Povey’s Picks — ‘John Player Special’ Paul Newman and Other Goodies at Christie’s Rare Watches

One of the most celebrated liveries in Formula 1 history: The Team Lotus' 'John Player Special'
One of the most celebrated liveries in Formula 1 history: The Team Lotus' 'John Player Special'

Auction weekend is an exciting time in Geneva, when the great and the good of the watch world descend en masse to observe and bid as some of the world’s most desirable watches go under the hammer. There is a lot of competition between the houses where the establishment goes head to head with the young guns. The result? A lot of great watches for sale! Today I’m taking a look through the ‘Rare Watches’ sale that Christies is running on Monday 13th November at their usual home, the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues.

Pateks a Plenty (Lots 128 and 62)

The morning session has a range of impressive pieces from a number of brands, but the dominating force is Patek Philippe. For many years, the king of the auction room (until vintage Rolex became super hot) there are a plethora of high quality pieces for disciples of the ‘Double P’. I have discussed Patek with a number of highly regarded dealers and collectors and there seems to be an emerging feeling that maybe the complications in precious metals are becoming more niche. Certainly, however, there seems to be a fascination for steel pieces. One such example is the reference 565 and Lot 128 is a great looking example. Dating to the late 1940s, this steel 565 features the highly desirable Breguet numerals on the dial as well as luminous dots at each hour and luminous in-fill in the hands. This rare combination is confirmed as original through the archive extract that is part of the lot. It was a good-sized watch for the era and also the first waterproof Patek watch.

Lot 128: Patek Philippe. A very fine and rare stainless steel wristwatch with indirect sweep centre seconds, Breguet numerals, luminous accents and luminous hands
Lot 128: Patek Philippe. A very fine and rare stainless steel wristwatch with indirect sweep centre seconds, Breguet numerals, luminous accents and luminous hands
Lot 128: Patek Philippe. A very fine and rare stainless steel wristwatch with indirect sweep centre seconds, Breguet numerals, luminous accents and luminous hands

Another interesting and cool steel Patek Philippe piece is Lot 62, a tropical dial Nautilus dating to 1977, the second year of the model’s production (but featuring a 1973 pre-Nautilus movement…more on that is a moment). Accompanied by an archive extract and its original cork box, this is the ‘jumbo’ version with a 42mm case diameter. The distinguishing feature of this Nautilus is the uniform ‘tropical’ dial; the collectors’ term for a dial which has changed colour over the years, usually to a brown hue. The aforementioned movement is a caliber 28-255C from 1973, which is a rare occurrence in these early 3700/1s and makes it even more desirable. The 28-255C was based on the Jaeger LeCoultre cal 920 – regarded as one the greatest movements ever, jointly developed by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audermars.

Lot 62: Patek Philippe. An extremely rare and very attractive stainless steel automatic wristwatch with tropical dial, date, bracelet and Nautilus cork box
Lot 62: Patek Philippe. An extremely rare and very attractive stainless steel automatic wristwatch with tropical dial, date, bracelet and Nautilus cork box
Lot 62: Patek Philippe. An extremely rare and very attractive stainless steel automatic wristwatch with tropical dial, date, bracelet and Nautilus cork box

Omega Mission Watch (Lot 153)

The Omega Seamaster has a rich history of professional use in both underwater exploration and military contexts. Lot 153 was actually used on a mission led by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1963. The experiment, known as Conshelf II, took place in the Red Sea and sub aqua habitats were lived in by the team for a number of days and weeks at different depths. The watch has the mission specific caseback engravings and houses a very rare movement from a batch that was reserved by Omega for extreme conditions testing. All this is confirmed by an archive extract which accompanies the lot.

