Christie’s Watch Department has assembled an incredible selection for their latest sale in New York this week (21 June 2017). Featuring a stellar line up of rare and special watches, the sale also features a section entitled ‘American Icons’. I’ve been through the catalogue and have selected some of my personal favourites from the beautifully presented (and handy sized!) catalogue. So here they are — Povey’s Picks…

Delicious Daytonas

As I’ve said before, there has been a huge surge in interest and focus on the automatic Rolex Daytonas and no more so than when housing a rare dial. The stone dials with diamond hour markers and full pave set dials are especially striking when set in white gold cases.

This sale features a run of sixteen watches. The blue ‘sodalite brilli’ 116519 are one of my all-time favourite Rolex dials. These dials are cross-section cuts of stone and so each one is unique. Lot 70 is a fine example in a very rich blue hue.

Lot 59 showcases Rolex’s incredible ability to produce full gem set pieces. This reference 116589 features a full pave set dial with sapphire hour markers. Additionally, the tachymeter scale has been substituted for a baguette cut sapphires on the bezel. The overall effect is stunning! I believe these watches are still slightly undervalued…let’s see how they do.

Lot 70: Rolex. A Fine 18k White Gold Automatic Chronograph Wristwatch with Center Seconds and Sodalite Dial.

Original Owners

No more brand relies on provenance for key, special pieces than vintage Rolex. The sale will feature some fantastic Rolex lots that on their own would be sought after. When one adds the fact that some of these pieces are from the family and descendants of the original owners of the watch; well it’s the homerun!

The first is a complicated reference 8171, one of only two Rolex references to feature moonphase date complications (excluding the Cellini model unveiled this year at Baselworld). Given the nickname Padellone (Italian for ‘big frying pan’), Lot 174 is being offered by the son of the original owner and comes complete with box, original guarantee papers and even the strap buckle. Unusually large for the era, the 8171’s steel case measures 38mm across and the dial has turned a very pleasing ‘tropical’ creamy yellow hue.

Lot 48 is a manual wind Daytona with three amazing attributes; a Paul Newman dial, Tiffany & Co signature and military provenance! The original owner was a naval aviator, who later went to work as a test pilot for LVT Aerospace Company. He purchased the reference 6239 Daytona at the Tiffany & Co shop in Dallas in 1968 and it was a key piece of professional equipment in his flying career, testing fighter jets. Having such a back-story for a watch is important for this watch, especially when authenticating the Tiffany & Co signature on the dial.

It’s not that rare to see UAE crests on Rolex watches. It’s a lot rarer, however, when they are in watches with the provenance that Lot 184 comes with. The GMT Master reference 1675 has the eagle crest on the dial and also has an inscription on the case back in the form of a presentation to the original owner Raymond Trahan. He was a shooting friend of Sheikh Mohammed BR Al-Maktoum and was awarded the watch after winning a skeet shooting competition with the royal family of Dubai.

Lot 174: Rolex. A Very Rare Stainless Steel Automatic Triple Calendar Wristwatch with Moon Phases
Lot 48: Rolex. A Very Fine and Rare Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch with
Lot 184: Rolex. A Very Fine and Rare Stainless Steel Automatic Dual Time Wristwatch with Center Seconds, Date and Bracelet

All Autavias – Heuer Hour

Lot 133 begins a 19-lot run of vintage Heuer Autavias. The word Autavia is derived from two words — AUTomotive and AVIAtion and is an important part of the history of the iconic watch brand. The name Autavia was first used in the 1930s on dashboard timers in airplanes and racing cars. When Jack Heuer (Great-Grandson of founder Edouardo Heuer) took over the brand, it was the first wristwatch launched under his leadership in 1962. Christie’s selection covers almost all the models including the legendary Jo Siffert version, GMT dual-time models and the famous PVD coated Heuers that you could scratch the coating off with your finger nail…although the included version is in very nice ‘unscratched’ condition! The sale features two very important and incredibly rare so-called Chronomatic Autavias in both white and black dial versions (lots 135 and 139 respectively). These watches are the most coveted of vintage Heuers and are very early models, which are products of the ‘Project 99’ collaboration between Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton/Buren and Dubois-Depraz, in the race to develop he world’s first automatic chronograph. This is the first time both versions have been offered in the same sale and I am certain they will set new sale records for Heuer watches.

