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Patek Philippe watch sells for $2.9 million

The collectible watch market is still going strong. A 1923 Patek Philippe sold at Sotheby's Tuesday for $2.965 million—more than twice the top estimate.

The piece, Patek's first split-seconds chronograph, was sold to a Swiss museum, according to Sotheby's.

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While not the most expensive watch ever sold, it rivals the highest price ever fetched at a Sotheby's watch auction—$2.994 million for a Henry Graves Yellow Gold Minute Repeating Wristwatch by Patek Philippe that sold in 2012.

The yellow gold single button split-seconds chronograph originally sold on Oct. 13, 1923, making it the earliest known split-seconds chronograph made by the firm. It is the only split-seconds chronograph made by Patek with a white enamel dial. (Split-seconds watches have two independently controlled sweep-second hands).

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The watch was part of a sale of 171 watches at Sotheby's that fetched $11.7 million. Of the 171 lots, 143 sold.

Sotheby's said demand was fueled by a broad diversity of buyers from around the world.

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"Bidding throughout yesterday's auction was truly global, demonstrating the continued strength of the watch market worldwide," said Katharine Thomas, head of Sotheby's Watch Department in New York.

A titanium Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon with 12 complications, including a perpetual calendar, fetched $1.325 million.

—By CNBC's Robert Frank

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