Time is money: `Asprey' may bring up to $4 million at auction

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GENEVA (Reuters) - “The Asprey”, a legendary vintage Patek Philippe watch, will go on the auction block next week in Geneva, where it could fetch $2 million to $4 million, Sotheby’s said on Wednesday.

Made in 1952 and sold four years later, the Swiss luxury wristwatch is the star lot among 250 watches and pocket watches on offer at Tuesday evening’s sale.

“The watch is a perpetual calendar chronograph and is unique in that it was retailed by the famous London retailer Asprey’s,” Sam Hines, global head of Sotheby’s watch division, told Reuters. “The watch is in pristine condition, it has never been polished and it is the greatest quality you can find.”

The original owner, whose initials, R.C., are engraved on the back of the watch’s yellow gold case, probably received it for his 21st birthday, but has not been identified, the auction house said.

“It is a reference 2499, which is the hottest and most collectable reference of Patek Philippe,” Hines said. “We have been marketing at exhibitions in Asia and Dubai. I think it will have a lot of Asian interest because most of our strongest buyers today come from Asia.”

The current owner bought it at auction in 2006 for 2.2 million Swiss francs (now $2.21 million), a record for the reference at the time, Sotheby’s said. Worn on a brown leather strap, it offers the day and date, a stop watch and phases of the moon.

Hines, asked about the Chinese luxury market cooling in an era of less ostentation under a government anti-corruption drive, said: “We do have clients in China. It is true with the sort of need to be less ostentatious, tastes have become more conservative. So vintage watches really do fit the new taste.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Larry King