A unique vintage wristwatch set a world record price for a Patek Philippe timepiece after hectic bidding when it was sold at auction for 3.91 million Swiss francs (US$3.88 million) in Geneva on Tuesday, the auctioneer Sotheby’s said.

The timepiece, made by the luxury Swiss watchmaker in 1952, and bought four years later at Asprey’s – the only one of its kind the London retailer ever sold – is a perpetual calendar chronograph.

“The Asprey” was the star lot among 250 watches and pocket watches, including pieces by Cartier, Rolex, and Vacheron Constantin, that went under the hammer at the semi-annual auction.

Tuesday’s anonymous seller had bought the timepiece at auction in 2006 for a then-record 2.2 million Swiss francs and this time around it had a pre-sale estimate of US$2 million to US$4 million.

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The buyer’s identity was not immediately known, but the successful bidder was a young Asian woman wearing torn jeans in the back row of the sale room, who spoke Chinese into her mobile phone.

“A world record price for a [Patek Philippe reference model] 2499. Sold,” Sam Hines, global head of Sotheby’s watch division, said as he brought down the hammer after hectic bidding.

The original owner, whose initials, RC, are engraved on the back of the watch’s yellow gold case, probably received it for his 21st birthday.

He has not been identified either, the auction house said.

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The watch, which was taken on a marketing tour in Asia and Dubai prior to the sale, is on a brown leather strap and offers the day and date, a stopwatch and phases of the moon.

Hines, when when asked about the Chinese luxury market cooling in an era of less ostentation, as a result of a government anti-corruption drive, said before the sale: “We do have clients in China.

“It is true with the sort of need to be less ostentatious, tastes have become more conservative.

“So vintage watches really do fit the new taste.”

In all, a total of the 12.2 million Swiss francs was spent on watches at the auction, Sotheby’s said.

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