Summer is over and the temperatures are plummeting, but conversely our spirits are soaring as we head into the autumn auction season. As ever, I am delighted to be sharing with you some of my personal highlights from the sales. Today I am taking a look at the Phillips catalogue for The Geneva Watch Auction: EIGHT. Phillips, in partnership with the husband and wife team Bacs and Russo, has built a solid reputation over the past few years by assembling a world-class team of specialists who curate some of the very finest watches for the theatre-esque sales that take place around the world. The team have assembled some incredible watches for the sale on the 10th and 11th of November with strong representation from Rolex and Patek Philippe, which account for 58% of the lots.

Pre-Daytona Presence

According to James Marks, International Specialist and Director of Watches UK, there was an almost accidental theme that emerged in the form of Pre-Daytonas in this sale. Prior to the introduction of the legendary Daytona in 1963, Rolex honed their Oyster chronographs from the earliest monoblocco ref. 3525. If it’s a 3525 you want, then there are three to choose from – two in steel and one in yellow gold. I particularly love Lot 159, a steel example with stunning salmon dial. An early example with the serial and reference number on the case back, as opposed to between the lugs, this is a very desirable watch. Salmon dials are hot at the moment and a salmon dial in an Oyster case is blistering hot!

Lot 159 Rolex ref. 3525 stainless steel chronograph with salmon dial, tachymeter and telemeter scales
Lot 159 Rolex ref. 3525 stainless steel chronograph with salmon dial, tachymeter and telemeter scales
Lot 159 Rolex Ref. 3525. An extremely rare and highly attractive stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with salmon dial, tachymeter and telemeter scales
Lot 159 Rolex Ref. 3525. An extremely rare and highly attractive stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with salmon dial, tachymeter and telemeter scales

In keeping with the heat analogies, my other favourite Pre-Daytonas are tropical! Lot 86, a very rare 6238, is of special interest because not only is it a glossy black dial that has turned a beautiful chocolate hue but it is what scholars refer to as a ‘suspended T’ dial. Never ones to knowingly waste anything, in the early ’60s when the use of highly toxic radium was being phased out, Rolex modified their existing stock of dials to denote that the dials were loaded with tritium luminous material at the hour markers. The most common ways of doing this was either a small dash or the addition of ‘T’s on either side of the ‘SWISS’ designation at the bottom of the dial. On this particular dial the T’s were suspended between the lower chronograph register and the tachymeter scale.

Lot 86 Rolex ref. 6238 stainless steel chronograph with "Suspended T" degradé brown tropical glossy dial
Lot 86 Rolex ref. 6238 stainless steel chronograph with "Suspended T" degradé brown tropical glossy dial
Lot 86 Ref. 6238. A very fine, extremely rare and highly important stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with "Suspended T" degradé brown tropical glossy dial

Lot 210 is a very charming 14k yellow gold 6034 with a light butterscotch tropical dial. The watch’s dial would have originally been white or cream and it has been treated kindly by time and has a uniform golden hue across it. The dial is also interesting as it features both tachymeter and telemeter scales, the latter of which is a vibrant blue. Whilst stainless steel still seems to be the go-to for collectors, there is no arguing with the allure of this incredible watch!

Lot 210 Rolex ref. 6234 14K yellow gold chronograph with multi-scale tropical champagne dial and engraved back
Lot 210 Rolex ref. 6234 14K yellow gold chronograph with multi-scale tropical champagne dial and engraved back
Lot 210 Rolex Ref. 6234. A very fine and rare 14K yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with multi-scale tropical champagne dial and engraved back
Lot 210 Rolex Ref. 6234. A very fine and rare 14K yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with multi-scale tropical champagne dial and engraved back

Steel The Show

The Day-Date is something of a stalwart in the Rolex lineage. Since its introduction in 1956 it has continued to woo collectors with its plethora of insanely beautiful dials in incredible finishes; often festooned with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies. The watch was the flagship model of the catalogue and was only available in precious metals – white gold, yellow gold, pink gold and platinum. In 1959 a small number of reference 6611 Day-Dates were manufactured in stainless steel. These watches are arguably considered as the most desirable of Day-Dates. A second batch, in the 1803 era, was also produced and Lot 25 is one of these pieces. The watch is unassuming, with its smooth bezel and so-called Buckley dial, these watches were supposedly made to test the new caliber 3055 Day-Date movement. Coming from an impeccable source (a retired Rolex watchmaker), the piece bears no serial or reference numbers. A similar example appears in John Goldberger’s tome 100 Superlative Rolex Watches, with a movement number that is very close. Steel yourself for a serious bidding war on this President.

Lot 25 Rolex Day-Date stainless steel prototype calendar wristwatch with bracelet
Lot 25 Rolex Day-Date stainless steel prototype calendar wristwatch with bracelet

Beautiful Breguets

With vintage collecting it’s all about the details. One of the most sought-after details are Breguet numerals on dials, especially on a Patek Philippe watch. And even more so on a truly rare Patek Philippe watch. There are a number of Breguet numeral Pateks in this sale, but my favourite is Lot 106, a very cool waterproof chronograph known by its Italian nickname ‘Tasti Tondi’ – loosely translated as round pushers. Over the past few years steel step-case chronos have become highly sought after. The proportions of the case are ideal for many and the delicate touches of machining on the pusher faces and the leaf hands will, I am sure, have collectors and dealers in a bidding frenzy!

Lot 106 Patek Philippe ref. 1463 stainless steel chronograph with Breguet numerals
Lot 106 Patek Philippe ref. 1463 stainless steel chronograph with Breguet numerals
Lot 106 Patek Philippe Ref. 1463. An extremely rare and incredibly well-preserved stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with Breguet numerals

Uniquely Cool

One lot that caught my eye is Lot 38, a unique Omega watch that was delivered to the Spanish market in 1952. A large watch for the era, measuring 35mm it has a platinum case and four diamonds on the dial, at quarter interval. The dial itself is a work of art, featuring an applied Omega logo on the two-tone guilloche finished dial surface. The icing on the cake is an Omega extract confirming the fact that it was ordered as a unique piece. Large Omega dress watches has risen in both value and profile this year. This is one to watch.

Lot 38 Omega ref. PA14321 platinum and diamond-set wristwatch with two-tone honeycomb dial, ordered as a unique piece
Lot 38 Omega ref. PA14321 platinum and diamond-set wristwatch with two-tone honeycomb dial, ordered as a unique piece