Moscow: The auctioneer calls it the “Patek Philippe Triple Complication – Vladimir Putin” and estimates it could fetch as much as €1.5 million ($1.6 million), more than 50% above what it would have cost new only two years ago. But the Kremlin says Putin, who’s known to have a soft spot for luxury watches, had nothing to do with this one.
Monaco Legend Group, which is holding the auction 19 July with partner Antiquorum, says the platinum-cased watch was bought as a gift for the Russian president at a shop in London in December 2015. The unidentified buyer was convincing enough about his intention to get the timepiece to Putin that the store recorded “Mr Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin”—the leader’s full name—as the owner on the certificate of origin. A manager at the store, Watches of Switzerland, declined to comment.
“So far from what we know this watch has been bought by a very important person to be given as a gift to Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin,” Annabelle Farras, auctions director for Monaco Legend, said by email. The auction house has not contacted the Kremlin about its provenance, she added.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the link to his boss is “fake news,” denying that anyone ever tried to present him with the watch as a gift.
Monaco Legend, a mid-sized auction house, says it’s confident of the Putin link and expects the watch to fetch between €900,000 and €1.5 million. The timepiece retails for about $1 million but is sold only by invitation.
“If they decided to write Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin on the guarantee card, it means they had all the proof and documentation in order to do so,” Farras said. High-end watchmakers typically try to ensure their products are sold directly to the people who will wear them in order to avoid resellers.
Rare watches have sold at auction for more than $1 million. In May, Christie’s sold a Patek Philippe wristwatch that used to belong to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie for $2.9 million. The same month, Phillips sold a Rolex that was owned by the last emperor of Vietnam for $5 million, a record price for any Rolex wristwatch in auction. Last November, an extremely rare Patek Philippe—one of only four in the world known to exist—went under the hammer for $11 million, the most ever paid at auction for a wristwatch.
Putin is known for his love of expensive timepieces despite his public image of a man of modest tastes and an officially declared annual income of 8.9 million rubles ($156,000). On a 2009 visit to a factory in Tula, an industrial city south of Moscow, Putin appeared surprised when a worker asked for his watch as a souvenir. After recovering his poise, the Russian leader handed over the Léman Aqua Lung Grande Date he was wearing, Blancpain says on its website.