial. 

© Photo images courtesy and copyright of Phillips

Grande & Petite Sonnerie Wristwatch Number 1, in yellow gold.

Estimate CHF 1 million -2 million, (approximately £ 790,700 – 1,581,500).

From 1989 to 1992, Philippe Dufour set out on the difficult task of miniaturizing his sonnerie movement to wristwatch size and the result was the Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch number 1, a world premiere. Phillips’ note that this example to be offered at their auction is the world’s very first Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch. It was produced in only five examples with white enamel dials, respectively 2 cased in white gold, one in yellow, and one pink gold, as well as one in platinum. 

© Photo images courtesy and copyright of Phillips

Duality pink gold number 8.

Estimate CHF 800,000 – 1.6 million, (approximately £632,600 – 1,265,200).

Philippe Dufour’s inspiration for the Duality came from a few school watches from the Vallée de Joux watchmaking school of the 1930s – the same school that Dufour graduated from. These pocket watches had a single gear train delivering power to two balance wheels through a differential. Once again, like with his sonnerie wristwatch, Dufour set out on the task of shrinking this mechanism to wristwatch size. 

In 1996, Dufour introduced his iconic Duality, the world’s first wristwatch incorporating a double escapement. Featuring two independent balance wheels compensated with a central differential gear, the mechanism improves accuracy while also countering the effects of gravity. He initially planned to produce 25 examples, however, only nine were made including an example with movement number ‘00’ (sold at Phillips New York in 2017 for close to US $1 million), making this example bearing number 8 the last one made. It is one of three pink gold examples ever produced. 

© Photo images courtesy and copyright of Phillips

Simplicity (37mm) platinum, number 57.

Estimate CHF 250,000-500,000, (approximately £ 197,685 – 395,370).

After having proven his undeniable talent and expertise in creating ultra-complicated mechanisms, Philippe Dufour set out in 2000 on the challenging task to create a simple three hand watch with a movement architecture designed to demonstrate hand finishing and decoration that modern horology had not yet witnessed. The gentle flow of the bridges’ curves, the bold and alluring inward and outward angles, the hand applied Geneva waves and red rubies all provide a seductive visual harmony. Given that the decoration and assembly are all done by hand explains why less than a dozen Simplicity watches have left Dufour’s workshops in the Vallée de Joux, per year. This example bearing movement number 57 is one of the earlier models that Dufour produced.

© Photo images courtesy and copyright of Phillips

For further information:

Note: if you are planning on buying a watch at auction from a location outside the UK always check first what the situation is with regard any duties and VAT liabilities should you import the watch into the UK. As with all auctions ask about fees and view condition reports in advance of the auction.

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