Heading into this auction season, there was no watch that snared my attention more than this prototype Patek Philippe Aquanaut offered by Antiquorum. The watch kind of had everything *tons of interest, more than a little intrigue, and a lot of traits that would make it a near-perfect storm for today's collectors. I spent the last few weeks asking basically anyone who would weigh in what they thought of it, and you can read all about my findings here. The TLDR version is simple though: There was no clear consensus and people I trust said everything from "this will be the watch of the May 2019 auctions" to "it's a fake and I'd never tell someone to bid on it." I honestly had no idea whether it would sell for big money or pass altogether.
Well, today we got a bit of clarity, with the watch selling for a total of CHF 401,000 (approximately $396,000) just after 6:30 PM CET as Lot 726. There was about 15 minutes of bidding before the hammer dropped at CHF 330,000, with most of the bidding after CHF 100,000 coming from two people (I was watching online, so I don't know exactly who they were). Remember, the estimate on this was CHF 50,000-80,000, so that's an over-performance of more than eight times the low estimate. As far as I've seen, this is the first watch this weekend to go crazy like that.
One thing to keep in mind with this watch, as with all unique and unusual pieces, is that it's important not to extrapolate the results too far. Does this mean that the market will be more accepting of rarities with less-than-perfect documentation? Does this mean that Aquanauts are about to shoot up in value? Does this mean that there are more weird Patek prototypes out there waiting to be found? The answer to all of those is a highly qualified "maybe." What we learn from this sale is that this watch, and only this watch, was seen as legitimate and highly desirable by a handful of collectors and, as such, it brought big money.
Now we just have to wait and see how the restored Rolex ref. 6062 at Christie's fares tomorrow...


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