During these uncertain times, what we can be certain of is that collectors and dealers are still focused on moving time – one way or another. It seems like the art world is pretty buoyant too. Sotheby’s have released their results from their online sale of Banksy prints that achieved £1.1 million, with 85 per cent of their lots hammering over the upper estimates. The venerable house has also revealed that getting on for half of the buyers were new clients and a third of bidders were under 40. Sotheby’s has also announced a new programme of weekly watch sales, starting tomorrow with a curated selection of Rolex and Audemars Piguet pieces. The weekly sales will co-exist with the planned annual calendar of watch sales, but is a direct response to Sotheby’s dialogue with sellers and collectors who are increasingly confident in buying fine watches online.

Sam Hines Sotheby's Worldwide Head of Watches
Sam Hines Sotheby's Worldwide Head of Watches

Worldwide Head of Watches Sam Hines commented: “This move is grounded in countless conversations with clients over the course of recent months, and has only been reaffirmed by feedback received in recent weeks as a result of the current environment. Collectors are looking for more flexibility and a swifter turnaround between appraisal and sale. They are also increasingly confident to buy important pieces online. This was demonstrated last week, when we set a new record for a watch sold online at Sotheby’s (CHF 162,500 for a Rolex Paul Newman 6262). These new weekly online sales perfectly complement the calendar of live sales and other online auctions already planned for the rest of the year and fits naturally with our desire to provide the very best conditions for sale within a passionate and dynamic market.”

This week’s sale is focused on Rolex and Audemars Piguet and is comprised of 19 lots from the two brands, with a good spread of pieces and a watch for everyone, especially in terms of the offered Rolex lots. So let’s take a closer look.

Cream Rail – Lot 2 Rolex Explorer 2 Ref 16550
Rolex Explorer II reference 16550 - A stainless steel wristwatch with 24-hour indication and cream rail dial from 1987
Rolex Explorer II reference 16550 - A stainless steel wristwatch with 24-hour indication and cream rail dial from 1987

The Explorer 2 is one of the more niche sports models from Rolex. Developed in the 1970s for spelunkers (or pot-holers as they are also known) to keep track of time, the watches feature a 24-hour hand and a fixed 24-hour bezel combined in the classic 40mm sports Oyster case. The offered lot is the second generation of Explorer 2, the reference 16550, which has a dial that has turned cream from the original bright white. These dials are sought after by collectors and this example is also what collectors refer to as a ‘rail dial’ – the text in the bottom half of the dial has a uniform gap with the words CHRONOMETER and CERTIFIED aligned. It’s a nice example and it should sell well.

Rolex Explorer 2 reference 16550 - A stainless steel wristwatch with 24 hour indication and cream rail dial from 1987
Rolex Explorer 2 reference 16550 - A stainless steel wristwatch with 24 hour indication and cream rail dial from 1987
Get Stoned – Lot 10 Rolex Datejust Ref 116139
Rolex Datejust reference 116139 in white gold with hardstone dial from 2005
Rolex Datejust reference 116139 in white gold with hardstone dial from 2005

I have stone dial Rolex on the brain recently, having written extensively about them for the print magazine (part two coming soon!). In Daytonas and Day-Dates they are highly sought after, but I feel that there is still a great deal to be had when looking at Datejusts fitted with stone dials – I still regret letting go a sodalite dial Datejust I had a couple of years ago. Lot 10 is a white gold Datejust with fixed endlinks that was designed to be worn on a leather strap, like the references 116518 and 116519 Daytonas. This lot has a hard stone dial that looks milky white with subtle darker bands. The catalogue doesn’t identify the stone, but I would hazard a guess at an opal such as cacholong. It’s a handsome watch that is a little out of the ordinary. This rare Datejust will find a home I have no doubt. Actually…maybe my home!

Rolex Datejust reference 116139 in white gold with hardstone dial from 2005
Rolex Datejust reference 116139 in white gold with hardstone dial from 2005
AP Bones – Lot 15 Audemars Piguet Skeletonised Watch
Audemars Piguet - An ultra-thin yellow gold skeletonised wristwatch from 1980
Audemars Piguet - An ultra-thin yellow gold skeletonised wristwatch from 1980

In a game of word association, if I said AP, most people are going to respond with Royal Oak. There are a couple of Royal Oaks in the sale, but they are small, quartz movement examples. Lot 15 is a classic-sized yellow gold wristwatch with a genuine rich patina on the case that only time can bestow. The 17-jewel movement is fully skeletonized and can be enjoyed from the front and also from the back through the snap-on sapphire caseback. It’s a classic watch that would be a great talking point when revealed from under your cuff at your next Zoom cocktail party.

Audemars Piguet - An ultra-thin yellow gold skeletonised wristwatch from 1980
Audemars Piguet - An ultra-thin yellow gold skeletonised wristwatch from 1980
Where Eagles Fly – Lot 5 Rolex Daytona Ref 6263
Rolex Daytona reference 6263 - A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with UAE Quraysh Hawk dial, made for Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum from 1975
Rolex Daytona reference 6263 - A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with UAE Quraysh Hawk dial, made for Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum from 1975

Daytona has always been its own microcosm of collecting. I often say this, but it’s always held true and has led to at least three thematic sales in its own right in recent years. Lot 5 is an already desirable reference 6263 with the added interest of the UAE Quraysh Hawk on the upper half of the dial and the signature of the Emir, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, on the bottom half. Normally here you would have a departmental signature thus making this example a little different. It has a strong estimate and I will be watching this one like a hawk.

Rolex Daytona reference 6263 - A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with UAE Quraysh Hawk dial, made for Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum from 1975
Rolex Daytona reference 6263 - A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with UAE Quraysh Hawk dial, made for Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum from 1975
Two Timer – Lot 17 Audemars Piguet Dual Time Ref 25685.002
Audemars Piguet Dual Time reference 25685.002 - A yellow gold dual time zone wristwatch with date and power reserve indication from 1995
Audemars Piguet Dual Time reference 25685.002 - A yellow gold dual time zone wristwatch with date and power reserve indication from 1995

Another ‘off the beaten track’ offering from AP is lot 17, a yellow gold dual-time watch. The 36mm 18kt case houses a crisp white dial that displays two time zones via the main hour and minutes hands with a smaller sub-dial watch in the lower half of the dial. The dial also displays the date and power reserve. The dual-timer is accompanied by the original guarantee, instruction booklet and box, so a great collector set. The catalogue states that the watch is ‘super slim’, which always works well for these elegant dress watches.

Audemars Piguet Dual Time reference 25685.002 - A yellow gold dual time zone wristwatch with date and power reserve indication from 1995
Audemars Piguet Dual Time reference 25685.002 - A yellow gold dual time zone wristwatch with date and power reserve indication from 1995

The calendar for the weekly online sales is:

1 to 8 April: Collectors Wristwatches Manufactured by Rolex and Audemars Piguet

8 to 15 April: Patek Philippe Design and Horology

15 to 22 April: Swiss Wristwatches with no reserve

22 to 29 April: Refined Classics Manufactured by Piaget and The Atmos Clock