Sotheby’s decided against holding an auction a couple of weeks ago in Geneva, due to the restrictions and lockdown imposed. That does not mean, however, that the Sotheby’s watch department simply sat on its hands waiting for the pandemic to pass.

Global Head of the watch Department, Sam Hines, instead decided to meet the watch community in the place to which it retreated during the lockdown – online. And so, while the world held its meetings, did its shopping and generally hung out online, Hines and team began a program of weekly online-only sales that were hugely successful.

These sales really put a kink in the theory that buyers would not buy serious high-end watches online without attending a preview or hands-on appointment. But now it’s time for Hines to pick up his gavel and hammer lots away, in person, as Sotheby’s watch department holds its first live auction for 2020, in Hong Kong this weekend. And the sale is just up my street with a number of interesting automatic Rolex Daytonas.

Hardstone Headliner – Lot 2236
Unique platinum Perpetual Daytona ref. 16516 with lapis lazuli dial at Sotheby’s

Regular visitors to Revolution.Watch will remember a couple of weeks ago that I gave an exclusive advance look at Sotheby’s headline lot in this weekend’s Important Watches sale in Hong Kong. Lot 2238 is an ultra-rare platinum Rolex Daytona reference 16516, from the Zenith-movement era of the brand.

Only one other example has ever surfaced and was sold by Sotheby’s in 2018. It’s important to note, however, that the previous 16516 had a mother of pearl dial, a dial type that has been used in gold models (although, not in exactly the same configuration).

The current offering is an entirely different beast in that it has a lapis lazuli hardstone dial – the only example for a Daytona to ever officially come out of the Rolex factory! This watch is sure to attract some serious bidding and will, I’m sure, set a world record for a publicly sold Perpetual Daytona.

Read more about the watch, here.

Covid Charity Time – Lot 2267
Ressence Type 1 Slim “Ayrton & Finlay” A Unique Titanium Automatic Wristwatch With Multi-Color Rotating Dial And Day Of The Week Indication, Designed By Ressence And Raymond Ramsden, To Be Sold To Benefit The Covid-19 Research Programme Of The Ku Leuven And Uz Leuven Universities, Made In 2020

Charity auctions are quite the thing at Revolution Towers at the moment, with us recently having raised over $280,000 for Covid Solidarity charities. Sotheby’s is also supporting the cause by auctioning a one-off Ressence watch to support the Covid-19 Research Program being run by KU Leuven University in Belgium.

It was designed by Raymond Ramsden, who beat 465 other participants in the watch design competition that was launched by Ressence and Sotheby’s in April 2020. Participants were invited to create their own interpretation of one of Ressence’s latest models, the Type 1 Slim. The winner, Raymond Ramsden from Yorkshire, England described his design as “optimistic” and “very planetary” in an interview to the New York Times. The different color represent medical and frontline workers who all worked to support the planet during these terrible times. I’m sure that considering the cause, this piece unique will hammer high!

Royal Cartier – Lot 2248
Cartier Tank Americaine, Reference 1735 1 A Yellow Gold Wristwatch With Salmon Dial, Made For King Of Siam, Circa 1990

Lot 2248 is a watch fit for a king…or at least to commemorate King Rama IX’s reign as King of Siam. This Tank Americaine dates to the 1990s and is in a yellow gold case with a very nice salmon dial. The dial features the classic Cartier house-style Roman numerals with the ‘hidden’ Cartier signature in the VII numeral. The yellow gold case has oxidized and has the dark patina that collectors love so much – be sure not to polish it if you win it!

The dial features the crest of the much-beloved King’s Golden Jubilee in 1996. The two-elephant logo was the personal crest of Bhumibol Adulyadej. Cartier is having a huge resurgence with collectors and whilst this watch isn’t the rarest of Cartiers, the special dial and connection to such a beloved monarch will make it a popular choice with buyers.

Three of A Kind – Lots 2229, 2230 and 2235

The 116520 was important because it was the first steel Daytona to carry the in-house Rolex movement calibre 4130 when it was launched in 2000 and it has become a new focus for collectors, especially since the introduction of the current reference 116500 ceramic bezel watch.

This always happens when a model is discontinued, and collectors begin to seek out dial variances and small manufacturing discrepancies that make the difference. We have seen this with recent sale results of the so-called ‘APH’ dial watches, where there is a small but obvious gap in the word COSMOGRAPH between the R and the A.

Another widely accepted phenomenon is the dial color change in watches from the first two years of production (2000 and 2001 – P and K serial) on white dials. This change can vary in its hue, but ranges from milky off-white to dark orange.
I thought I’d highlight this by selecting three white dialed 116520 that have all different shades of dial. Lot 2230 is admittedly from 2006, so after the period that we see color changes, but I have used this to show how the dials would have originally looked. Lot 2229 is a P Serial watch from 2000 that has turned a creamy shade that collectors term ‘Panna’. I love these watches, and this is the shade most commonly seen when a dial changes. This watch comes with its original punched papers and box.

(L-R) Lot 2230 is a late Z series ref. 116520 showing no change in color, lot 2229 is a P series ref. 116520 from 2000 showing a delicate cream coloration on the dial and lastly lot 2235 is as well a P series ref. 116520 from 2000, however, with a much more pronounced yellow coloration on the dial

Lot 2235 is a different beast altogether. Like the previous pick the watch dates to 2000 and is correctly a P serial 116520. This dial however is a rich yellow color, that Sotheby’s have christened Citrus. There have been other examples of extreme changes like this before, such as those featured in the Pucci Papaleo books, but I don’t recall ever seeing one that looks as great as this. It’s bullishly priced too at HKD400,000 to 800,000 but then as the saying goes – find another!

Testing Testing 123 – Lot 2234
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, Reference 16520 A Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch With Test Dial And Bracelet, Circa 1998

Last Daytona, I promise. But I couldn’t not briefly comment on this. Lot 2234 is a steel Zenith-era Daytona reference 16523 fitted with a COSC testing dial. I actually remember the first times these dials appeared on the scene.

I was moderating the Vintage Rolex Forum sales market one morning and saw the advert for a batch of these dials attached to movements. There is no doubt that they are testing dials, used on movements when they are undergoing COSC testing. Over the years, these dials have been mislabeled as prototypes. They aren’t any such thing, but are still an interesting installment in the Perpetual Daytona story and I honestly really like the look in a steel watch. This is the first time, in my memory, that a dial has been offered in a Zenith movement watch. We saw at Antiquorum a couple of weeks ago that these dials are now commanding a huge premium, so this being an earlier version I am watching with interest.

Boxing Clever – Lot 2006
Patek Philippe A Cork Presentation Box Made For The Nautilus And Retailed By Wempe, Circa 1980

I happened to be reading an article on boxes this morning, by our friends over on A Collected Man. Watch boxes really are the overlooked hero of the collector set, except when it comes to the Nautilus and that little cork box. Patek fans have been onto this for a while and I have anecdotally heard of these cork boxes selling for eye-watering prices.

But then I guess it’s all relative to the significant value of watches that these boxes hold now. Lot 2006 is a Nautilus box that is double signed with the name of the retailer Wempe. The box dates to 1980 and the estimate is HKD40,000 to 60,000. It’ll sell for more!

View the complete catalog, here.