This Thursday at 6:00 p.m. EST, Christie’s New York will host An Evening of Exceptional Watches, its final auction of the season. There are 160 lots up for sale that range from rare vintage Patek Philippe and Rolex models to highly sought after contemporary pieces from the likes of Richard Mille and Urwerk. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down and photograph 10 of our favorite lots for our preview of the sale.
If you’re in New York and have some time, we recommend you head down to Christie’s Rockefeller Center to see the models for yourself. In addition to the live sale, there’s a unique online auction happening concurrently that is also available to view, meaning there are over 500 watches that range from all areas of collectability available to view, handle, and if you’re lucky, purchase.
Without further ado, here are our ten top lots to watch at the Christie’s An Evening of Exceptional Watches Sale on Dec. 6, 2018.
Lot #14 – Universal Genève Eric Clapton Tri-Compax Chronograph Ref. 881.101
Eric Clapton is regarded as perhaps the most important living celebrity collector with many of his most important models being the stuff of legend (including the platinum Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 that sold for over $3.5 million dollars in 2012 at Christie’s Geneva). One of the more esoteric watches he has become known for is the above model from Universal Gèneve with its Tri-Compax and full calendar display. The specific model up for bid this week dates to 1965 and is in excellent condition. Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000.
Lot #34 – Rolex Ref. 6234 Chronograph with “Underline” Dial and Bracelet
Considered the grandfather to the modern Cosmograph Daytona, the Ref. 6234 is the direct predecessor to the “pre-Daytona” Ref. 6238. Lot #34 in Thursday’s auction, this model comes from 1960 and features the rare “Underline” indication found underneath “Oyster Chronograph” in the upper half of the dial. This small dash was used by Rolex for a short period of time to indicate the use of tritium rather than radium as the luminous agent found inside the hands and indexes. Additionally, the watch features both the polished bezel seen in Ref. 6234 and the movement is stamped “ROW” to indicate it was originally intended for the American market. Estimate: $50,000 – $75,000
Lot #69 – Patek Philippe Gubelin-signed Ref. 2526 with Gay Frères Bracelet
The Patek Philippe Ref. 2526 is one of the most collectible wristwatches of the past six decades due to the fact that it was the first automatic wristwatch released by the marque and was available in many variations in dial layout and case material during its seven-year production period (1953-60). This particular model features a double-signed dial, courtesy of the legendary retailer Gubelin, and a positively gorgeous 18K yellow gold bracelet from Gay Frères. Christie’s believes that this model is completely fresh to market, enhancing its overall desirability. Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000
Lot #77 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 Fourth Series
Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar Chronographs are arguably the brand’s most iconic models. Of those, the Reference 2499 has proven time and time again that it is the most highly appreciated. Ref. 2499 was produced over 35 years at an average rate of nine examples per year for a total estimated production of 349 pieces. The fourth series of this reference was launched following the end of production of the third series in 1978 and was produced until 1985. It differed from the third series through its use of sapphire crystal. Same as the third series, the majority were cased in yellow gold, with examples in rose gold and fewer in white gold. From this production, two examples are known with platinum cases, one of which is the previously mentioned Clapton model. The specific model up for bid this week is in yellow gold and is estimated to sell for between $400,000 and $800,000. Christie’s Geneva sold a Serpico y Laino-signed Ref. 2499 for over $3.5 million last month.
Lot #94 – Patek Philippe Ref. 5074R in 18K pink gold
The most modern of our highlighted watches, this Ref. 5074R from Patek Philippe was released in 2012 and is believed to be one of only 50 produced in pink gold. Combining a perpetual calendar complication with a minute repeater, the model is beloved by collectors for its striking appearance with nods to the dial and lug designs of Ref. 1518 and 2499. It’s a fascinating experience to watch these contemporary models continue to increase in value. Estimate: $350,000 – $450,000
Lot #139 – Patek Philippe Ref. 3979J
Patek Philippe Ref. 5013 is known for being the first minute repeating wristwatch featuring an automatic movement combined with a perpetual calendar and retrograde date. At the time of its introduction in 1992, it was Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatch ever and was available in yellow, white, pink gold and platinum. The pink gold case option is one of the more rare variations and the model available this week is believed to be one of only 20. Christie’s says that, to the best of their knowledge, this is the seventh pink gold version to come to market. Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000
Lot #152 – Rolex Jean-Claude Killy Ref. 6036
Reference 6036 is the third generation of the Rolex “Dato-Compax” Oyster Triple Calendar Chronograph models. A known favorite of renowned French Olympic skiing legend Jean-Claude Killy (hence the name), these models have continued to rise in value over the years. This particular model comes in stainless steel with a silvered dial and Arabic and square indexes. Also worth checking out in the Christie’s auction is Lot #150, a Dato-Compax Ref. 6236 (fourth series) with a fascinating story. The estimate for Lot #152 is between $200,000 and $400,000.
Lot #159 – Rolex “John Player Special” Paul Newman Ref. 6241
The Lotus 97T race car that was driven by Ayrton Senna at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix is regarded as one of the most beautiful competitive vehicles of all time. Its iconic colorway, black with contrasting gold details, that came courtesy of the John Player & Sons tobacco company was seared into Formula One fans minds forever. These colors are also what provided this specific Rolex Ref. 6241, with its 14K gold case and black dial and bezel with gold accents, with its specific nom de guerre.
Produced between 1966 and 1969, Ref. 6241’s total production amounts to roughly 3000 pieces, slightly less than 400 in 14k gold. It is estimated that only a fraction of these were fitted with the legendary Paul Newman dial, either in gold or black (as seen in this model). Less than 10 examples in 14k gold with black Paul Newman dial have appeared at auction in the last 20 years. Models in 14k gold, such as the watch up for bid this week, were exclusively reserved for the North American market. Estimate: $400,000 – $800,000
Lot #160 – Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 6062 “Dark Star”
The top lot of Christie’s “An Evening of Exceptional Watches” Winter Sale is the one-of-a-kind Rolex Ref. 6062 “Dark Star.” It’s impossible to overstate the value of a watch like the Rolex “Dark Star.” Not only is the watch in itself rare, with only 670 Ref. 6062 models in yellow gold known, but its rainbow patina is the result of superlative preservation over its 60-plus year life. This remarkable patina is also a confirmation of its purity as it’s doubtful that this watch has been polished since it left the manufacture. The Dark Star was last auctioned by Christie’s in 2011 where it achieved a result of $542,500; this time around, the watch is expected to more than double that figure with an estimate between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000. Regardless of the final figure, a watch like the “Dark Star” is a testament to the beauty and variability involving in vintage watch collecting as a whole. Click here to learn more about this ultra-rare model.