[UPDATE: How did the featured lots do in the March 22 auction last Friday? Prices realised and comments below]
Basel can be that all-consuming fire sucking up all the air in horological space, but life goes on regardless, and elsewhere in the world, there are treasures one could miss, if we blinked. For instance, Christie’s Important Watches auction happening today, in Dubai, 5pm.
We ran an earlier story highlighting some pieces that we photographed when the watches were on tour in Singapore, you can read that story, here.
No need to hop on a plane to scrutinize the pieces or place one’s bids; you can do all that from Christie’s auction page, here.
Additional auction highlights as follows:
Lot 177: Patek Philippe ref. 1491J CC “Chronograph Compteurs”
We start from the last lot because this is arguably the brightest star of the auction, not least for the Patek Philippe name, but also that there is none like it. Known as ‘scroll lugs’ to collectors, ref. 1491 is a time-only watch with either subsidiary seconds or central seconds. This particular example is the only known chronograph bearing this reference. And what a chronograph: lack of a tachymeter scale found in other Patek chronographs of the period makes for a very clean, spacious dial, which is optimally utilised by having an oversized subsidiary seconds, paired with an even larger 30-minute register! A delicious statement of harmonious tribute to fetching asymmetry and function. To accommodate the chronograph movement, the case is also unique, being larger and thicker than the time-only ref. 1491.
• Year of manufacture: 1937
• Movement: Cal. 13’’’’ manual-wind chronograph
• Dial: Asymmetric oversized subsidiary seconds and 30-minute register
• Case: 18k gold 35.1mm in diameter, 10.84mm thick
• Estimated price: US$$500k – US$1 million
[Price realised: US$591k, on the somewhat lower band of a half-million window]
Lot 161: Patek Philippe Ref. 3589/1 Grande Ellipse made for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Of the clutch of brightly hued watches made for Middle East potentates, this one stood out. The dial is a dreamy blue-green of the sea, and in place of a coat of arms, a quote from former Libyan strongman Col Muammar Gaddafi is inscribed in Arabic script, made all the more poignant since the colonel is no more: “Only in times of need will you find freedom”. Directly commissioned by Gaddafi and presented as a token of appreciation for Labor Day in 1978, only three other examples with the same case, bracelet and dial are known to exist.
• Year of manufacture: late 1970s
• Movement: automatic Cal. 28-255 C with Geneva Seal
• Dial: hard stone, inscribed with quotation, “Only in times of need will you find freedom, Col Muammar Gaddafi”
• Case: 18K white gold cushion case with white gold Patek Philippe bracelet
• Estimated price: US$25k – US$50k
[Price realised: US$187,5k. More than 3x the highest estimate; a memento from a very different Middle East not so long ago.]
Lot 78: Vacheron Constantin Ref. 6510 US Dollar Coin Watch
For a lark, and the best auctions should be fun, if only to moderate the blood-letting in the quest for yet another Sub. Here, a neat riposte to the USA’s abandonment of the gold standard in 1971, being made the following year. And who’s to say the dollar won’t collapse very soon as the post-millennial crisis-prone global financial order veers back towards said gold standard? In hinged case opened by pressing the button on the caseband; American bald eagle on the back.
• Year of manufacture: 1972
• Movement: manual-wind cal. 1003
• Case: 35mm, 18k gold with snap-on back, hinged within a US 20-dollar coin featuring Lady of Liberty and American bald eagle, dated 1891
• Estimated price: US$6k – US$8k
[Price realised: US$8,125. Applause for ’70s funk.]
LOT 95: ROLEX Tru-Beat Ref. 6556 Retailed by Tiffany & Co.
If the flame-red seconds hand doesn’t grab one’s attention in the first instant, its stepped march across the dial will. Like a quartz, yet wholly mechanical, dead-beat seconds watches evinced precision and engineering prowess in the era before quartz; the latter just moves like that to save on batteries. Dial is signed by Tiffany & Co.
• Year of manufacture: 1956
• Movement: automatic cal. 1040
• Dial: Signed by Rolex and Tiffany & Co.
• Case: 34mm stainless steel
• Estimated price: US$20k – US$30k
[Price realised: US$32,500. Goose-stepping Rolex does well]
LOT 77: Audemars Piguet Ref. 25831ST Royal Oak Automatique Tourbillon
The timepiece equivalent of skinny dipping, everything one doesn’t need has been chucked, including the crown, leaving time, date, power reserve (a healthy-pink 56 hours) and animation/amusement (the tourbillon) on the dial, with setting/winding integrated to the caseback. Part of 25 pieces in stainless steel produced to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak.
• Year of manufacture: 1997
• Movement: automatic cal. 2875 with one-minute tourbillon
• Case: 41mm stainless steel
• Estimated price: US$50k – US$100k
[Price realised: US$112,500. Crown-less clears the bar]