No one needs reminding of the link between decent watches and collectable cars, but it’s interesting to note that the leading auction houses are increasing their efforts to capitalise on the crossover in the two collecting categories.
Bonhams led the way more than a decade ago when it started offering watches in the “automobilia” sections of its motoring sales, since then other specialist classic car auctioneers such as Coys and Silverstone have followed suit, warming up potential bidders by sending a few dozen appropriate timepieces across the block in advance of the main lots.
But Sotheby’s and its motoring affiliate, RM Sotheby’s, took things a little further last week at the annual car sale held in London’s Battersea Park when it created a pop-up watch shop to sell a few pieces direct. The firm’s watch department also showcased a selection of pieces from its traditional “live” auction taking place in London on 25 September and the three online watch sales it is staging between now and mid-October.
In the event, many of the “star cars” offered at Battersea – including a £3m Aston Martin DB4GT that once belonged to comedian Peter Sellers and starred alongside him in the 1963 slapstick The Wrong Arm of the Law – failed to sell on the night, with the eventual top lots proving to be a 2003 Ferrari Enzo at £1.9m, a 1953 Ferrari 212 Europa at £1.02m and a 1993 Porsche RS 3.8 at £933,125.
Regardless of the result of the auction, the wisdom of presenting watches to car enthusiasts proved sound as Sotheby’s specialist, Kate Lacey, was kept busy throughout the evening of the pre-sale view by queues of horophile petrolheads keen to see some of the exceptional pieces coming up for grabs over the coming weeks.
Unsurprisingly, the watch that attracted the most interest was the George Daniels Millennium that’s tipped to realise up to £120,000 at the aforementioned live sale. Daniels, who died in 2011, was a well-known figure in the classic car community and regularly took part in events in vehicles from his remarkable collection that included a 1908 100-horsepower Itala grand prix car and the supercharged pre-war Bentley in which Sir Tim Birkin set a Brooklands lap record in 1931.
There was also considerable interest in the 1959 “tropical dial” Rolex 6538 Submariner featured on the auction catalogue cover. Fresh to the market and offered from the family of the original owner, the watch could top £120,000, while a rare Richard Mille RM 028 Saint Tropez special edition also on show is estimated at £30,000-plus.
The Battersea event also gave collectors the chance to see highlights from the first sale of watches from Vacheron Constantin’s own heritage collection. Open for online bids from 5 – 15 October, the six watches have all been restored in-house by Vacheron’s vintage specialists and include a 1942 ref. 4072 chronograph in pink gold which is one of fewer than 300 made and is expected to realise £20,000–30,000.
Pieces were also previewed from two other online sales, including a skeletonised Chronoswiss chronograph and a 2012 Panerai Luminor consigned from Switzerland (open for bids until 17 September).Also on show was an exquisite Patek Philippe minute repeating, split-seconds chronograph pocket watch originally retailed by Tiffany, having been consigned from the US for the online sale running from 21 September – 5 October.