Sotheby’s has curated another fine sale this season, with some outstanding lots and, again, a great selection of watches to satisfy all collectors. The last show in town, taking place on the Tuesday, but by no means an after-thought – the sale has some epic watches including one of the nicest screw-pusher Newmans I’ve seen for a while and with an eye on the future of Daytonas, a so-called ‘Leopard’ cognac sapphire bezel (SACO) 116598! So let’s take a tour through the catalogue and make a couple of stops at my personal picks…
Enamel Elements – Lots 452 to 455
Cloisonné enamel dials are always star lots, especially when fitted to Patek and Rolex watches. Hand made by artisans and therefore unique, collectors will pay hefty premiums for watches housing these mini works of art. One such watch sold a couple of years ago at auction – a yellow gold Rolex 6085. A regular version of this watch might sell for CHF10-15k if in really great condition. Fitted with an enamel dial depicting a dragon and it sold for nearly CHF700k. It’s all about the dial! Sotheby’s have four lots – one a Ulysse Nardin and three Eskas – each with an enamel dial. The Ulysse Nardin is a pink gold piece in a cool 37mm case. The 20-year-old watch has a dial that depicts the boat that belonged to Colonel Cheng Cheng-Kung, who was the heroic defender of the Southern Ming Empire and the liberator of Taiwan from the Dutch oppressors in 1661.
The Eskas are much older and all date to the 1950s. Each one is made from 18kt pink gold and measures 35mm, with bullhorn style lugs. Of the three dials – a sailing ship, a floral arrangement and two figures – the third is my favourite. The two figures depict a man and women who represent the sun and the moon respectively. It’s stunning and the workmanship is of the highest quality – a trademark of Eska in the second half of the 20th century.
Floating Cosmos – Lots 255, 310A & 371
It is said by connoisseurs of Rolex, that the Zenith-era Daytonas were the last of Rolex’s ‘playing’ with small details in the dials and bezels. Rolex collecting is littered with Mk1 to 6 or more of most dials – Red Subs, Maxi 5513s, GMT-Masters – an era which arguably ended in 2000 when Rolex introduced the in-house Daytona with calibre 4130. In truth, however, scholars have now broken down these in-house Daytona dials into the different marks (1 to 9 I think at my last check) – such is the world of collecting Rolex. The 16500 series though, are celebrated for the small dial differences, the first being the ‘floating cosmograph’ dials that were fitted to the earliest R serial watches in 1988. There are three ‘floaters’ in the Sotheby’s sale across a range of prices from the ‘most’ desirable to the ‘least’ – which is still pretty high on my wish list! And interestingly, they all sport the same ‘200 unit’ bezel. Lot 255 is yellow gold 16528 with so-called porcelain dial. This is the top-of-the-ladder dial – the lacquered finish is really beautiful.
Lot 310A is another R-serial 16528 featured with a regular, non-porcelain ‘floating cosmograph’ dial. The floating name comes from the fact that the word COSMOGRAPH is floating away from the other four lines of text at the top of the dial.
Finally, Lot 371 is a two-tone 16523 with R-serial and a champagne floating dial. So let’s take a look at the numbers. Lot 255 is porcelain and estimated at CHF65-85k. Lot 310A is the non-porcelain floater with an estimate of CHF30-50k and the two-tone 16523 is estimated at CHF15-25k. That’s a real spread and goes to show that with Rolex, it’s all about the details… and the details can be granular!
Two-Tone Patek – Lot 470
I recently wrote about the resurgence of Rolex two-tone pieces in the magazine. However, some bi-metal watches transcend trends and are their own unique definition of desirability. Lot 470 is such a watch – a Patek Philippe reference 130 in steel and yellow gold…one of ten known examples. It’s a small watch at 33mm, but it punches at more than above its weight, with its first series Calatrava-esque case made by Georges of Geneva. This watch has been in the same family for the past 80 years and is being offered for the first time on the market. It shows signs of wear, but it’s all original and is an opportunity to buy a fresh and totally original Patek for the discerning collector.
Naughty Nauti – Lot 487
We live in the era of anything goes. There really are no limits to how we can express ourselves through music, fashion, sexuality and of course wrist candy. I use the term candy deliberately as there has been a surge in the popularity of gem-set, bling-tastic, wouldn’t-look-out-of-place-on-the-wrist-of-Mister T watches! Lot 487 is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but then as anything goes – so too does this full-ice Nautilus! Reference 5719/1G-001 is a white gold Patek that is set with diamonds. Literally everywhere. But this isn’t a Vegas fold-‘em after-market tragedy…this is full-factory full-pave Patek at its finest as a gem-setter and jewelry house. The watch has 9.645 cts of diamonds across its case, bracelet and dial. These diamonds go on forever!
Stellas by Starlight – Lots 383 to 388
Well, it won’t be by starlight at the actual sale, but I’ll be viewing on Friday evening so technically I’ll be seeing these Stellas by starlight. The Stella dials by Rolex were brightly coloured lacquered enamel dials in every colour of the rainbow. Turquoise, daffodil yellow, pinks, green – no colour was too bright or too eye-catching for a Stella dial. And remember, this was the 1970s when things were still pretty conservative at Rolex. Out of the run of six watches in this sale three are turquoise. The turquoise Stellas are my favourite and traditionally my taste would err towards the white gold on bracelet (Lot 385) however, I am some what taken by Lot 383 the yellow gold 18038 (useful to have the single quick-set movement) on brown leather strap. Having said that…Lot 384, the white gold 1803 with vibrant green dial would work for me. Damn…I want them all!