Bonhams announce the sale of one of the world's largest watch collections, containing 2,000 exceptional timepieces.

The collection is owned by the late Jan Willem Frederik baron van Wassenaer of the Dutch De Van Wassenaer family, a dynasty that dates back to the 13th century. Believed to be the largest ever seen in Europe, the collection will be sold at various auctions throughout 2016, with the first instalment will feature in Bonhams Fine Watch Sale, taking place 16 December at 101 New Bond Street.

"This is one of the largest single-owner watch collections the world has ever seen. We're delighted that Bonhams have been selected to offer the entire collection at sales throughout the coming year," said Jonathan Darracott, Bonhams Head of Watches.

"Owned by a European nobleman, they've been stored all around his home, with new ones still untouched in boxes, vintage ones in drawers, further pieces in the safe, and others piled up high in cupboards, or on his desk. A fantastic medley of watches, a collection consisting entirely of the things he adored.

"What makes this collection so special is not simply its vastness, but the extraordinary variety of watches included. From the most renowned and exclusive watchmakers in the world, to independent manufacturers who produce only a few pieces per year."

Leading the first instalment is a fine, exceptionally complicated 18K rose gold Audemars Piguet Grande and Petite sonnerie wristwatch, estimated at £40,000-60,000.

Further highlights include a fine and rare rectangular rose gold Glashütte tourbillon wristwatch, estimated at £20,000-£30,000, and an oversize rare and complicated rose gold IWC Spitfire Perpetual Calendar chronograph, estimated at £12,000-£18,000.

The remainder of the collection will be sold throughout 2016.

Jan Willem Frederik baron van Wassenaer was born in The Hague on 13 March 1933. His family, the De Van Wassenaers, are among the oldest noble families in Holland, with a heritage dating back to the 13th century.

In his twenties, Van Wassenaer started to collect valuables such as watches, coins, stamps and antique books. He was well known for his vast knowledge of how and where to acquire antique books, old magazines, maps and other printed valuables.

For watches, his preference was only for the more traditional, and complicated, mechanical pieces with manual winding mechanism. In buying them he employed various strategies, the most notable being to purchase watches with a serial number with emotional value: 3, 13, and 33 were his favourites. He also collected special watches from particularly rare series', such as the Omega Missions Case (serial number 3/5), and the Oris Limited Edition Explorers of the World.
The series of Longines in the collection is arguably the largest private collection ever seen. When the Longines book was produced, the brand even referred to Van Wassenaer because they knew his collection to be by far the largest.

Van Wassenaer also owned a considerable collection of Alpina watches. Rumour has it that the reason for this was because his father, who died when Van Wassenaer was just 21 years old, had owned an Alpina watch which was later lost. In buying all possible Alpina watches he believed that one day, he would also own the watch which had been his fathers.

Bonhams is pleased to offer this timeless legacy from one of the most knowledgeable watch collectors of our time.

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