Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Christie’s watch auction expected to clock up to $13 million in Dubai

Auction of art and timepieces this weekend is expected to net $15 million

Christie’s is expecting to net $9 million to $13m for watches and another $2.75m to $3.85m for Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art at auctions in Dubai this weekend, as timepiece sales rise while fine art sales slow in the region, according to the auction house.

At last year’s Dubai auction in March, watches generated more than $7m compared to $5.3m in 2017 and $2.6m in 2016. Meanwhile, art sales generated under $3m compared to $8m in 2017 and close to $12m in 2016.

“Volumes have dropped a little bit on the art side, not on the watches side. Watches remain extremely strong in the region,” Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s Middle East, told The National.

He said that there has been a strong tradition of collecting watches in the Middle East and globally there is a bigger base of horologists than art collectors.

“A watch has such a deep base of buyers, because some people like to just buy a watch and wear it … In the end, you can’t walk around with a work of art,” Mr Jeha said.

Christie’s has two annual sales in the Middle Eastern art category - in Dubai in March and London in October. The London auction last year sold 83 per cent of its lot and 86 per cent by value. But it generated under £4m (Dh19m) compared to more than £5m in 2017. As regional art sales slow, Christie’s is adapting by bringing in pieces that are priced to attract mid-range buyers. At the Dubai auction, a piece by Emirati artist Hussain Sharif starts at $3,000.

Globally, Christie’s recorded 2018 art sales of £5.3 billion - the highest art sales total in company history and an increase of 3 per cent on 2017.

The Dubai auction, which has a public viewing from March 19 to 23 at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel, set to coincide with the art festival Art Dubai, will feature 85 pieces of art and 177 watches.

The artwork, initially owned by American, European and Middle Eastern collectors, includes Syrian artist Marwan’s Kopf or Head paintings estimated to be worth as much as $300,000.

There will be 85 pieces of art and 177 watches up for sale at the Christie's Dubai auction at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel this weekend. Leslie Pableo / The National 
There will be 85 pieces of art and 177 watches up for sale at the Christie's Dubai auction at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel this weekend. Leslie Pableo / The National 

Among the selection from the world’s top watch brands is a Patek Philippe reference 1463R in pink gold from the 1950s, previously owned by Eric Clapton and appraised at up to $850,000.

Another watch in Friday's auction is a “White Khanjar” Rolex from the Daytona series made for the Sultan of Oman to be given as a token of appreciation. According to Christie's, the relationship between the Sultan and Rolex started in the early 1970s with the Sultan's wish to show his gratitude to the members of the British Special Forces, SAS, who had successfully assisted him and the nation between 1970 and 1976. In the years to come, the Sultan regularly ordered various Rolex models which he presented as gifts. The dials of these watches have the Khanjar symbol in red and white, with a few examples in gold or green.

The watch was made in 1979 and its receiver kept the original box as well as a personalised card from His Majesty, the Sultan in an envelope stamped with the Khanjar emblem. It is appraised at up to $450,000.

Updated: March 19, 2019 01:21 PM

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