As the 2018 auction season draws to a close there is still time for the savvy bidder to make some great horological acquisitions at the Bonhams Fine Watches sale at their New Bond Street saleroom on Wednesday 12 December. Looking to treat yourself, a loved one or to strengthen your inventory? Then let me guide you through some of my personal highlights from the sale.
Lot 2 – Aqua Time
Straight in at the front of the sale is my favorite iteration of the Aquanaut, the original Jumbo Aquanaut ref. 5065. Many vintage collectors love the raw execution of this dial, with its guilloche 3D-effect dial and the presence of the arabic 3 numeral, which was removed in later versions. This watch also marked the first time that Patek had released a watch on a rubber strap that, along with the name, reinforced Patek’s intention of the watch being aimed at the water sports market. Like may sports watches, however, it became as popular in the boardroom as it did in the pool as it’s such an easy watch to wear for any occasion. Measuring a good 38mm, this Jumbo is surely going to follow in the same steps as its older Nautilus brother and become a serious collector’s piece.
Lot 6 – Four-Line Time
I make no secret of my love for the automatic Daytona and the original version, powered by the modified Zenith movement, has become one of the hottest watches of the last couple of years. The steel 16520 was the watch that started the now legendary Rolex waiting lists when it debuted at Basel in 1988. Bonhams is offering a cool example in the sale. Lot 6 has the sought-after early dial, known by collectors as the ‘inverted six’ dial, where the 6 numeral in the hour register is ‘upside down’. This isn’t the only interesting point about this lot, however. The upper half of the dial has four lines of text where all other versions of the dial have five lines. This second version, following the ‘floating’ Mk1, has the ‘OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED’ line omitted and it makes it that extra special for the Daytona lover.
Lots 21 & 22 – Kew Time
Staying with the Rolex theme, lots 21 and 22 come with an additional pedigree beyond the fact that they are classic Osyters. I first handled one of these “Kew A” watches many years ago at one of the epic Rolex Passion events in the Netherlands. The owner captivated me with the story of how these pieces were put through rigorous tests by the Kew Observatory, part of the Greenwich Observatory, before the days of the centralised Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC for short). Kew was one of four most revered chronometer testing facilities and was responsible for testing chronometers for the Royal Navy. A total of 136 watches successfully passed the 45-day testing and were eligible for the coveted “Kew A Certificate” on the dial. It’s rare to see one for sale. Two in one sale? It must be Christmas!
Lot 97 – Golden Time
The Omega Speedmaster ref. 345.0802 was produced in 1980, in approximately 300 pieces, to commemorate the 1969 Apollo XI mission. I like that it was released 11 years after the mission too – a nice touch. Cased in yellow gold (there were also 20 made in white gold) it was the first Speedmaster to feature a display case back, that gives the owner a view of the calibre 861 movement that drives the Speedy. With the heightened interest in limited edition Speedmasters in recent times (think Snoopy, Ultraman et al) I believe this is a lot to watch.
Lot 91 – Rough Time
The Rolex Submariner has always been an important piece for collectors of sports watches. Recent sales of Big Crown Submariners have produced results that clearly highlight that the Sub is now catching up with some of the traditional key auction pieces, such as Daytonas, in the minds of collectors and dealers. You know a steel sports watch has ‘arrived’ when it sells for over 1 million USD (especially when it’s lost its bezel!), as a Big Crown did last year. The Big Crowns are Rolex and Tudor Subs with oversize 8mm winding crowns dating to the 1950s. Lot 91 is a ref. 6538 with incredibly rare so-called ‘Explorer dial’ due to the arabic 3-6-9 numerals like the Rolex Explorer. This lot, however, has another feature, the holy grail of Big Crown dials – a red depth rating. There are believed to be only around ten known examples of red depth 6538 Subs, which makes this an incredibly rare piece. The watch is far from perfect, having lived its life on the wrist of a crew member of an Amerca’s Cup contender, and the dial shows damage that was most likely caused by salt water. Will this matter? Well, in a world where supposedly 80% of a watch’s value is in the dial, this 6538 will take a hit for sure. But sometimes rarity should be more important than condition and this is a case in point. There is no way it will not smash the high estimate of £20,000 and I believe the result will surprise people.
Lot 68 – Perpetual Time
There are very few watches more classic and timeless than a Patek Philippe Calatrava. Lot 68 is a ref. 2526, Patek’s first self-winding wristwatch. Produced in 580 examples, this watch remains in really beautiful condition. The cream enamel dial is elegant and the large sub seconds dial is not imposing. The case is also a good size at 35mm. So often we see Calatravas in 31-33mm cases, which for modern tastes is a little diminutive. This watch is pure class and would not look out of place anywhere at anytime… I’m seriously tempted!
I will be attending the sale on 12th December and will be taking over the Revolution Instagram Stories from 2pm. Make sure you tune in!