My third and final Povey’s Picks focuses on the Sotheby’s sale. Since Sam Hines took the helm at the old-school house, we have seen some stunning pieces offered as part of their sales. Following hot on the heels of the recent successful London sale, the offerings at their Geneva sale is strong, especially for Patek and manual-wind Daytonas. I was also personally delighted to see some Tudor watches in the sale. So let’s lift the lid on some of the lots. Again, I haven’t just looked at the rock star pieces but some interesting pieces that caught my eye.
My love of watches knows no bounds, but central to my passion is Tudor watches. For many years seeing a Tudor in a major auction was rare and yet as the world of vintage watch collecting looks for new interesting pieces for collectors’ foci, Tudor is taking more of a starring role in important sales. Lots 29 and 33 are examples of the Tudor Submariner date with snowflake hands, reference 9441/0. Lot 33 has a blue dial and bezel whilst Lot 29 is a black version, thus having both iterations covered. The snowflake hands are Tudor’s most iconic design, as we see in the modern Black Bay line. Black or blue, there’s one for you… although a true Tudor Collector needs both!
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak continues to go from strength to strength. The octagonal bezel design, from the design hand of Gerald Genta, is credited with turning around the fortunes of an ailing AP in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The original Royal Oak was the most expensive steel watch ever at the time, costing ten times that of an equivalent Rolex Submariner of the era. Whilst people initially though that AP were mad and would collapse on the back of this watch, history has proven that it was the best move the brand has ever made! The Royal Oak has appeared in many guises, one of the most desirable being the perpetual calendar with moon phases. Lot 6 is one such example in yellow gold, reference 255554BA dating to 1986. The watch is in great condition and I really like the combination of the white dial in the yellow gold case, it’s always a winner for me; it really pops. I believe that this may be a good opportunity to acquire a bargain as the watch has had a later movement during a service. Save the date and watch this.
Staying with the AP Royal complication theme, Lot 73 is another Audemars Piguet watch that was retailed by Cartier. The watch was formerly the property of King Hassan II of Morocco and has his monogram engraved on the caseback. Whilst diminutive at 25mm, the watch features a triple-calendar and moon phases. The design and layout of the dial is really beautiful and features only a Cartier signature. The watch comes with a Cartier archive certificate of authenticity. King Hassan ruled Morocco from the age of 32 and had an interesting time as king, facing coups and assassination attempts. This maybe a small watch but it packs a big punch both horologically and historically.
One of the most forgotten about Rolex watches is the big Bubbleback, given the name Ovettone by Italian collectors (which translates to big egg). Dating to the mid-1940s and early ’50s, these watches were early automatic Oysters in very large for the era 36mm cases with a 20mm lug width. I very rarely see these watches for sale outside of Italy and Sotheby’s have an example of one of my favorites, a reference 5028. Lot 36 is a good condition example with a dial that I’ve only seen once before. This reference 5028 is particularly unusual in that it has a large sub-seconds register in the lower half of the dial, usually seen on the reference 5026, however there were a small number of 5028 in this configuration. The watch is being offered on a straight endlink rivet Oyster bracelet, which is how the watch would have been worn (if not on a leather strap) when new in 1946; flush-fit endlinks weren’t introduced until 1952. This is a truly rare and important vintage Rolex, with a healthy reserve. I’ll be watching this closely!
The term tool watch is thrown around quite loosely sometimes. The Rolex Sea-Dweller is though quite literally a tool that was designed to be worn by saturation divers; one of the most dangerous and daring occupations known to man. One company at the forefront in this industry is South of France-based Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (Comex). In the early 1970s, Comex founder Henri Germain Delauze decided that his divers, who regularly set new depth records, would only wear Rolex watches and so began one of Rolex’s most enduring commercial relationships. Comex-issued Rolex watches have a very strong cult following that is slightly more off-the-radar than other rare sports Rolex such as MilSubs. This sale features two Comex-issued Rolex Sea-Dwellers reference 16600. The 16600 was issued in two batches, the first batch in 1992 of 100 pieces and the second in 1997 of 200 pieces. Lot 46 is a first batch watch, identified by the ‘straight-writing’ Comex engraving on the caseback.
Lot 53 is from the second batch of Comex 16600, as highlighted by the ‘curved-writing’ Comex on the caseback. This particular example was given to Rolex Testimonee Theo Mavrostomos to commemorate his taking part in the Hydra X tests. Hyrda X was a simulated saturation dive down to a depth of 701 meters and for his part in this successful trial, Mavrostomos was awarded the French Order of Merit. The watch’s caseback features a personal engraving with the details of the dive.
This sale is heavy with serious Patek pieces. There are two, however, that really caught my eye. Lot 175 is a reference 130 dating to 1940. These watches are rare, especially when in steel and this watch jumps another few rungs up the ladder due to the presence of the applied Breguet numerals on the dial; a fact confirmed on the accompanying archive extract. I love the proportions of the case and the very clean and simple dial layout is close to chrono perfection in my mind.
Lot 159 is another Patek, but very different to Lot 175. The reference 3620/1 dates to 1978 and was actually the most expensive Patek available at the time. The watch is set with 64 baguette-cut diamonds around the bezel, with a stunning and simple blue dial with diamond hour markers. This men’s watch comes with an archive extract and a combined 4.44 carats of diamonds; this is classy bling end-game stuff!