The Patek Philippe watch once owned by King Farouk of Egypt. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A rare Patek Philippe watch, once owned by King Farouk of Egypt, sold for a record Dh3.3 million on Friday night at auction in Dubai.

Christie’s, who oversaw the sale, say that it was the most expensive watch ever sold at auction in the region.

The watch also set a world record for a Patek Philippe of its kind in yellow gold.

The price includes the premium that the buyer, who bid anonymously on the phone, must pay following the sale.

Described by Christie’s as the highlight of the Important Watches auction, the 18-carat gold Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar was manufactured in 1944 for King Farouk, a renowned collector of luxury timepieces and cars. 

The event generated a total of more than $7 million in sales, according to an executive at the London-based auction house.

The highlight of the evening, King Farouk’s watch generated some controversy in the days leading up to the auction, with the descendants of King Farouk telling Gulf News that the watch had been stolen from the family.

In a statement to the paper, Christie’s denied the claims, saying instead that they had “no doubt about the veracity and legitimacy of the watch, which is known to the market and has already changed hands several times at public auction in the past decade.”

Also on sale at the annual auction, held at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, was an “extremely rare” vintage Rolex, originally made in 1972 for His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.

The Rolex, dubbed the ‘Maktoum’, sold for Dh595,042 to an anonymous telephone bidder.

The stainless steel GMT-Master is fresh to the market, and features Shaikh Mohammad’s signature on the face in red.

The watch was commissioned during Shaikh Mohammad’s time as the UAE’s first Minister of Defence, Christie’s said.

Following the sale, Remy Julia, Christie’s head of watches for the Middle East, India, and Africa, told Gulf News that it was a "strong" auction, with "both vintage and modern well sold."

"Both local and international buyers were well represented. We had buyers fly in from the Asian subcontinent, plus a strong attendance online, showing that Dubai has become a new hub for watches," Julia said.

Regarding the King Farouk Patek Philippe, Julia said that he was proud to have shown it, adding that there had been interest from many continents.

He declined to provide details on the new owner of the watch.

Tarek Malek, co-founder and managing partner of Momentum, a Dubai-based vintage watch shop, said that whilst previous Christie’s auctions in Dubai had been more focused on modern luxury watches, this year was seeing a surge in vintage pieces, indicating an increased appetite amongst young Arabs for older watches.

“[Christie’s is] making Dubai more and more important in terms of the sale of important vintage watches, there’s a lot of international eyes on this auction. Dubai is put on the map,” Malek said.

“The general awareness in vintage watches is growing year-on-year,” he added.

Increased interest in vintage watches and participation by collectors from the Middle East have seen the auction company’s watch auctions grow considerably in recent years.

Experts in the luxury watch sector say that whilst the demand is high, the market in generally is depressed, suffering from a lack of excess liquidity.

Arguing that in some cases the implementation of a 5 per cent value-added tax (VAT) may have had an impact, they said that the prevailing mood in the market was one of conservative spending.

On February 2, Christie’s announced that their total global sales had increased by 26 per cent in 2017 to $6.6 billion (Dh24.24 billion), with overall sales in Europe and the Middle East totalling $2 billion, up 11 per cent.