Clapton Watch Fetches $3.6 Million; Beckham’s Boat Sale

Eric Clapton Collection
A 1987 Patek Philippe platinum perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases. From the collection of Eric Clapton, it was sold by Christie's International in its Nov. 12 auction of watches in Geneva, Switzerland. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2012 via Bloomberg

A platinum Patek Philippe watch owned by Eric Clapton sold today at an auction in Switzerland for 3.4 million Swiss francs ($3.6 million) with fees.

The guitarist’s 1987 perpetual calendar chronograph with moon phases was one of the star lots at a Christie’s International auction of collectable watches at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva. It had been valued at between 2.5 million Swiss francs and 4 million Swiss francs, based on hammer prices.

Clapton has been selling high-value items with big-ticket brand names. At Sotheby’s, London, on Oct. 12, he sold the 1994 Gerhard Richter painting “Abstraktes Bild (809-4)” for a record 21.3 million pounds ($34.2 million) -- more than 30 times what he paid for it in 2001.

Tomorrow in Geneva, Christie’s jewels sale will include the Archduke Joseph Diamond, estimated at as much as $25 million.

The gem was originally sourced from the Golconda mines in India, which produced the 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor of the U.K. Crown Jewels.

Internally flawless and weighing 76.02 carats, this colorless stone is the largest perfect Golconda diamond to have appeared at auction, Christie’s said in an e-mailed statement. It has a low estimate of $15 million. The upper valuation of $328,861 per carat is a record for a colorless diamond.

The diamond is named after Archduke Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962), a member of the royal House of Habsburg, whose family owned the stone until the 1930s.

It was last seen at auction in November 1993, when it sold for 9.7 million Swiss francs. The identity of the current owner hasn’t been divulged by Christie’s.

Jagger Letters

Love letters written by Mick Jagger to the African-American singer, model and actress Marsha Hunt are being auctioned in London in December.

Offered by Hunt in the Sotheby’s English literature sale on Dec. 12, the cache of 10 handwritten letters dates from the summer of 1969, when the Rolling Stones singer was in Australia filming “Ned Kelly.” The letters are estimated to raise between 70,000 pounds ($111,000) and 100,000 pounds.

Hunt became the face of the London production of musical “Hair,” and inspired the 1971 hit “Brown Sugar.” Her relationship with Jagger was kept secret at the time. The letters, which include song lyrics and a Rolling Stones play list, refer to the first moon landing, the Isle of Wight Festival, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Olympics Ceremony

The speedboat piloted by David Beckham during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics is estimated to sell for about 250,000 pounds at an auction next month.

The heavily customized 2008 “Torchbearer” Bladerunner BR RIB 35 will be included in a Bonhams classic car sale at Mercedes-Benz World, Brooklands, Surrey, on Dec. 3.

Offered by an unidentified company in southern England, the boat retains its original smoke-emitting rockets and dozens of LED lights, the London-based auction house said in an e-mailed statement.

An estimated global television audience of a billion people watched the English soccer star power down the river Thames during the July 27 ceremony, staged by the movie director Danny Boyle, according to the BBC.

Art Fund

Berenberg Bank said it has founded a 50 million-euro ($63.6 million) art fund to give investors willing to pledge a minimum of 100,000 euros access to a different asset class at a time when stocks and bond markets are plagued by economic insecurity.

“Tangible assets remain firmly in investors’ focus,” Raymund Scheffler, the manager of Berenberg Art Advice and head of the bank’s Dusseldorf branch, said in an e-mailed release. “Because their value moves independently of classic investments like shares, bonds or even real estate, an art investment can complete every well-structured portfolio.”

The bank will cooperate with museums and collectors to identify top-quality artworks, according to the bank’s statement. The Fine Art Fund Group, an art investment company established in London by Philip Hoffman in 2001, will advise it on acquisitions.

Chinese Art

Auctions of Chinese art have fallen by almost half in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as buyers get increasingly selective.

Sales of art and antiques from China at the main branches of Sotheby’s, Christie’s International and Bonhams -- part of the 15th annual Asian Art in London promotion -- raised 29.6 million pounds last week, 48 percent down from the record 57.4 million pounds in 2011.

“There’s more caution around at the moment,” Stuart Marchant, a partner in the Kensington dealers Marchant, said in an interview. “The purse strings of Chinese buyers aren’t as loose as they were two or three years ago.” He said that “maybe business will come back” as the country names a new Politburo Standing Committee and general secretary.

Chinese art and antiques were the fastest-growing auction market in 2011, raising 9.8 billion euros, as against 6 billion euros in 2010, the Netherlands-based Fine Art Foundation said in a report published in March. Buyers became choosier in 2012 as the Chinese government cracked down on the illegal importation of artworks. The world’s second-biggest economy is recovering from a seven-quarter slowdown.

Rare and decorative 18th-century wares with imperial associations continue to set the remaining high prices. A polychrome-enameled “Magpie and Prunus” moon flask sold for a top bid of 1 million pounds with fees at Sotheby’s auction of “Treasures from the Qing Court” on Nov. 7. It was the only auction lot of the week to reach seven figures.

Successful Ceramics

Sotheby’s three-catalog auction of Chinese ceramics and porcelain works of art was the most successful of the week, raising 14.7 million pounds with fees against a low estimate of 7.6 million pounds, based on hammer prices. Christie’s and Bonhams raised 8.2 million pounds and 6.7 million pounds respectively from Chinese material on Nov. 6 and Nov. 8. No lot exceeded 500,000 pounds at either auction.

“It was a combination of a softer market and owners reluctant to sell good pieces,” the London-based dealer Roger Keverne said in an interview. “Buyers are concentrating on the best things.”

Eskenazi Ltd. made big-ticket sales in its exhibition of 20 pieces of imperial-quality Qing porcelain acquired from an unidentified European private collection.

A Qianlong-period pair of blue and pink-enameled ewers sold for “several million pounds,” and a similarly dated moon flask decorated with a red dragon, priced at more than 1 million pounds, were among the confirmed sales. An 18th-century imperial ruby ground “famille rose” vase valued at 7.5 million pounds had yet to find a buyer.

Selling Exhibitions

Eskenazi and Marchant were among a record 54 dealers staging selling exhibitions during the Asian Art in London event, which finished at the weekend. Within the first five days, Marchant sold about a third of the 38 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain it was offering from the collection of San Francisco-based Lowell Young, Stuart Marchant said. Prices ranged from 10,000 pounds to 285,000 pounds.

Two years ago, at the height of the then-booming market for Chinese ceramics, Eskenazi sold a puce-colored Qing dynasty imperial vase with a price tag of about $25 million.

Muse highlights include Jorg von Uthmann on Paris arts and John Mariani on wine.

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