At the beginning of this year, Sam Hines was announced as the Worldwide Head of Watches at Sotheby’s, following his somewhat surprising departure from Phillips. What is not surprising is that he has injected his experience into the house’s veins and the resulting catalogue for this season is impressive. I caught up with another recent appointment to the Sotheby’s crew, UK Director Kate Lacey, this week. She was very buoyant about the upcoming sale. “We have some truly exceptional pieces in Geneva this year. Of course we’re really excited and proud to present the Asprey, originally purchased in London; as well as a previously unknown and fresh-to-the-market pulsometer Daytona (lot 216). Another notable watch is lot 243, a platinum and diamond-set Rolex Day-Date with rare Khanjar dial with Oysterquartz case. Until now, the ref. 1831 was believed to have been produced in eight examples, this lot is the ninth and, as such, represents an important discovery. All in all, it could be a really strong season for Sotheby’s watches.”
Lot 220: The Asprey
There are a number of impressive lots in the sale. Arguably the most impressive is Lot 220, known as The Asprey – a Patek Philippe ref. 2499 that was retailed by Asprey. So important is this lot that the whole sale has been named after this lot – GE1804 “ASPREY” is the full title. This watch is the only known example of a complicated Patek that is both signed Asprey on the dial and also bears the retailer’s stamp in the case back. The 2499 is an important watch and I don’t believe it to be hyperbole so say that maybe this particular example could be one of the most important watches in the world.
I feel like I know this watch well, as I have been aware of it for many years and was one of the few people who knew its original story. The catalogue notes now disclose that it was originally bought from the original owner by my friend David Duggan. The original owner RC (whose initials adorn the case back) sold the watch to Duggan in the late 1990s. The watch was first seen publicly in 2006 at auction where it achieved 2.2 million Swiss francs – then a world record for a ref. 2499. The 2006 private buyer has kept the watch until now and it will be available again this month at Sotheby’s and I am certain the hammer price will go off the scale. The watch is perfect and 100% original. The luminous hands and Asprey signature elevate the watch beyond a regular 2499… if there is such a thing as a regular 2499!
Style It Up: Rolex Sports Models
One comment I have to make pertains to the cool way that a number of the Rolex sports watches were dressed for the catalogue. Lots 195 to 208 are pieces from the collection of a very passionate Rolex sports watch fan. This collector’s attention to detail is commendable, with his focus being on the details and iterations of both GMT-Masters and Explorer IIs. Each watch from his collection benefits from being accompanied by a full set of supporting documents and accessories. They are, in the main, very comprehensive in terms of being what collectors refer to as full sets. Hang tags, calendar cards, chronometer paper, booklets, boxes and even some spare bezel inserts are all included with the lots. And my favourite touch? Most of them are presented on nylon, so-called Nato straps in complimentary colour schemes. As a dedicated colourful Nato strap devotee, I love this!
Lot 216: Rolex Daytona Pulsometer
Lot 216 is a fresh-to-market and exceedingly rare Rolex Daytona ref. 6239. One of only three known examples, the watch features a pulsations scale. The pulsation scale was utilised by doctors to easily and accurately calculate a patient’s pulse. To calculate heart rate the doctor would traditionally need to count your pulses and count to fifteen seconds at the same time and then multiply the number of pulses by four… sounds tricky at the best of times, never mind in a life and death situation! The pulsation scale allowed the doctor to start the chronograph, count 15 ‘pulses’ then stop the chrono and take the reading – no need for any multiplying!
The watch is being consigned by the original owner who bought the watch whilst on holiday. The dial remains in all-original condition, with the majority of lume plots still intact and of course the vibrant blue pulsation scale around the very outer edge. I would not be surprised if this exceeded the upper estimate of 1 million Swiss Francs.
Lot 245: Tempting Tudors
There are a couple of interesting Tudors in the sale. Lot 245 is an exceptionally rare black Home Plate chronograph. Dating to 1971, this watch comes with the elusive ‘peanut box’. The second is a manual wind 34mm Oyster watch. The ref. 7904 was introduced in the 1950s and was produced with a huge variety of different dials. I have been a collector of these 34mm Oysters for many years and have enjoyed discovering new dial variants on a number of occasions and I recently wrote about them here. I am delighted to see one in this sale of Important Watches; maybe this is the beginning of the market awakening to these great classic watches.
Lot 228: The Millennial Falcon
Richard Mille watches was founded in 1999, the very end of the Generation Y (Gen Y) or Millennial cohort. Gen Y is seen as the first digital natives, who accept groundbreaking technology as part of everyday life. Richard Mille watches are just that – immersed in super high tech watchmaking skills that take inspiration from motorsport and aviation. Lot 228 is not for the faint-hearted. The white gold case is set with black sapphires and features a unique dial that is essentially a diamond-set falcon. The case houses a free-sprung balance and tourbillon. For collectors of high-end modern horology this is an interesting proposition. For an RM collector… it’s a must!