The Michael Z Berger watch with Pablo Picasso dial – €175,000 (£150,500) at Bonhams Paris.

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In place of the hour markers are the 12 letters spelling Pablo Picasso.

The father of modern art was a well-known watch wearer and was photographed with a Rolex GMT Master, a Jaeger-LeCoultre triple calendar moon phase and this bespoke watch with a movement by the little-known Swiss watch producer Michael Z Berger and a case signed MT Co of Hong Kong.

This well-worn watch is visible in many images of Picasso including the famous series taken by Cecil Beaton in the 1960s.

According to the vendor, it was a gift from Picasso to the Greek sculptor Lela Kanellopoulou.

She met Picasso at the Cahiers d’Art, having collaborated with Christian Zervos, publisher of the important Cahiers d’Art magazine and of the catalogue raisonné of the works of Picasso.

She was someone of intrigue for Picasso who gave her the pet name ‘La belle Hélène’ as a reference to her beauty, Greek nationality and background in archaeology.

One day in the 1960s, Picasso took the watch off his wrist and gave it to her.


Picasso gave the watch to Greek sculptor Lela Kanellopoulou (whom he called La belle Hélène).

Only two other named dial watches like this are known. Bonhams believed both were owned by La Fondation Picasso and suggested it was unlikely another will come for sale. However, the foundation has since said it does not own either of the other watches (an addendum was added to the online catalogue description).

At Bonhams Paris on May 20 it was guided at €12,000-18,000 (the price of a large edition Picasso ceramic or print) but in fact sold for €175,000/£150,500 (€219,050 including premium).

Jonathan Darracott, Bonhams global head of watches, said: “This was an extraordinary find and we are so thrilled at this well-deserved result for such a special timepiece, which was also a superb example of the 12-digit name tradition, replacing the numerals on the watch dial with the owner’s name, which goes back to the 1700s.

“It is rather fitting that Picasso followed this trend as he was famous for being a great self-publicist.”