Today at 10AM Eastern Time Zone (UTC -05:00), Christie’s New York Important Watches Auction will begin. I got to sit with the newly appointed Vice President and Senior Specialist of Watches, Eric Wind, and ask him about a few of my favorite timepieces from this season’s auction. If you’re reading this after 10AM, click here to stream the auction and see what these pieces go for in real time.
Lot #26 – Universal Genève Gold Chronograph Retailed by Hermès
Universal Genève was known as a brand that created groundbreaking designs in the early 20th century. In 1935, the Compax was introduced and it was the first chronograph wristwatch to display both hour & minute registers. Hermès was one of the first retailers to carry the Universal Genève Compax in Europe but the partnership was short-lived, so not many of these co-branded pieces have survived. This example is from 1936 and has an outer track tachometer in blue and telemeter in red, very large registers, original crown and even the original box! What’s appealing about this piece, besides all the aforementioned, are the thick, faceted, down-turned lugs that make this 34-mm case wearable and look not at all too small. Wind added that very few UG co-branded Hermès pieces come to market – maybe under 10 in total and that this is the only known Universal Genève Chronograph seen at auction to bear the Hermès signature in the early script on the dial, a true rarity! Estimate is $15k – $25k.
Lot #37 – Rolex Submariner 6538 – James Bond
This example is from 1957 and what’s most incredible is that it is in original condition. The original bevels on the lugs are untouched and the case has never been polished; no service marks on the inside of the caseback, it has the original bezel insert, and the bezel itself in great condition! The allure that draws collectors is the fact that this was the watch that Sean Connery’s James Bond wore in Dr. No. The large crown without crown guards and the gilt four-line dial (four lines of text on the dial) is what makes this a grand slam. Enthusiastically, Wind expressed that this was his favorite lot of the auction and calls the timepiece a “true survivor.” He also added that the last similar 6538, a slightly younger edition and with a tropical dial, sold in May 2013 in Geneva for $544,000, and that this example is one of the best Submariners to ever come to market. Estimate is $60k-$100k.
Lot 51 – Patek Philippe Ref. 1461 in Stainless Steel
This example features even numerals on the dial and an engine turned subdial at 6 o’clock to display the constant seconds. At 32 mm, it’s on the smaller side of the men’s vintage watch size spectrum but it actually looks a lot better on the wrist than you’d expect. The tear drop (or what Wind calls “the crab-claw”) lugs give the timepiece the illusion that it is larger, so it wears very well. The 1461 appears to be all original and it’s in great condition, which is fantastic for a steel Patek from 1945. This was produced near the end of WWII and at that time precious metals were valuable commodities during the war, so Patek made more watches in steel. Wind emphasized that any steel Pateks are a very special thing and this example is a great formal Patek that contains history at an accessible price point in a timepiece that is extremely rare. Estimate is $8-$12k.
Lot #81- Vacheron Constantin Single Button Chronograph
One of the most rare and historically important pieces of this auction is this single-button gold chronograph from 1927 that was originally owned by Alexander I, King of Yugoslavia. This example has a white enamel dial that is impeccable; very little wear on the case; Breguet style, black enameled numerals; blued steel hands for both center & registers; and the crest of the king of Yugoslavia engraved on the caseback. Alexander I went to school in Geneva, which might be the reason he collected fine timepieces. Wind claims this rarity looks all original and that “it’s amazing to see a chrono from the late 1920 that still looks so modern.” Estimate is $40k- $60k.
Lot #45 – Patek Philippe 130 Retailed by Tiffany & Company.
There are several reasons why this example of the yellow-gold chronograph (Ref. 130) is my favorite lot of this auction. Let’s begin with the very unusual spade-shaped hour hand and the minute hand that is referred to as lapidated; the Breguet numerals that were popular for the U.S. market; the great condition of the case; the rarity of being co-branded by the oldest Patek Philippe retailer in North America; and my favorite attribute, the large registers. The oversized registers make this 33-mm chronograph appear larger and bolder than all of its sister examples of the Reference 130, not to mention the registers were most likely a special request by an avid sailor for the ease of maritime-related timekeeping, which makes sense with the engraving on the side of the case and caseback. It reads, “The Point, Great Neck, Long Island” as well as the initials “R.B.C. June 27th 1941″ and a hand holding a scroll coming out of a lighthouse on the caseback. The uncommon engraving on the side of the case is the accretion that makes this example one of a kind and combined with all of the other facets, a gem in my eyes. Estimate is $60-$80k.
A Great Deal
There are 265 lots in this season’s Christie’s Important Watches sale and we couldn’t cover all of them, but even though I chose five lots that might not have appealed to you, you should know that there are watches from all over the spectrum up for grabs. From a set of four vintage watches estimated at $1,500 – $2k (Lot #148) to under-priced tourbillons, modern watches at a bargain, historically important books, and even enameled pocketwatches older than your grandfather. Below is a list of some of the best deals, in my humble opinion. Enjoy!
Lot #9 – IWC Pilot Doppelchronograph, Ref. 3717 – Double chronographs, or rattrapantes, are always produced in limited quantities, regardless of the brand, because of how complex they are to manufacture. This one is priced below most regular chronos! Estimate of $4-$6k.
Lot #11 – IWC Minute Repeater – Probably one of the best deals in the entire auction, Grand Complications from such reputable Swiss manufactures usually begin in the six digits. Estimate of $25-$30k.
Lot #101 – J. Petit & Frères Gold and Enamel Quarter Repeating Pocket Watch – Have you ever wanted a watch that could mechanically chime the time? This may not produce sounds down to the minute but can still do the hours and quarters and has an enamel detailed portrait on the back that certainly took ages to complete – for less than that Omega you’ve been eyeing. Estimate $1,500 – $2k.
Lot #198 – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver – Barely four years old and estimated at a third of the retail, buying modern at auction could be the best deal if this is something you’ve been looking for. Estimate $6-$8k.
Lot #139 – Patek Philippe 5000G – A limited edition Patek in a precious metal (white gold) in the four digits is a bargain, especially to be part of the small, exclusive club of Patek owners. Estimate $7-$9k.
Lot 212 – Rolex 5513 – A classic and staple in every watch collector’s arsenal, you don’t have to spend five digits to own a vintage Rolex. Not only is this a no-date Submariner but this piece is actually sought after since it’s a “meters first” model.