By Michelle Graff
The four watches from Jean-Claude Biver’s private collection that will be part of Phillips’ upcoming watch auction in Geneva are, from left to right, the Patek Philippe Ref. 96HU World Time, the Ref. 1518 in pink gold, the yellow gold Ref. 2499 and the platinum Ref. 1579.
Geneva—This spring, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo is selling watches from the private collection of one of the most well-respected executives in the watch industry, Jean-Claude Biver.

The 70-year-old innovator and marketing maven has spent nearly five decades in the watch industry; Biver started his career with Audemars Piguet in the mid-1970s.

His long list of accomplishments include turning around Omega, reviving the Blancpain brand and building Hublot.

When LVMH acquired Hublot in 2008, Biver moved over with the brand and by 2014, he was running LVMH’s entire watch division, which includes Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith.

In September 2018, news surfaced he would step back from the day-to-day operations of the division due to health problems but would stay with the company as a non-executive president.

While Biver has a long history with myriad brands in the watch industry, the four timepieces going up for auction are from a brand for which he never worked—Patek Philippe.

Biver is a Patek collector and showed off his watches—including the four going up for sale—in a 2014 “Talking Watches” interview with Hodinkee, joking with Benjamin Clymer that opting to collect Pateks was both a good and a bad decision.

“It was a good one because they are the leaders in the classical, traditional watchmaking part. It was a bad one because you need a lot of money to collect a few, “ he said with a laugh.

Phillips estimates the four watches could sell for nearly $7 million total, with the high estimates for three of the timepieces set at $1 million-plus.

There is a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in pink gold with a pink dial from 1948.

Introduced in 1941, the Ref. 1518 was the first perpetual calendar chronograph Patek Philippe ever produced in series. The watch company made only 281 examples, most of them in yellow gold, before stopping production of the model, Philipps said.

Pink gold Ref. 1518s mostly were fitted with a silvered dial; only 13 Ref. 1518 watches with a pink dial are known to exist.

Out of the four Biver pieces in the auction, the pink gold Ref. 1518 is expected to sell for the most, with its high estimate set at 2.4 million Swiss francs ($2.5 million).

Another rare watch is the Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 second series from 1957.

Launched in 1951, the Ref. 2499 was the direct successor to the Ref. 1518, but with round, sportier-looking pushers and a larger 37.5 mm case.

Biver’s Ref. 2499 is yellow gold with applied batons, and Philipps said there are only 20 watches like this known to exist. The auction house expects his to sell for as much as 2 million Swiss francs ($2.1 million).

Phillips is also auctioning a platinum Ref. 1579 from 1946. It is one of only three vintage Patek Philippe chronographs with a platinum case, with Phillips noting the three watches have consecutive serial numbers and different dials, making each piece one-of-a-kind.

The platinum Ref. 1579 belonging to Biver was the last of the three made and has its scales and markers in blue. Phillips estimates it will sell for as much as 1.6 million Swiss francs ($1.65 million).

The final watch in the collection is a Ref. 96HU World Time.

The World Time complication is considered one of the hallmarks of the Patek Philippe brand. The company started making World Time watches in series in 1939, but Biver’s watch is from 1937 and is a pre-series prototype made, most likely, to test the market.

Only two are known to exist, and the other example is in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. Phillips estimates the watch will sell for as much as 600,000 Swiss francs (about $618,000).

Biver’s personal timepieces are being put up for sale as part of “The Geneva Watch Auction: XI,” scheduled for May 9 and 10 at Hôtel la Reserve.

TAGS:   Auctions
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