Antiques review of 2016

From the year’s best finds to sales that exceeded all expectations, dealers and auctioneers look back over an exciting year to reveal a few of their highlights of 2016

One to Watch
Patek Philippe wristwatchFew watchmakers can match the allure of Patek Philippe. The Swiss manufacturer, which has been handcrafting timepieces since 1851, set a new record for a wristwatch this year when a “reference 1518” sold for £8.6 million in Geneva. What was so special about it?
Scarcity was a key factor. Only 281 were made – all between 1941 and 1955. And only four were fashioned from stainless steel, including this one.
Auction house Phillips said before the sale: “The impressive size, the superb complications it integrates, the immaculate condition, and its ultimate rarity come together to make this a watch that will exceed the expectations of even the most demanding scholars, connoisseurs, and collectors.”
It previously sold for around £150,000 in 1995. That’s compound growth of 21 percent per annum in the intervening years. It also smashes the previous wristwatch record of £6 million set by a Patek Philippe 5016 last year. 2016 also posted a new record for a Rolex, with a 1942 “reference 4113” split-seconds chronograph achieving £1.9 million. The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch holds the record for any watch. It sold for £13.4 million in 2014.

Big Impression

Monet’s 1891 canvas “Meule” or “Grainstack”
Christie’s Images Ltd

After a thrilling battle between four phone bidders and one in the room, Christie’s celebrated a new auction record for a canvas by French Impressionist Claude Monet. The work, entitled ‘Meule’ or ‘Grainstack’ fetched a total $81.4 million (£65m) at the Manhattan sales room.

Show stopper

HansonsAt Hansons the hammer
price of £600,00 for a large 66cm (2ft 2in) Qianlong vase set a house record. Managing director of the Derbyshire
auctioneers, Charles Hanson, described it as, “Our biggest find to date
and in remarkably good condition.” It had been consigned by a West
Midlands vendor who had been using it as a door stop!

Settle up

Pembrokeshire sgiwAt Welsh Vernacular Furniture in west Wales this superb Pembrokeshire sgiw (or settle) with burr elm panels, which sold for £1,200, was one of the favourite finds of 2016. Jon Holder said: “It had everything: colour, texture and it is so rare to find burr panels in a country piece from this area of Wales. With no repairs or losses it was a magnificent piece.”

Asian treasure

A Chinese enamel plaqueAnother Asian treasure, this time a Chinese enamel plaque, possibly by Xu Zhongnan, was one of the highlights of the year at Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk when it sold in June for £42,000.

Star lot

Song dynasty sculptureThe Raphy Star Collection of Important Asian Art achieved a new record for a single-owner collection of Asian Art at Mossgreen Auctions in Sydney, Australia recently with a total of over AUD$2 million (£1,180,000).

The top selling lot, a rare and beautifully carved Chinese polychrome wood sculpture of a Bodhisattva, Song Dynasty, 11th century sold for $396,800 (£233,000) to an international buyer against a pre-auction estimate of $100,000-150,000 (£60,000 – £88,000).

Buyers in Bloom

Cedric MorrisChampagne corks flew at Henry Adams Fine Art in Chichester when a work by the self-taught Welsh painter Cedric Morris set a record for the artist on April 14. Summer Garden Flowers sold for £81,000 (including a buyer’s premium of 20 percent).

Star Cars

Image courtesy of Sotheby's

2016 has seen three major new records in the classic car sector. A 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Touring Spider set a new record for a prewar car at £15.6 million at RM Sotheby’s in California. That surpassed the previous high mark of £7 million achieved by a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K in 2012. Its majestic looks and extreme rarity (one of only 12 still around) were major factors in the strong price.

There were also new auction records for British and American cars. A 1955 Jaguar D-type that won the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans made £16.6 million, while the first ever Shelby Cobra achieved £10.3 million. A 1932 Brough Superior 800cc motorbike sold for £331,900 – an auction record for a British motorbike.


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