The watch smashed its estimate becoming one of the highlights of Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XIII on the 9th May 2021. Here are some personal reflections in our interview with Roger about the sale.1 June, 2021
This was a particularly rare watch to appear at an auction…
Yes, it’s only periodically that any of my watches is auctioned, so it’s extremely rare for the watch to be one of the most significant pieces from my early career.
When the watch department at Phillips auctioneers informed me that the sole White Gold Series 1 “Theo Fennell” edition had been offered for auction, I was both intrigued and not a little daunted by the prospect.
I suppose most would regard it as simply an interesting transaction between an auction house and a buyer. For me, however, it’s much, much more than that. I’m watching a moment in my horological journey being sold. It always brings up a lot of memories about that particular watch and hopes that the watch will achieve real interest among collectors and an appreciative home. I expect any artist must feel the same way about their work.
What makes this watch so important to you?
This watch has its own special significance. It’s one of my earliest watches and I really wanted to exemplify the rectangular design that was very popular at the time of the build. This particular watch displays an intricate guilloché dial, retrograde date and a rectangular movement with my typical English finish, with frosted and gilded plates, gold chatons and flame coloured screws.
Of the nine rectangular Series 1’s that I made, three of them were part of this “ONELY” series commissioned by celebrated London jeweller, Theo Fennell (‘Onely’ being a Middle English word for ‘one of a kind’). The Fennell logo is placed at 12 and Theo’s name is engraved on the main plate.
The patronage of such a highly respected artist in Theo Fennell was hugely significant to me as I embarked on the enormous challenge of building my own reputation and pantheon of work. Theo continues to encourage and further the careers of young talent today with his outstanding Gilded Youth initiative.
So, as the only Series 1 in white gold that you ever made, it lives up to its name.
Very much so. It’s unique. This was also the first time a Series 1 “Theo Fennell” was being offered in an international auction room so I suppose this was a one-off opportunity to acquire a one-off watch!
The eventual price clearly reflects that…
In hindsight, yes it does, but when the hammer came down at CHF 541,800, I am sure that the team at Phillips were just as relieved as I was to see the watch reach its potential.
However, looking at how collectors view the independent sector, I do believe we’re seeing an evolving interest in the early works of the watchmakers. Previously, those early watches, made at a time when you are really trying to master your craft have, arguably been only significant to the maker and the owner. Now it seems that significance is being recognised in a much broader context; again, following the art world, those early works are now recognised as milestones.
It has added significance being a record price for a British watchmaker.
Now that was a surprise! I had no idea, until it was reported in WatchPro by Rob Corder. However, it was really humbling to realise that the price was another small step forward for British watchmaking.