Lot 153: Omega. A fine, historic and important diver’s stainless steel “Staybrite” automatic centre seconds wristwatch with special issue movement, used on the Conshelf II underwater experiment led by Jacques Cousteau in the Red Sea in 1963
Lot 153: Omega. A fine, historic and important diver’s stainless steel “Staybrite” automatic centre seconds wristwatch with special issue movement, used on the Conshelf II underwater experiment led by Jacques Cousteau in the Red Sea in 1963

Cool Comex (Lot 207)

The market for vintage Rolex has never been so bouyant, with prices for correct and honest pieces at an all time high. One area that I feel is still slightly undervalued is Comex. Comex are the Marseille based deep diving specialist company that has enjoyed a long and illustrious research and development relationship with Rolex. Divers employed by Comex in the 70s and 80s were often issued with Rolex Submariners and Seadwellers as either work equipment or to mark special events or long service awards. The Comex issued watches are identifiable by the Comex logo on the dial (in most cases) and also Comex specific caseback engravings. Lot 207 is a Seadweller reference 1665 with ‘rail dial’ (when the four line text on the bottom half of the dial is aligned) and a confirmation letter from Rolex. Whilst Military issued Submariners and other rare sports watches have had meteoric price rises, the Comex watches have been more moderate in their growth. There is no doubting how cool these watches are though for collectors of rare, issued sports watches.

Lot 207: Rolex. An extremely rare stainless steel automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, date, gas escape valve, bracelet and “Rail” dial, made for COMEX
Lot 207: Rolex. An extremely rare stainless steel automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, date, gas escape valve, bracelet and “Rail” dial, made for COMEX
Lot 207: Rolex. An extremely rare stainless steel automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, date, gas escape valve, bracelet and “Rail” dial, made for COMEX

The Day Date Sub (Lot 184)

This is the second sale in which Christies have offered a rare special order Rolex. Last time we saw a unique white gold Sub with unique bezel and this time we have what looks like the offspring of a Day Date and Submariner. The story is that the watch was ordered through Klarland in Copenhagen, a Rolex Authorised Dealer. The client wanted the elegance of a Day Date with the sporty look of a Submariner and so Rolex agreed to make a white gold Day Date with smooth bezel and a dial was made in Day Date configuration but in the style of a matte dial Submariner; which was what Rolex offered at the time – 1969.  The look was completed with Submariner hour and minute hands and a straight seconds hand. It is certainly unique looking!

Lot 184: Rolex. A very fine and exceptionally rare 18K white gold automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, day, date, special order luminous black dial, special order “sports” hands, special order smooth bezel, original 18K white gold President bracelet, box and service guarantee
Lot 184: Rolex. A very fine and exceptionally rare 18K white gold automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, day, date, special order luminous black dial, special order “sports” hands, special order smooth bezel, original 18K white gold President bracelet, box and service guarantee
Lot 184: Rolex. A very fine and exceptionally rare 18K white gold automatic wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, day, date, special order luminous black dial, special order “sports” hands, special order smooth bezel, original 18K white gold President bracelet, box and service guarantee

The Golden Child – A Newman (Lot 217)

The Rolex Daytona is amply represented in the sale. Included are early tropical dial manual wind examples, Zenith powered automatic steel models, ‘blingy’ gem-set yellow and white gold models and of course Paul Newmans. The Newman is arguably the watch of 2017; the Newman Newman having sold last month for in excess of 17 million dollars. There are a number of Paul Newman Daytonas in this sale and the sale’s finale is a gold reference 6241 ‘John Player Special’ Paul Newman. Taking its name from racing legend  Ayrton Senna’s black JPS formula 1 car, this black dial Daytona is exceptionally rare and sought after. The black dial is beautifully framed by the black acrylic tachymeter bezel and the overall effect is amazing. Fresh to market from a private collector, this is sure to do well.

Lot 217: Rolex. An exceptionally rare and highly attractive 18K gold chronograph wristwatch with black “John Player Special Paul Newman” dial
Lot 217: Rolex. An exceptionally rare and highly attractive 18K gold chronograph wristwatch with black “John Player Special Paul Newman” dial
Lot 217: Rolex. An exceptionally rare and highly attractive 18K gold chronograph wristwatch with black “John Player Special Paul Newman” dial