Philippe Dufour Simplicity
What happens when you take a master of grand complications and finishing and apply those talents to a time only watch? Arguably the most coveted watch from a living watchmaker. This is watch which has seen its retail price (not secondary market, mind you) raise from ~50K CHF in the early 2000s to 100K CHF by the end of the first run in 2014. Today, if you manage to get a spot on the list (because every watch he will produce for the rest of his years is spoken for), the privilege of buying one will cost you 650K CHF. But that’s alright, because the secondary market is just under an M. Rules of economics cease to apply around modern independents and particularly Dufour, but whatever you make of the small controversy around that ask, the quality of the watch itself has not changed. And today a 34mm in platinum has hit the market, something which hasn’t happened for a long, long while.
In all his time as an independent watchmaker, Dufour has only ever made three models: the Grande et Petite Sonnerie, Duality, and Simplicity. The Simplicity was the last to join the lineup, standing in stark contrast to the complicated movements which came first. The idea was to have a clean canvas on which he could demonstrate his unparalleled finishing. The simplicity exists only to not distract from the level of attention which every nanometer of its metal has been given, all with only traditional tooling and techniques. Originally, around 215 Simplicities were planned and created between 2000 and 2014, 15 per year. But demand has so excessively outpaced supply that the Simplicity is being made again in tiny numbers, at first thought to be a run of 20 for the watch’s 20th Anniversary but other projects have continued. For example, we’ve seen an incredible Simplicity with an Eastern Arabic dial made for Claude Sfeir since. However, the initial run of ~215, which this 2011 example hails from, have a similar aesthetic mostly and certain magic about them. Dufour’s work, performed while smoking a pipe, is an anachronism; much of the very best knowledge of traditional watchmaking has been lost. Dufour’s fame has helped bring it back to the Vallée de Joux.
We are in an independent market which has no precedent, a quantum state of hyped, down, stagnant, but showing signs of life. The relative uncertainty has seen several incredible watches, watches which would’ve never made it to market three years ago, sell publicly again. The last result for a 34mm in platinum was at Sotheby’s in 2020, where it achieved 655K USD, fittingly at Hong Kong. And now we get to see if the current market will support that result, as we’re weighing in above that mark again today. The 34mm generally sells slightly under the 37, however in East this is flip-flopped. Platinum is desirable in either, particularly with this, the classic Metalem guilloché dial. The next few years are going to tell us if ’17-’21 was temporary mania or the new market and it begins with high profile sales like this. Japan is right about many things, they got this one early and really right (160 of the original 200 went to Japan). We look to the East again today for prediction. Whatever you make of the stratospheric rise, fuck me it’s a beautiful object.
This example is lightly worn, barely any surface markings visible. It comes with its original box and papers, from a well-regarded Singaporean retailer.