12 November 2023


By In Hype Market

Twice a year in November and May, enthusiasts and collectors gather in Geneva to participate in auctions organized by the most prestigious auction houses. The quality of the lots is generally quite high and 2023 keeps the same trend. Thus, some lots sure achieved remarkable selling prices, but through this article we’d like to analyze the latest market trends through the auctions results. 

Modern Rolex

Although the main focus of these prestigious auctions is not modern watches, it can be useful to analyze their selling prices since they become a clear and public reference for the market. In the last year and a half, after reaching a peak in Q1 2022, we have witnessed a significant price correction of many Rolex modern models. However, in recent months, the market seems to have stabilized, still remaining above the retail prices, but without the same overperformance as before, still justifying somehow the long waiting lists from retailers. In particular, we want to focus our attention on the market correction of the Rolex Daytona ref. 116508 with the green sunray dial, also known by the nickname “John Mayer”, considering that it was spotted on the wrist of the legendary guitarist. After its removal from the catalog in March 2023 in conjunction with Watches & Wonders and the launch of the new Rolex Daytona 1265XX, its value rose up to 100.000 CHF, close to the peak reached about a year earlier when the average selling price was above 120.000 CHF. However, the lot n°3 from Phillips auction, lot n°89 from Sotheby’s and lot n°11 from Christie’s clarifies that such reference is less appreciated by the market, as all the mentioned lots were all sold just under 70.000 CHF, inclusive of a buyer’s premium of around 26%. Such value is still above the retail price, but it does not show the overquotation reached in past years. 

Lot°3 from Phillips - Rolex Daytona ref 116508  sold for CHF 69.850
Lot n°3 from Phillips – Rolex Daytona ref 116508 – Photo courtesy of Phillips

Another interesting watch that can be used to measure the market’s fever towards modern Rolexes is lot n°68 from Phillips auction: a beautiful off-catalogue Day-Date ref 128348RBR. The achieved price was relatively moderate compared to the rarity of the watch, around 53.000 CHF and inclusive of the 27% auction commissions. This result demonstrates that the demand has decreased not only for the more classic steel/gold sports models, but also for those truly special pieces that Rolex sells directly to a select group of passionate customers. However, the rarity of special references like the Day-Date 128348RBR tends to reward in the long term, as demonstrated by similar vintage configurations. Therefore, at these prices, they can offer an excellent long-term investment opportunity.

Lot n°68 - Rolex Day-Date 128348RBR - Photo courtesy of Phillips sold for CHF 53.340
Lot n°68 – Rolex Day-Date 128348RBR – Photo courtesy of Phillips
Independent watchmakers and watch brands

In recent years, the interest towards independent watch brands resulted to be a driving factor in the market, especially for exceptionally crafted pieces, and the just-concluded auctions have continued to reward this segment of the industry. It appears immediately that among the lots sold at the highest prices, there are several pieces from F.P. Journe, as well as some from Richard Mille, more classic Philippe Dufour watches, and two Anniversary Editions by George Daniels.

Regarding F.P. Journe, every creation of The Master achieves remarkable results, especially the highly complicated pieces produced in limited quantities that are able to reach significantly higher values than the retail price. It is the case of Phillips lot n°106 and Christie’s lot n°129, two stunning “Sonnerie Souveraine” timepieces featuring the Grand and Petite Sonnerie complication. In particular, the first one, in addition to its unique bracelet, is characterized by the typical black dial that identifies the “Black Label” collection, produced in very limited quantities for collectors who have a strong connection to the brand and sold through official boutiques only. The rarity and the complexity of such incredible timepieces allowed them to achieve remarkable results, indeed they have been sold for 1.080.000 CHF and 825.000 CHF respectively. To confirm the trend related to François Paul Journe’s creations, also his lower-tier creations continue to be in demand and command prices well above the retail values, like lot n°30 from Christie’s auction.

