What a year 2020 has panned out to be so far! The good news is that we are just over half way through, although, the bad news is just as much that we are only just over half way through!

But we are where we are and everybody is now trying to make the best out of a very unfamiliar reality. What is becoming clear is that the watch market is seemingly buoyant and has remained so throughout even the deepest nadir of a global lockdown.

Online sales by both dealers and auction houses have been impressive. And then there was last weekend in Geneva. A somewhat truncated offering from the usual four sales, the show did go on with sales from both Phillips and Antiquorum. And what happened?

It went utterly crazy. And not in a few-pieces-did-OK kind way, but in a properly insane multi-world-records-set and feverish bidding like we’ve not seen for years. Half a million Swiss francs for a Comex 1680 Submariner? Yep. 200,000 Swiss for a head only yellow Stella dial Day-Date? Indeed. 25,000 for a current model Rolex GMT ceramic? Yessiree! And as for the million-plus Journe…

So two short weeks later the market turns its eyes to Hong Kong, where the three main players, Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, are hosting sales of fine and important watches. Will the results be as hot as Geneva? Who knows. What I can say for sure is that everybody – from dealers, collectors, commentators and investors will be watching closely to see if the Geneva madness was a blip or if the market will maintain the strength that it showed two weeks ago.

I suspect we will land somewhere in the middle, with prices a little softer than we saw in Europe, but still a strong performance, especially considering the global situation and the potential we had for a complete and utter end of days meltdown! Today I’m taking a look at the Christie’s sale and have selected some key pieces that caught my eye and might catch yours.

Lot 2240 – Ladies First
Lot 2240: Rolex Lady's Datejust with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 69028
Lot 2240: Rolex Lady's Datejust with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 69028

We have a fondness for gem-set Rolex here at Revolution, which I admit is partly driven by me and is partly down to how unarguably cool they are. One under-appreciated area of Rolex collecting is the Crown Collection and specifically today I want to highlight a piece from that is part of the Rolex story.

Essentially, the Crown Collection was where jewellery and watchmaking collided and at the turn of the millennium, the Crown Collection gave way to the Pearlmaster for Datejusts, which is where Rolex now focuses it’s most intricate gem-set pieces.

Lot 2240 dates to 1987 and is quite the watch to behold. This reference 69028 is a yellow gold Datejust, but that isn’t immediately obvious due to the sheer amount of embellishment that that watch has. The dial is fully paved with sapphire hour markers and the bezel is set with sapphires around its whole circumference.

The case shoulders are also set with brilliant-cut diamonds. The real fun begins with the bracelet though, which is a set with brilliant-cut diamonds and baguette-cut sapphires. The only way to fully appreciate this watch is in person, but for now the pictures will have to do…its mesmerizing!

Lot 2240: Rolex Lady's Datejust with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 69028
Lot 2240: Rolex Lady's Datejust with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 69028
Lot 2338 – Gent’s Sapphire
Lot 2338: Rolex Day-Date with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 18048 (The property from an Important Private Asian Collection Part 3)
Lot 2338: Rolex Day-Date with Diamonds and Sapphires, Ref. 18048 (The property from an Important Private Asian Collection Part 3)

Lot 2338 picks up where Lot 2240 leaves off with a gem set Day-Date in yellow gold. The yellow gold reference 18048 dates to the late 1970s and whilst it retains a regular production yellow gold bracelet, things become a little interesting on the watch head.

The dial is fully paved with baguette-cut sapphires for the six and nine o’clock markers. The bezel is also set with brilliant cut diamonds. In fact, so full of diamonds is the dial, that Rolex opted to place the Rolex name and coronet on the crystal! It’s a cool touch for the connoisseur and something that has always appealed to me. You could always replace the crystal for a regular one for full-stealth mode. This is full-on, unapologetic bling and perfect for those evenings with a glass of Meursault on La Croisette this summer!

Lot 2366 – Tropical Longines
Lot 2366: Longines Diver's Watch with Tropical Dial
Lot 2366: Longines Diver's Watch with Tropical Dial

In a sale that is dominated by Rolex and Patek, there is a seam of tropical watches that kicks off with this Longines diver’s watch reference 7494-2. The immediate appeal of this watch is its wonderful tropical dial that perfectly counterpoints with the black internal bezel.

The watch dates to 1960 and boasts an impressive 42mm steel compressor case with two crowns. One is to set the time and the other is to adjust the inner timing bezel – a key tool for divers to measure elapsed time.

One element I’ve always loved about these watches is the hands, especially the large arrow hour hand. These divers may be a little behind the curve set by brands such as Rolex and Omega, but they represent a very cool and different proposition for the collector.

Lot 2443 – Japanese Aquanaut
Lot 2443: Patek Philippe Aquanaut with Blue Dial, Limited Edition for the Japanese Market
Lot 2443: Patek Philippe Aquanaut with Blue Dial, Limited Edition for the Japanese Market

Lot 2443 is an example of Patek’s sporty dive watch, the Aquanaut. This watch was made for the Japanese market and has a blue dial in the signature Aquanaut checkerboard finish and has a steel bracelet, when we are more used to seeing them on the rubber strap.

Dating to 1998, these Japanese-market only watches have a distinctive look that collectors are always keen to buy. Any Patek that is a little different is always a popular pick and I see this one as destined for a good result; a prediction helped by the presence of an Archive Extract that confirms the watch’s credentials. The Aquanaut has been nipping at the heels of its elder bother the Nautilus for a while now. With the Japenese-market models believed to have been made in only 500 examples, I’m confident it’ll do well.

Lot 2481 – Mixed Metal Calatrava
Lot 2481: Patek Philippe Platinum Calatrava with Diamond Hour Markers and 18k White Gold Bracelet, Ref. 2484, Confirmed by the extract from The Archives
Lot 2481: Patek Philippe Platinum Calatrava with Diamond Hour Markers and 18k White Gold Bracelet, Ref. 2484, Confirmed by the extract from The Archives

The humble Calatrava has been made in so many combinations over the years that it is a popular theme for collectors who love the venerable brand. Some Calatravas are less humble than others, such as this beautiful reference 2484, in platinum, that was made in only 80 examples.

Interestingly this watch was delivered from the factory on a white gold bracelet, which was case for only one other piece from this run, as confirmed by the accompanying Archive Extract. The dial has diamond hour markers with baguette-cut stones at three, nine and twelve, which elevates the somewhat and makes it look more rarified to my eyes. I love it and will be watching closely.

The sale takes place on the 13th July at 11:00am at The James Christie Room, 22nd Floor, Alexandra House, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong.

See the full sale here.