As Easter approaches each year, the watch world’s collective eyes get drawn to the imminent watch sales that form the spring auction season in Geneva. The four main houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s , Phillips and Antiquorum) all assemble world-beating sales that draw in the great and the good. The world’s horological hard hitters go into paddle-battle to win some of the most important watches that money can buy. Before the May madness kicks off, Sotheby’s has a pre-season offering in London. It’s a small, but perfectly formed sale that has been curated very much with the philosophy quality not quantity in the forefront. And it’s a sound move as outstanding pieces become ever harder to find, especially in the vintage sector. I spent a very pleasant hour with Sotheby’s Benoit Colson at the London office taking a closer look at some of the lots for the April 16th sale.
Master of GMTs
There has been a definite rise in the interest in the vintage Rolex GMT-Master recently, which has certainly been helped by the reboot of the line by Rolex. The current-collection steel GMT-Master with blue and red ceramic bezel is one of the most sought-after watches at the moment with long waiting lists and sky-high ‘grey market’ prices. Lot 80 is a watch that seemingly keeps on giving. It’s a GMT-Master reference 1675 dating to around 1960 with a number of desirable attributes, a single one of which would be enough to make it special but this watch has them all: Gilt dial? Check. Tropical dial? Check. Faded bezel? Check. Pointed crown guards? Check. Exclamation dot? Check. Small 24-hour hand? Check. This 1675 really does pack a punch and I’m sure will be keenly bid on.
A Piaget Collection
It’s not uncommon to hear or read the phrase the art of watchmaking. Sometimes a watch can truly be a work of art and Lots 16-27 contain examples that without question meet this brief. The lots comprise a single collection of lady’s watches, the majority of which are by Piaget and combine high-end jewelry and watchmaking.
Piaget was well known for its stone dial watches in the first half of the 1970s and this collection has such dials in malachite, coral, bloodstone, lapis and opal. Many are set in serious yellow gold cuffs, that whilst in one way are stylistically pure 1970s, they are in another way totally timeless. My personal favourites are Lot 22 and 26.
Lot 22 is a rectangular lapis lazuli dial watch with simple, elegant dauphine hands. The watch is built into a cuff that is significant in both size and weight… this is a serious chunk of gold! The 37mm width gives it a presence well beyond what one would traditionally expect from a lady’s watch.
Lot 26 is described in the catalogue as a piece of avant-garde jewelry and it’s the perfect description. The watch dial is made from a piece of malachite, but it’s almost camouflaged as the whole piece is set with discs of malachite set in yellow gold wreath-esque creations. Impressive to say the least and I believe watches that are still a little under the radar with serious collectors.
No sale would be complete without some representation from the Rolex Daytona. There are number of good examples in the sale. I’ve picked one vintage and one modern piece for my highlights. The vintage, Lot 47, is an incredible example of a 6263 Big Red and the condition is unbelievable. The first thing I noticed on closer inspection of this watch was how stiff the clasp on the bracelet is. The rest of the watch is as mint as the bracelet including a well-preserved caseback sticker. The dial is perfect, the case is as close to new as you could want and the reasonably delicate bezel is unmarked. The estimate of £30,000 to 50,000 is a pipe dream for bidders – this will do well on the day!
The second Daytona is modern and maybe one of the most iconic modern Rolex. So much so that it’s the cover lot. Lot 85 is a Rolex Daytona Rainbow, the most recent of the triology in Everose. There really isn’t a lot that I can say about this watch that I haven’t said before, other than it’s very rare to see one at auction. Actually, it’s very rare to see one full-stop! We were the first people to get hands-on with the pink Rainbow at Baselworld 2018 and Team Revolution was blown away. The Sotheby’s lot is the rare version with full pave dail, but the original order was for a plain, non-pave, Everose bracelet. It’s the headline for a reason! Watch this space.
Lot 82 is one of those fabulous examples that is both rare and also direct from the family of the original owner. An original owner watch is an easy claim to make, but a hard one to evidence. This one has evidence… plenty of it. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to remember any watch that I’ve ever seen that is so well documented. And it’s rare – a Rolex Submariner reference 5513 with a 3-6-9 Explorer style gilt dial. Explorer-dial Subs are serious watches, commanding serious prices. This one is a little extra-special as it has an exclamation dot dial and a rare depth-rating that is missing the ‘m’ after 200. The watch has been serviced in the past and has picked up a service bezel, but in this case it really doesn’t matter a jot, as it’s the dial that makes this watch as special as it is.
Collectors love limited edition watches and Lot 71 is a limited edition Patek Philippe – say no more. The watch is one of 20 pieces commissioned by UK jewelers Boodle and Dunthorne to celebrate their 200th anniversary in 1998. The offered lot is number 71 and is a reference 5049 perpetual calendar with moon phases and leap year indicator. The watch is discreet at 35mm, but the stealthy platinum case gives it a reassuring heft that on the wrist feels nothing short of world class. The watch is in beautiful condition and comes with an archive extract and other papers and a watch winder. This is a great opportunity to grab a rare modern classic.