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The Story of IneichenBy admin
Ineichen Auctioneers was established in 1973 by Mr. Peter A. Ineichen and boasts a rich history of selling some of the most unique and historically important pocket watches ever made. A noteworthy example is the elusive, Montre garde-temps à tourbillon No.1918, originally sold on the 13th of February 1822 to Monsieur le Comte Archinto (a member of a noble Milanese family) it was created by arguably one of the most important watchmakers, Mr. Abraham L. Bréguet, who is thought to have famously said “give me the perfect oil, and I will give you the perfect watch”. To classify Mr. Bréguet solely as a watchmaker is a grave injustice, his inventions have paved the way for precise timekeeping. It is important to note that the Bréguet family eventually ventured into telephones and aviation once the patriarch had passed away.
As a purveyor of fine pocket watches, Ineichen, was responsible for the sale of this extremely rare and exquisite pocket watch (no. 1918), it sold for Fr. 500’000 on the 20th of November 1978. It is rumoured that Mr. A. L. Bréguet produced 35 tourbillons during his life time, of which only a handful survived. Ineichen, played a vital roll in ensuring a successful sale. The highly coveted Bréguet No. 1176 (similar to the No.1918 Ineichen sold), initially thought to have been made publicly available through Antiquorum in 2007, failed to sell, the estimate was CHF 900’000 to 1’200’000. It is widely known that Bréguet under the ownership of the Swatch group, bought back the piece via Christie’s in 2014 for CHF 821’000.
Back in the 1970’s auction houses did not place much importance on horology. The jewellery departments usually dedicated a few lots to wrist or pocket watches. Back then it was not ‘a la mode’ to devote a single sale to horology. Ineichen, and a few others, were the first to solely dedicate auctions to the world of horology. In tandem, Dr. Helmut Crott, a fervent collector, also started an eponymous auction house focused on watches. Both, Mr. Peter A. Ineichen and Dr. Helmut Crott, played a pivotal role in fostering this relatively new concept of horology driven auctions.
Ineichen then went on to set new benchmarks for other historically important pocket watches. For example on the 20th of October 1975, Ineichen, hosted its 9th auction, under the stewardship of Mr. Peter A. Ineichen. In order to understand the importance of lot 194 … In 1800, General Jean Victor Marie Moreau, infamous for having played a pivotal role in helping Napoleon Bonaparte seize power, purchased a highly coveted Bréguet pocket watch. By 1804-1805, Moreau and Bonaparte eventually fell out due to their increasingly opposing ideologies. Nevertheless, the two gentlemen still shared a common love for Mr. A. L. Bréguet’s work. Bréguet no. 213 (lot 194) was originally sold to General Moreau in 1800 for 3’600 francs. Several years later, General Moreau passed away during the battle of Dresden in 1813. Mr. A. L. Bréguet was known to repurchase some of his creations. Additionally, he would update the movement if required and usually rehouse the movement in a newer case or update the dial. We could argue that Mr. A. L. Bréguet coined the term ‘certified preowned’ back then! On the 31st of December 1817, Bréguet no. 213, was eventually resold to Charles-Louis Havas (an important figure that was instrumental in building one of the first media conglomerates) for 4’800 francs. The Bréguet No. 213, features an array of complications: quarter repeating and equation of time, lever escapement with compensation balance with adjustment by threaded weights, parachute suspension, helical steel spring with terminal cures and regulator, silver engine-turned dial with subsidiary dial for seconds with inset dial for the days of the week, aperture to the left for the date of the month, sectors above for the state of winding and to the right the equation of time. Ineichen, the frontrunners of the pocket watch trade, successfully sold lot 194, the Bréguet 213, for 500’000 francs in 1975. On the 16th of May 2016, Christie’s, sold the said piece for CHF 3’245’000 setting a new benchmark for Bréguet.
Ineichen, then went on to collaborate with the iconic duo Huber & Banbery, which led to the publication of ‘Patek Philippe 1982’. The book includes some of the rarest Patek Philippe pocket watches made, such as, the well documented Graves pocket watch which sold for $24’000’000. The first edition of the book was limited to 3’000 copies, the book serves as a guide for the entire community.
As Darwin famously said “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”. To pinpoint what caused the pocket watch community to wane is debatable. On the one hand, the old-guard point their fingers towards the newer generation for their lack of understanding. On the other hand, the introduction of quartz did radicalise the industry as a whole and nearly caused the extinction of both pocket and mechanical watches. With a dwindling collector base for pocket watches, Ineichen was no longer what it once was, due to the resurgence of mechanical wrist watches. In a recent interview by A Collected Man, Dr. Crott voiced the following: … But you know, I was speaking to Francois-Paul Journe the day before yesterday and we were saying, the problem with these rare pocket watches is that you buy them and then they’re gone. It’s difficult to create a market in those circumstances because you don’t have a second one a year later. The momentum doesn’t build up. One could also argue that Ineichen’s successful years caused their inevitable downfall due to the scarcity of these pocket watches.
