Bonhams unique sale of Leica cameras in Hong Kong today. November 23, the first such auction sale of its kind, produced strong results with more than 85 per cent sold and the top item in the sale going for a staggering £603,837 (HK$7,460,000) - a world record for this particular rare Leica model.
This item, lot 2104, an Exceptional Leica Luxus I, circa 1930, No.40848 with a 50mm f3.5 Elmar lens, and a faux lizard skin body covering had been estimated to sell for HK$1,200,000-1,800,000. In the end it was knocked down for almost seven times that amount.
Jon Baddley, Head of Collectables at Bonhams, said after the sale: "This was the first Leica sale in Hong Kong and the results more than justify our belief in the idea of bringing these wonderful cameras to China which has a rapidly emerging market for vintage cameras. We took a bit of a gamble but it has paid off handsomely Already we can see that this market is outstripping New York and London."
This camera was from the collection of E. J. Newton (Jack), one of the founder members of the Leica Historical Society and its first president. It remained within his private museum in Sutton Coldfield, England, and later, along with most of his collection, went on display at the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, Milsom St., Bath. Thence to current vendor.
The Luxus cameras were produced on special order only in very tiny numbers between 1929 and 1930, using serial numbers falling between 28692 and 68834. Just 95 units were produced and many less are known to exist today.
The sale included over 250 lots of Leica cameras and accessories from two major private collections including items from the estate of the late Dr George Daniels who was undoubtedly the most famous and well-respected watchmaker this world has known.
The famous French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, used Leica cameras throughout his career. The robust and diminutive design of Leica made it ideal for his "life reportage" style that influenced generations of photographers who followed.
The legendary Leica camera brand was first brought to the attention of the public at the Leipzig Trade Fair of 1925 when the German scientific instrument company, Ernst Leitz, launched the Leica I, a revolutionary full-frame 35mm film, lightweight camera invented by the company's brilliant engineer and designer Oskar Barnack that was based on his 1913 prototype UR-Leica.
Leitz continued to launch innovative camera models, introducing a lens coupled rangefinder camera for measuring object to film distance as well as mounting interchangeable screw thread lenses, the most famous of which throughout the decades prior to WWII was the 5cm Elmar f/3.5, still made in collapsible form as the 50mm f/2.8 Elmar-M. These small format compact film cameras are beautifully made, expensive and continue to appealed to a wide variety of both amateur and professional photographers right up to today.