Watch market: 2012 auction review

Investing in watches has long been a popular area for those who want to be able to enjoy and display their assets. In 2012, the market has flourished once again, with one particular leading horologist's collection seeing stunning bids for extraordinary items.

The George Daniels Collection was the star in 2012, setting new records and revealing pieces that had never been offered at auction before. As ever, Breguet and Patek Philippe dominated the majority of sales, with some unusual choices making  surprise appearances.

Top sale

Breguet auction record Duc d'Orleans Sympathique
The clock's case is made from red tortoiseshhell inlaid with gilt brass

  • The Breguet Duc D'Orleans Sympathique clock, having been restored by George Daniels and consigned by the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, was sold for $6.8m as the most valuable timepiece offered at auction in 2012.

New records in 2012

  • The $6.8m sale of the magnificent Breguet clock set a new world record for the watchmaker. It is also now the most valuable French timepiece ever sold at auction.
    George Daniels Space Travellers watch
    Daniels' watch has "everything you'd need if you were travelling through space"
  • George Daniels' beautiful Space Traveller's Watch became the most valuable English watch, the most valuable George Daniels watch the most valuable piece by an independent watchmaker in November, after selling for $1.3m at Sotheby's.
  • Four world records for Patek Philippe were set at an April sale in New York, including the highest price ever paid for a single dial watch from the Swiss brand.
  • The auction record for any Breguet watch was set by No. 2667 at $4.7m in May, with the piece selling over three times its high estimate.
  • December 18 saw a record for a George Daniels Millenium watch, which was sold by Bonhams for $255,689.

It was a breakout year for…

Patek Philippe 2499/100P Eric Clapton
The only other platinum example is a big draw at the Patek Philippe museum

  • The Patek Philippe ref 2499. Despite having been produced by the illustrious watchmakers for more than 35 years, reference 2499 is among the rarest at auction - just 349 were ever produced. 2012 saw two major sales, including Eric Clapton's platinum 2499 - one of just two known to exist - which sold for $3.6m at Christie's.

A year to forget for…

  • Rolex is renowned as one of the world's most famous luxury watch brands, though the collectibles market is not so keen and offerings from the watchmaker often go unsold or fail to meet reserve. You will rarely find a Rolex article on Paul Fraser Collectibles for this very reason.

One you may have missed…

  • The Heuer Monaco that Steve McQueen wore in Le Mans combined several collecting areas this July, with both racing, watch and movie enthusiasts all competing to own the spectacular piece. It was propelled to a 166.5% increase on estimate during the sale, selling for $799,500.

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