Both, Bréguet and Ineichen, would eventually be steered under new ownership. Bréguet et fils, was kept within the family until 1870, thereafter the Brown family was responsible for the brand. The quartz crisis, signalled the end of Brown’s tenure and Bréguet could not replicate the stable ownership they had in the past. Eventually, Swatch Group bought Bréguet for an undisclosed amount, bringing back the much needed stability. On the other hand, Ineichen, was family owned up until 2017-2018, whereby, a young diligent man by the name of Artemy Lechbinsky envisioned the potential to transform this sleeping giant into a premier auction house. Lechbinsky, boasts a vast knowledge in all things watches, from pocket watches to extravagant independent watches. When asked Lechbinsky what prompted him into buying Ineichen he responded with the following:
“First of all I was fascinated by the history of the auction house and that it was still a family owned business when I met them, the father was still in the house, not so active anymore, nonetheless still impressive. My good relationship with his son, Frank Ineichen, gave me an opportunity and this is a chance you get maybe once in your life, so I couldn’t say no.”
Lechbinsky, relocated his family and is now based in Zurich, he aims to bring back the glory days by building relationships with collectors and offering rare items that spark interest within the community. The last time we saw Artemy his desk was scattered with over 300 pocket watches! Sadly, half of the pieces were to be melted for the value of gold and the rest would be auctioned off in due course. Such is the reality of the trade, nowadays.
On a brighter note, Ineichen will be hosting an auction at their premises in Zurich on the 20th of June at 13:30, a preview of the auction is now available. The auction clearly respects the tradition of Ineichen with the first 64 lots being allocated to pocket watches. The other lots display Artemy’s vision of what Ineichen should also been known for, rare and independent wristwatches. We have selected some of our favourite lots from the upcoming auction:
- Cartier from 1920, lot 47 – An immaculately thin pocket watch from the 1920’s. The hefty savonette case is made out of platinum and features intricate details around the dial. The dial displays fine guilloche along with a starburst look, the hands are reminiscent of Bréguet. What makes this lot special is the ultra thin movement, which was not common at that time.
- Quarter hour repeater, lot 62 – The pocket watch is thought to be from the first half of the 19th century, signed Bréguet a Paris”. The complication itself is mesmerising and the fuse chain is a bonus. We could argue that these are undervalued in todays market.
- Omega Rally board, lot 23 – This is an ideal lot for the petrol-heads or stop watch enthusiasts. Timekeeping wise Omega’s importance cannot be overlooked, being the official time keeper of the Olympics is not granted without merit.
- Parkes & Samson London, lots 59 and 60 – The fusée chain held a lot of importance back in the day, alternative alloys had not been created or discovered yet. The fusée chain essentially attempts to combat the uneven flow of energy, imagine winding a toy car it starts off super fast and eventually comes to a crashing halt. The chain fusée attempts the deliver a stable flow of energy to the escapement here’s a useful video. These two lots feature hallmarks of the correct era and a complication that is sometimes priced well above the tourbillon range.
- Zenith El Primero, lot 77 – The DNA of Zenith is found in such models, the reference A783 was produced in 1971 we believe that 1500 examples were produced. The iconic caliber 3019 cannot be overlooked, it was one of the first ‘El Primero’ automatic chronographs to be commercial viable. This caliber essentially revolutionised the chronograph complication and is still in production till date. It also paved the way for many other brands to follow suit. The case seems somewhat simple, although the different methods used to realise such depth within the case cannot be ignored. Additionally, the serial numbers are period correct and the dial appears to be in good condition.
- Girard Perregaux Casquette, lot 80 – The quartz crisis summed up in watch? What a piece! Reference 9939, had to overcome several obstacles in order to make the piece commercially viable. The main issue back in the day was to ensure battery longevity, circuitboards were not efficient and the project BETA 21 did not lead to anything useful for GP. Eventually, caliber 350 with a quartz frequency of 32768 Hz. We believe the case of this particular example is made out of makrolon, the GP hallmark on the case is a neat feature. Notable Quartz lots: 86
- Omega Ed White, lot 113 – The reference 105.003-65 which was said to be produced from 1964 till 1969 was the last known reference to feature straight lugs. The robust Cal. 321 was created in partnership with Lémania and based off the Cal. 2310. This is the exact reference that graced the moon, hence the name Ed White (Edward White). The tritium stepped dial seems to be period correct and also features the sought after raised Omega logo. It is pity that this examples lacks a bracelet, it could be a great deal?
- Omega CK, lot 117 – An early CK2998-1 believed to be produced from 1959 till 1963. This particular example, circa 1960, was the first generation of the CK2998, there are eight known generations: CK2998-1 till CK2998-6, thereafter, CK2998-61 and CK2998-62. The dial of this particular example features the oval O and is paired with a period correct bezel ‘base 1000’ scale. Additionally, the dial shows encouraging signs of patina although the hands might have been serviced at some point. The bracelet and end links are period correct.
- Audemars Piguet, lot 139 – The quirky reference 6005BA, possess the DNA of a Royal Oak without the iconic octagon. The dial features the now iconic tapisserie with an applied logo found at the 12 o’clock, similar to the Royal Oak. This watch was essentially created during the midst of the quartz crisis. Audemars Piguet still went a long way in ensuring the artisanship of the case and bracelet, we could call it a luxury quartz watch.
We would like to thank Mr. Lechbinsky and his team for their time and look forward to the upcoming auction.