On 15 May, auction house Sotheby’s will hold its first biannual auction of watches for 2011. This year the auction, which will be held at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, will feature a selection of hand-picked, Indian-themed timepieces. Geoffroy Ader, the company’s European head of watches, told Lounge that all the watches came from private collections and were part of the company’s growing catalogue of Indian pieces.
So far Sotheby’s has had success selling watches of Chinese and Turkish provenance to buyers. Ader hopes this new collection could arouse interest from Indian buyers too. “We want to develop that market and, therefore, we have carefully chosen watches in meticulous condition and with a strong history behind them.” Given the history and quality, Ader says, the prices are attractive even for new collectors.
Historic: The Maharaja Pratahsing Bahadeer watch (lot 109).
The highlights from the Rajah Watches selection include cases with beautiful portraits of kings and noblemen in the Geneva style of enamel work. Many pieces were crafted by the renowned John Graff, perhaps the foremost Swiss portrait enamelist of the late 19th century. The rajas usually sent their photographs to workshops in and around Geneva, often through agents in London, where they were translated into portraits.
The Indian market for premium timepieces lasted from the middle of the 19th century to early 20th century. During this time, says Ader, the maharaja of Patiala perhaps became the most important individual client in Cartier’s history.
Sotheby’s selection includes pieces previously owned by maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, and Pratahsing Bahadeer, maharaja of Orchha, Tikamgarh and Bundelkhand. The latter piece, made in around 1890, features an intricate portrait in which the maharaja is wearing a necklace inlaid with diamonds and rubies. For this piece Sotheby’s estimates a price of Swiss Franc 20,000-30,000 (around Rs 10.32-15.49 lakh). “We are hoping buyers in India will be keen to bring these elements of their heritage and patrimony back home,” Ader says.