Christie’s Just Impounded $43 Million Worth of Watches Over a Legal Dispute With a Collector

More than a hundred luxury watches have been caught in the crossfire of a battle between Christie’s and a noted collector.

Omani businessman Mohammed Zaman filed a civil complaint against the auction house following the Passion for Time sale in Geneva on November 6. The court then issued an order that the entire consignment be impounded pending resolution of the case.

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Zaman, who has been collecting watches for about 45 years, had 113 of his timepieces up for auction in the Passion for Time sale, including a Rolex GMT Master owned and worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now and a rare Philippe Dufour Grande et Petite Sonnerie (both pictured above). The lots hammered down for a total of $42,418,914 at the November auction, but post-sale transactions have now been put on hold.

Brando’s Rolex GMT Master.
Brando’s Rolex GMT Master.

“Mr. Zaman is regrettably blocking Christie’s from releasing watches to the successful buyers at the Passion for Time sale,” a spokesperson for the auction house said in a statement. “Christie’s has taken immediate steps to challenge this interference with the sale process and is hoping for swift resolution. We deeply regret the inconvenience caused to our valued clients pending that outcome. We are sorry that Mr. Zaman fails to recognize the record commercial success of the Passion for Tine sale, which was the largest total achieved for a single-owner watch collection at auction to date.”

Winning bidders have been advised by Christie’s to withhold payment until the legal matter is resolved, as reported by Bloomberg.

It is currently unclear what sparked Zaman to take action against Christie’s. (The auction house said it will get back to Robb Report shortly with any pertinent information.) WatchPro claims there were irregularities at the opening of the Passion for Time auction concerning third-party guarantees that were considerably higher than pre-sale estimates in the public domain right up until the start of the sale.
A single investor reportedly made a reserve bid guaranteeing a minimum price for every watch in the sale. The guarantee was offered and accepted at a higher price than the original estimates, which then had to be updated before the sale. (The auction was delayed for nearly an hour, according to Bloomberg.)

An unknown bidder, who has been nicknamed “Paddle 1013,” appeared to be winning most of the watches for amounts at the lower end of the new estimates. The aforementioned Brando Rolex, for instance, originally had an estimate of $1.1 million to $2.2 million, but that was revised to $4.3 million to $7.6 million just before the sale. It hammered down for $5.3 million, which is quite close to the revised low estimate.

“Christie’s respects the confidentiality of our clients and does not comment on buyer identity,” the auction house adds. “We do however wish to clarify that the speculation fuelled by Mr. Zaman regarding the identity of the guarantor is simply incorrect.”

This is not the only horological hiccup that has occurred recently, either. Only Watch has had to postpone its charity auction to next year in the wake of questions raised about how it distributes the funds it raises. Christie’s Geneva was scheduled to host this year’s sale.

Fingers crossed the issues get sorted and collectors can keep on collecting.

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