Picasso is Man of the Hour at Bonhams Watches Sale


A rare 'forgotten' wristwatch belonging to the Pablo Picasso, worn by the artist and incidentally photographed in many photographs of him, sold at auction for the first time today for €219,050, nearly 20 times its pre-sale estimate, at Bonhams debut Paris Luxury Watch Sale.

The circa 1960 manual wind steel bracelet watch by independent Swiss watch producer Michael Z. Berger, which had a modest pre-sale estimate of €12,000 – 18,000, set the internet and telephones alight, and sparked a bidding war that had everyone on the edge of their seats, with the watch finally selling for €219,050, to the applause of the Bonhams saleroom.

Catherine Yaiche, Director Bonhams France, who was the auctioneer of today's sale in Paris, said: "This is an exceptional way to end this sale."

"I am happy to have been able to open our 2021 sales calendar in France and to conclude our sale by bringing down the gavel on this extremely rare Picasso watch, which blends art, luxury and the history of one of the most famous personalities in the world."

The Picasso watch was one of three known examples bearing the artist's name on the silvered dial, with black letters forming the hour markers, as depicted in many portraits of Picasso such as the one by Cecil Beaton in his studio

This rare tangible piece of history was personally gifted by the artist to his friend and fellow creative, the late Greek sculptor Lela Kanellopoulou. She met Picasso at the Cahiers d'Art publishing house, having collaborated with Christian Zervos, who published the important Cahiers d'Art magazine and the catalogue raisoné of the works of Picasso.

Lela Kanellopoulou, La Belle Helene

According to the vendor, one of Lela's relations, Picasso took the watch off his wrist to 'La Belle Helene' as Picasso he called her, in reference to her beauty, Greek nationality and background of Archaeology. The vendor said that Lela always treasured the watch, and it was something of a talking point.

Jonathan Darracott, Bonhams Global Head of Watches, commented: "This was an extraordinary find and we are so thrilled at this well-deserved result for such a special timepiece, which was also a superb example of the 12-digit name tradition. It is rather fitting that Picasso followed this trend as he was famous for being a great self-publicist.

With this watch, I have had a chance to hold history in my hands and this has to been one that will make a lasting impression - the like of which I am unlikely to see again."

The Picasso watch was the star of the first Bonhams Paris Luxury Watches Sale which was staged as a live auction in the city's Park Hyatt Hotel.

Other successes included:

The Collection of Giuseppe 'Oscar' Damiani
If Picasso was man of the hour, Damiani was man of the match, with a 100 per cent sell-through-rate for his collection of 11 football-related wristwatches from watchmakers such as Rolex, celebrating victories of his former teams AC Milan and Juventus in the Champions League and Serie A.

Of special note were:

Patek Philippe. A fine 18K gold automatic annual calendar wristwatch made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of AC Milan. Ref. 5035R. Purchased 15th July 1999. This sold above its top estimate for €27,800.

Rolex. A stainless-steel automatic bracelet watch commemorating the Champions League and Serie A victories of AC Milan. Air King Precision, Ref 14000, Limited edition no 52/75. Sold for €9,563, more than twice its top estimate.

Further highlights:

Patek Philippe. Fine 18K gold keyless wind open face pocket watch retailed by Eberhard Milan, circa 1920, sold for €19,050 comfortably beating its pre-sale estimate.

Catherine Yaiche added: Our first two sales 'The Greek Sale' and 'The Luxury Sale' have taken place in Paris this week and both have been successful. This confirms that our clients have been looking forward to the opening of this new location for sales which is part of Bonhams strategy of expansion in Europe.


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