Huge col­lec­tion of Swatch watches to go un­der ham­mer in Hong Kong


One of the big­gest pri­vate col­lec­tions of Swatch watches in the world will go un­der the ham­mer in Hong Kong this week and is ex­pected to fetch more than US$1.3 mil­lion.

Cred­ited with breath­ing new life into the ail­ing Swiss watch in­dus­try af­ter its launch in 1983, Swatch quickly be­came a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non with its multi-colored plas­tic de­signs and largely af­ford­able price tags.

The mas­sive col­lec­tion of more than 5,800 Swatch watches — in­clud­ing limited edi­tions by artists in­clud­ing Kiki Pi­casso and Keith Har­ing, as well as a James Bond 40th an­niver­sary col­lec­tion — will be sold as a “su­per­lot” at Sotheby’s on Tues­day.

It is the pride and joy of Lux­em­bourg-based Paul Dunkel, 68, who has spent more than two decades track­ing down al­most all the watches Swatch cre­ated in its first 25 years.

And it is clearly a wrench for the re­tired in­sur­ance bro­ker to say good­bye to the col­lec­tion.

“For me, it’s not pos­si­ble to con­tinue (col­lect­ing). It’s so much work. The young peo­ple must con­tinue,” he told AFP.

“The col­lec­tion was just in a safe and no-one could see it, what is the point of that?” he said, adding that he hopes the buyer will put it on show to the public.

Dunkel’s ob­ses­sion started in the 1980s. Al­ready a col­lec­tor of ab­stract art, he re­al­ized that some of his fa­vorite artists were designing for Swatch, so he be- gan col­lect­ing the watches and re­lated art­work.

“It be­gan with a few watches, then it was a pas­sion,” he said.

Dunkel has trav­eled far and wide to seek out pieces and has paid thou­sands of eu­ros for some.

But his fa­vorite is a sim­ple 1994 de­sign cov­ered in white sheep, with one black one tucked away on the strap. He has a tie to match.

“Swatch is uni­ver­sal,” says Dunkel. “You can have one for ev­ery day of the week. I of­ten wear one.”

Dunkel adds that the best re­ward for his years of hard work has been the re­ac­tion to the col­lec­tion that has gone on dis­play ahead of the auc­tion.

“I’m not in­ter­ested in the price. The past two months have been so sat­is­fy­ing, see­ing the col- lec­tion go around the world.

“I didn’t ex­pect so much in­ter­est in it.”

Sotheby’s head of watches, Sharon Chan, says that “se­ri­ous luxury watch col­lec­tors” are also fans of Swatch.

“Each watch in this col­lec­tion trans­lates into a chap­ter of con­tem­po­rary art,” Chan added.

Hong Kong has a prece­dent for suc­cess­ful Swatch sales — in 2011 an­other large col­lec­tion sold for more than US$6 mil­lion to an anony­mous Chi­nese col­lec­tor at auc­tion in the city.

Af­ter Tues­day, a philo­soph­i­cal Dunkel said his fo­cus would switch back to fam­ily life.

“I’m a grand­fa­ther and my hobby is the two kids now,” he said.

Asked whether he will be sad to see his col­lec­tion go, he shrugged, say­ing: “That’s life.”


A woman looks at Swatch watches from the Dunkel col­lec­tion dis­played by auc­tion house Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on Thurs­day, April 2.

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