As the nights are beginning to get longer and we are swapping the barbecues for coq-au-vin and replacing our Aperol Spritzes for a glass of good claret, it can only mean one thing – the Autumnal auction season is just around the corner! And first out of the blocks is Sotheby’s London with an eclectic and interesting mix of watches. The London department has an outstanding track record of uncovering gems that still reside in the original families and has done some more of the same with this sale. Deputy Director and Head of Sale, Benoit Colson, gave me a preview of the sale and talked me through some of the histories of the watches. From in-your-face bling Rolex sports watches to under-the-radar beautiful Pateks, whatever your jam – you’ll find a watch that you’d want to rock. Here are some of the pieces that caught my eye…
Double Trouble (Lots 51 and 53)
What’s better than a gem-set Rolex GMT-Master? Yep, two! Sotheby’s have a dynamic duo of diamond, sapphire and ruby encrusted Rolex travel watches. The first (Lot 51) is a white gold reference 116759SA, with blue sapphires and diamond-set bezel and brilliant-set diamonds on the lugs and crown guards. This particular generation of gem-set GMTs was launched in 2007 and the white gold version, as seen here, has always been a watch I admired. What I find interesting is how the bezel almost ‘tones down’ the watch and gives it a very different aesthetic. The upper half of the bezel is made up of baguette-cut blue sapphires with diamonds set as the hour markers and vice-versa on the bottom half – baguette-cut diamonds with sapphire hour markers. White gold is my favourite precious metal for Rolex sports and this watch certainly makes a statement. Lot 53 is a very different beast with a very different look. This reference 116758SR is a direct descendent from the iconic GMT SARU – the first of the so-called ‘bling’ sports watches. This 2015 example has the SR to signify the sapphires and rubies used on the bezel (as per the SApphires RUbies of the original) but it doesn’t end there. The lugs and crown guards are set with brilliant diamonds and the dial is full-pave. The look is classic GMT-Master, as the sapphires and rubies on the bezel clearly represent the well-known red and blue 24-hour bezel of regular models. They’re both real gems!
Mega Omegas (Lots 4 and 7)
I remember a time when the Omega Seamaster SM300 was a watch that had a niche following and was easy to find relatively cheaply – not unlike my old favs, the Tudor Subs. Like all vintage watches they are on the up and finding really clean examples isn’t as easy as it once was (actually, this is becoming true of all vintage watches…but I digress). Lot 4 is an example of what collectors refer to as a ‘big triangle’ SM300, due to the oversized triangular hour marker at 12 o’clock on the dial. The watch is in beautiful condition, as can be seen in the pictures. When in the hand, what is striking about the watch is the patina of the dial and hands – just lovely! These watches have a tremendous presence on the wrist and I’m glad they are now getting the attention they deserve. Lot 7 is a Speedmaster reference 145.012-67 with racing dial and hands. Simply put, the condition of this watch is stunning. The red accents on the dial and exotic outer seconds track give the watch a stand out look and the red hour hands complement this well. This was an era of cool and experimental dials that could also be seen on the Tudor Homeplate and the Rolex Paul Newman – all versions associated with the world of fast cars. I truly loved this watch and will watch the result with interest.
A Petite Piaget (Lot 68)
Sometimes when I’m looking through the catalogues a watch just jumps out at me. I can’t always explain why – it could be the dial, the shape of the hands or a million other reasons. Lot 68 jumped out at me because it looks so dandy. I can really see this on the wrist of our very own Nick Foulkes or a similar man with a certain…it! It’s small at 33mm and quite simply is two small manual wind watches combined in a yellow gold case to give the wearer the most simple and elegant two time-zone watch. The watch even has its original leather strap and buckle and the case is probably untouched. It’s a beauty.
Big Bad Bulgari (Lot 13)
I picked this watch out because my mind has been opened up to the world of car/watch collaborations, through the brilliant articles by my colleague Ken Kessler. Ken has opened the hood on the watches made for Bugatti and Ferrari and so I thought I’d jump-start a look at Maserati. Lot 13 is a Bulgari Octo Quadri-Retro Maserati and it’s as big and brutish as the cars made by the Italian manufacturer. Measuring an impressive 45mm, the watch has jumping hours and retrograde minutes, seconds, chronograph hours and minutes – known as a quadruple retrograde. So strap your Quadri-Retro on whilst you blast down the lanes in your Quattroporte!
Patient Patek (Lot 133)
There are some stunning Pateks in this sale including the cover lot (Lot 139) a stunning moonphase perpetual calendar reference 3448, a near-NOS 5800 Nautilus (Lot 130) and a personal favourite, a blue dial reference 5170P with diamond hour markers (Lot 106). One watch that really made me stop and think, however, was Lot 133, Patek Phlippe reference 5036/1G in white gold. This is a serious piece of kit, with 36mm white gold case and white gold bracelet. This watch is an annual calendar with moonphases and power reserve indicator dating to 2003. The hands have luminous in-fill and the whole watch screams quality on the wrist. And here’s the thing – the low estimate is £12k. That’s the same price as a matte dial 5513 or a 1016 Explorer. Steel time-only watches (not that I’m doing them down – you all know I love them!) versus a white gold complication? Fashions come and go, no doubt, but this watch surely represents a serious opportunity to get some high-end watchmaking at a price that almost beggars belief.
Imperfectly Perfect (Lot 124)
No auction would be considered ‘fine’ without a scattering of Rolex Daytonas. This sale has a fascinating (and unseen before by me) ‘tropical’ 16520 Zenith-era Daytona (it’s a 1999 watch, so not a Patrizzi example) in Lot 123 and a fantastic sigma-dial 6263 with plastic bezel (Lot 125). There is one charmer, however, that I urge you not to overlook. Lot 124 is a screw-pusher steel Daytona reference 6265 that has the most beguiling tropical brown sub registers. On the wrist this watch looks incredible to my eye. The rest of the dial, however, isn’t perfect with some light staining and damage to the luminous hour plots. But so what? It’s a great watch. I know we are all bombarded with the condition condition condition mantra, but in my mind (and yours if you tried it on) the character of this watch and the charm of its overall look make it ‘important’ for what it is – a tropical 6265 that’s lived its life! The winning bidder will buy this because they love it. Isn’t that what watch collecting is all about?