A True Prototype

The term ‘prototype’ is seemingly used quite freely, especially in recent years around certain brands. Lot 228 is, however, a true prototype of one of the most interesting watches in recent years. The RM056 is a watch that garnered a lot of attention due to the fact that it was a split-second chronograph and tourbillon set in a full sapphire case, which affords an uninhabited view of the skeletonized movement therein. There were only five pieces made in the RM056’s first run and this watch, which preceded production, is numbered as Prototype No 2. It takes 800 hours just to manufacture this incredible watch case — it certainly won’t take that long for somebody to snap up this piece of horological history!

Lot 133: Heuer. A Fine and Large Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Wristwatch with Date, Made for the Kenyan Air Force
Lot 135: Heuer. An Extremely Rare Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Wristwatch with Date and
Lot 139: Heuer. A Very Fine and Rare Stainless Steel Automatic Chronograph Wristwatch with Date and Bracelet
Richard Mille RM 056 Prototype No. 2 at Christie's 2017 NY sale

American Icons

The last section of the sale features the lots that Christie’s are claiming are American Icons, or more specifically watches that have been owned by American icons. And there really are some iconic watches that have been owned by key personalities from the USA’s past.

Each watch is worthy of its own mini article, not least the final lot — a Cartier Tank that was owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This watch has received a lot of press attention but there are other fascinating watches in this section.

One of my favourites is lot 229, which is an early 1940s chronograph that was a gift from John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI to one of his military colleagues. The Astor name is well known in America for the family’s contribution to business, politics and society. JJ Astor VI’s father was tragically killed on the Titanic but his pregnant wife survived and gave birth to JJ Astor VI in New York and he subsequently became known as the ‘Titanic Baby’.

The watch is particularly fascinating as the prospective buyer will be buying four iconic luxury marques in one — Cartier (on the dial), Le Coultre (the watch), Vacheron Constantin (the casemaker) and Universal Geneve (the movement manufacturer). That’s a lot of ‘bang for your buck’!

For a Royal connection, lot 233 would be your choice. Believed to be the former property of the Duke of Windsor, the watch comes from the estate of Wallis Simspon. Simpson was the American woman for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry. The rectangular shaped Omega Marine wristwatch has a hinged back and is very art deco in its aesthetic.

Fans of Rolex dive watches would not be disappointed to own Lot 234, a Submariner reference 5512 that belongs to famed aquanaut John VanDerwalker. VanDerwalker was a scientist who spent sixty days in an underwater habitat called Tektite 1. This venture between NASA, General Electric and the US Navy monitored the behavior of the inhabitants and long-term effects of the nitrogen-oxygen environment on scientists focused on marine ecology study. There was a subsequent experiment, Tektite 2, which VanDerwalker also took part in. This is an important part of the Rolex dive watch history.

Other American Icon watches include watches owned by a President, baseball stars and icons of stage and screen. It’s a brilliantly curated sale and I am excited to see what some of the pieces achieve. Great job Christie’s!

Lot 250: Cartier. A Fine and Historically Important 18k Gold Square-shaped Wristwatch, Belonging to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and an Original Painting by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Lot 229: Jaeger-LeCoultre. A Fine Stainless Steel Wristwatch, Offered as a Gift From Prominent American John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI to Lieutenant Colonel H. T. Blair
Lot 233: Omega. A Rare Stainless Steel Rectangular-shaped Marine Wristwatch SIGNED OMEGA, OMEGA MARINE MODEL, REF. 679, BTE. 146310, BTE.S.G.D.G. 710316, BRITISH PAT. 365356, U.S.A. PAT. 1907700, D.R.P. 567213, CIRCA 1932
Lot 234: Rolex. A Fine Stainless Steel Automatic Wristwatch with Center Seconds and Bracelet, Worn by Scientist John VanDerwalker

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