Lot n°106 - F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine sold for CHF1.079.500
Lot n°106 – F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine – Photo courtesy of Phillips
Lot n°129 - F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine  sold for CHF 819.000
Lot n°129 – F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

When it comes to Richard Mille, we also observe a strong interest in unique references. Indeed, lot n°102 from Phillips, the outstanding RM 27-01, can clearly demonstrate it. This particular watch, born in 2013 from the collaboration between Richard Mille and Rafael Nadal, was created to be worn by the Spanish tennis legend on the courts. With a weight of only 19 grams and the ability to withstand impacts up to 5000G, it showcased Richard Mille’s innovation and their dedication to pushing the technical boundaries of their timepieces to limits never experienced before. Given that it’s a watch that can be considered a true technological breakthrough and considering that only 50 pieces were produced, it’s not surprising that it achieved a price of 952.000 CHF, still above the retail price.

Lot n°102 - Richard Mille RM 27-01 sold for CHF 952.500
Lot n°102 – Richard Mille RM 27-01 – Photo courtesy of Phillips

In addition to F.P. Journe and Richard Mille, we’d also like to mention the excellent results achieved by the masterpieces manufactured by Philippe Dufour and George Daniels. Lot n°2096 from the Christie’s “Passion for Time” auction, the Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie #1, reached the incredible sum of over 5.100.000 CHF, while the three watches produced to commemorate the anniversary of the invention of the co-axial escapement by George Daniels were sold for a range between 750.000 and 1.800.000 CHF.

Lot n° 2096 – Philippe Dufour Graned & Petite Sonnerie n°1 – Photo courtesy of Christie’s
Lot n° 2010 - George Daniels co-axial escapement sold for CHF 1.860.000
Lot n° 2010 – George Daniels co-axial escapement – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

The results achieved by these masterpieces, which in some aspects can be considered more classical, demonstrate that high-quality craftsmanship in movements and finishes is highly sought after by collectors. Due to the rarity of these pieces, they always reach remarkable prices whenever they go up for auction.


As it can be understood from the facts reported above, there is still interest towards watches and the world of watchmaking, testified by lots able to perform even better than the predictions. However, upon closer examination, we can notice a common point among the various lots that have exceeded the expectations, especially for vintage watches. Not only are these watches highly collectible due to their rarity and iconic status, but their condition truly makes the difference and allow them to make a further step.

To support such a theory, we’d like to analyze a few four-digits Rolex Daytonas that have been auctioned. The reference, the material, and the dial are always the characteristics that set these watches apart. However, there can be a wide price range when comparing the same references, but showing different conditions. Indeed, considering the iconic Rolex Daytona reference 6239 sold by Phillips (lot n°179) and Christie’s (lot n°2044), it can be easily spot that the first achieved an excellent result, approximately 280.000 CHF primarily due to the Paul Newman dial and impeccable condition, while the second one performed less, achieving 83.000 CHF despite featuring an unusual Daytona Floating dial. 

Lot n°179 - Rolex Daytona 6239 sold by CHF 279.400
Lot n°179 – Rolex Daytona 6239 – Photo courtesy of Phillips
Lot n°2044 - Rolex Daytona 6239 sold for CHF 83.160
Lot n°2044 – Rolex Daytona 6239 – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

In addition to the condition of the watch, the unique characteristics of the dial or sometimes engravings on the case back also make a significant difference. Good examples of how unique features can make the difference can be the excellent results achieved by some Patek Philippe Nautilus. As a matter of fact, the lot n°120 from Phillips auction, characterized by the dial signed by the iconic Geneva retailer Gübelin and an unusual platinum case and bracelet, was sold for the substantial amount of 2.500.000 CHF. Moreover, also the lot n°101 from Christie’s auction, featuring a platinum case with a stunning diamond bezel and hour markers, was equally remarkable and achieved a price of 1.600.000 CHF.

Lot n° 120 - Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/1 in platinum sold for CHF 2.540.500
Lot n° 120 – Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/1 in platinum – Photo courtesy of Phillips
Lot n°101 - Patek philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/031 in platinum sold for CHF 1.618.000
Lot n°101 – Patek philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/031 in platinum – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

In conclusion, we can confidently state that this week of auctions demonstrated once again how rewarding the rarity, the conditions, and unique features can be, allowing lots showing such characteristics to reach outstanding results. The two auction weekends in Geneva each year not only provide enthusiasts with the opportunity to purchase or even just view truly exceptional timepieces but also offer insights into market trends, which we have detailed in this article.

Written by Tiziano Patti

Born in 2002, I’m a young watch collector and enthusiast always looking to add new pieces to my collection.