As the definition of what makes a watch “collectable” becomes broader thanks to the fact that the desirability, design, rarity and history of ever more makes and models is becoming appreciated, specialist regional auction houses are proving rich hunting grounds for buyers keen to snap up interesting pieces at reasonable prices.
Adrian Hailwood, who helped to make Birmingham-based Fellows a leader in the field, was recently appointed senior watch specialist at historic UK auctioneer Dreweatts and is set to stage his first sale for the house on Wednesday 12 September.
Highlighting the event will be a single-owner collection of more than 30 Heuer watches with a combined estimate of up to £75,000, the star lot being an ultra-rare Carrera 7753 that was among a batch created for the Belgian Air Force and produced only during 1970 using the calibre 7733 movement (rather than the usual 7730). It’s tipped to realise up to £8,000, while a beautifully original triple calendar, yellow-gold chronograph from the 1940s could fetch £3,000–5,000.
Other sought-after models from the Heuer collection include a 1970s “Calculator” (£1,500–2,000), a 1972 Montreal cushion-cased chronograph (£1,200–1,800) and military-issue rarities such as a Verona/Daytona supplied to Canada’s Ministry of National Defence (£1,000–1,500) and a blackened Autavia made for the Israeli Defence Force in around 1985 (£2,000–3,000).
Notable offerings in the remainder of the sale include a well-worn but highly original Omega Seamaster chronograph with hand-wound movement that’s on offer at a modest estimate of £800-1,200, while notable Rolex models include a 1954 “Rite Time” with honeycomb dial and shark’s tooth hour markers (£1,000-1,500) together with a 1945 reference 3372 Bubble Back that is believed to have belonged to the well-known RAF pilot and racing driver Dickie Stoop (£1,200-1,800).
Another watch on offer that would also have been popular with racing drivers – and is a model that was often gifted to them – is a 1939 hand-wound Omega with a dial engraved with an image of St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. The simple, rotating bezel made the watch useful for elapsed time recordings, while the tiny calibre 23.4SC inside the 28mm case is notable as being the maker’s first centre-seconds movement.
The growing strength of the vintage dive watch market, meanwhile, should see strong competition for a 1990s Auricoste model made for issue to the French Marine Nationale. Sold under the name of dive equipment supplier Spirotechnique that distributed Jacques Cousteau’s original Aqua Lung, the watch is a licensed copy of a Heuer design and is estimated at £800-1,200.
The sale is on view at Dreweatts, Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire on Tuesday 11 September from 9am – 4.30pm and from 8.30am on Wednesday 12 September immediately before the sale.