Over the past couple years, I developed a reputation picking some of my favorite watches from any auction or available online from week to week writing for HODINKEE. I am no longer quite as unbiased a source now that I began working for Christie’s just under three weeks ago, however, I thought collectors might find it interesting to see my favorite lots from our auction in Wednesday in New York and read the reasons why I like them.
Lot 26: Universal for Hermès
This is a stunning watch and one of very few legitimate Hermès-signed Universal chronographs known to exist, and the only one known with the early script Hermès. Dating to 1936, the watch is made even more special by the original Hermès box that accompanies the watch. Just insanity!
The dial of the watch is incredibly pleasing and even though it features some patina, the combination of the red telemeter track, blue outer tachometer track, large oversized registers, and massive applied Arabic numerals with a case with large beveled lugs makes this an amazing piece with great character. Most importantly, it actually wears amazingly well.
This Universal for Hermès. has an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000, but remarkably has no reserve, so this one should sell.
Lot 81: Vacheron Constantin Single Button Chronograph for the King of Yugoslavia
Another watch that I was blown away by when first seeing it in the catalog — and even more blown away when I tried it on for the first time — was this Vacheron Constantin single button chronograph made in 1927.
The watch itself is amazing just for its technical and aesthetic merit. The white enamel dial, black Breguet numerals, and blue steel hands are striking while the rounded case wears amazingly well on the wrist and gives it a timeless appeal. This of course also has amazing provenance, in that the original purchaser was Alexander I, the King of Yugoslavia. It features his crest below a crown (signifying royalty) on the case back. It is hard to tell you how great this watch actually looks on the wrist, which isn’t always the case for a watch 88 years old.
This royal Vacheron has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
Lot 47: Patek 1436 for Tiffany
This Patek Philippe reference 1436 is notable as an incredible technical achievement, managing to fit a split-seconds chronograph movement into a 33mm case. The result was an elegant and refined watch that found many devotees among the horse racing community, including the example being sold by Christie’s on Wednesday.
This watch was a gift from Marjorie Everett to her husband Webb Everett. They were a horse racing power couple and had inherited majority ownership of a few major tracks and held minority shareholder in a few more. The Christie’s catalog states, “With a broad social network, Hollywood Park attracted a wealth of celebrities and amongst some of the Everetts’ closest associates were Elizabeth Taylor as well as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and it wasn’t uncommon to see Jimmy Stewart entertaining at one of their bustling parties.” The watch features an inscription on the case back and is made even more special by the Tiffany & Co. signature above Patek Philippe on the dial. What a watch!
This Patek 1436 has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
Lot 118: Patek Two Train Trip Minute Repeating Split-Seconds Chronograph Pocket Watch
How special is this watch? One Patek expert who has been a collector for decades told us this was one of the most important Pateks to surface in the last few years. Two train trip minute repeaters were a unique Patek Philippe creation. Whereas comparable minute repeaters at the time were wound to a small mainspring and then activated by a slide, two train trip minute repeaters were wound by the crown to a large mainspring and then activated by a small button. The large mainspring allowed for the energy for multiple chime activations to be stored. Only about 30 trip minute repeaters are known, but this is even more spectacular in that it also includes a split-seconds chronograph. This is only the third known example to include the two train trip minute repeater and the split-seconds chronograph, and Christie’s is thrilled to have discovered it.
The watch is made even more special by the original enamel coat of arms on the case back, confirmed by Patek Philippe, which features two griffins and the swag motto “Commit thy work to God” from the Clan Sinclair. This is a watch that makes true aficionados drool – and rightfully so.
The estimate on this unbelievable Patek is $50,000 to $70,000.
Lot 263: Patek Philippe 5960/1A
The Patek 5960/1A was a somewhat polarizing Patek during its introduction at Basel World last year (although not nearly as polarizing as the Patek Pilot’s Watch introduced at Basel World this year). It really needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. It really pops on the wrist, not unlike a panda Paul Newman Daytona, which some have drawn comparisons to over the past year. And if you don’t like the flashy steel bracelet, it can easily be substituted for a strap for a more elegant and refined look.
This is the first 5960/1A to appear at auction and I think the winning bidder will be extremely pleased with it. The combination of the steel case and bracelet, bright dial, and original box, papers, and accompanying materials, as well as the uncertainty over how long Patek will produce this model and how many they will make, could make this a good long term investment you can enjoy.
This Patek 5960/1A has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
Lot 37: Rolex Submariner reference 6538
This Rolex Submariner is not only one of the most incredible Submariners I have seen, but one of the most incredible watches I have seen. It is a time capsule of how a “Big Crown” reference 6538 originally looked. While any great “Big Crown” Submariner is special, seeing the original fat case with large bevels is a revelation. Add to that the fact it has “four lines” on the bottom half of the dial, and you have one of the most unbelievable Submariners in existence.
However good you think it could be, it is even better. You need to see it to believe it. It has been funny to get a stream of questions the last few weeks along the lines of, “It really can’t be that good, right?” “Yes, yes it is that good.”
This estimate on this insane “Big Crown” Submariner is $60,000 to $100,000.
Lot 214: Rolex “Concorde” GMT-Master
In the world of vintage Rolexes, there are very few sleepers due to how many people chase and collect them, but I would say this “Concorde” GMT is a sleeper. Made in the late 1960s, it may confuse people who see it at first as it has Daytona-style straight hands. Our research discovered an original Rolex ad from the late 1960s that showed this version of the Rolex GMT-Master as the watch that would be on the wrist of a Concorde pilot when it took off on its experimental flights through the sound barrier. It is possible that the straight hands made the watch more legible in the cockpit.
What makes this an even more remarkable example is the original very tight, gold and unpolished Jubilee bracelet, the incredible case condition featuring original beveled lugs, and the fact it comes with the original box and papers. Although I am not really a gold watch kind of guy, the yellow gold case and bracelet with tobacco brown dial and bezel in exceptional condition just somehow work so well. I believe this watch has the potential for strong appreciation in value, and, more importantly (in my view), an amazing watch to wear along the way.
This Concorde GMT has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
Lot 154: Panerai Big Egyptian
When have you ever seen an original “Big Egyptian” made by Panerai? One of very few made and known to exist, Panerai made this watch for the Egyptian Navy and features an early Radiomir dial. It is a massive 58mm watch and this example appears to be unpolished and is an incredible survivor. The design details have served as inspiration for more recent Panerais. Although I definitely can’t pull it off on my wrist, I would love to have it sitting on my desk as clock. It even features an 8 day Angelus clock movement, so I wouldn’t have to wind it daily.
This Panerai “Big Egyptian” has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
Lot 87: Vacheron Constantin Limited Edition
My final two watch highlights are great watches for those looking for one of their first high-end watches. This Vacheron Constantin is nicknamed the Sonder Edition and was made for the Austrian and German markets. It has a white gold case and beautiful black dial – a combination I absolutely love for watches. Made in 75 examples in 2007, this is number 7. This watch includes the original box, packaging, certificate of origin and tie-tag, as well as a service booklet and Extract of Archives. It has been worn, but is not beat up by any means and its larger 40mm case, which is not too thick — it works well.
This limited edition Vacheron Patrimony has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
Lot 51: Patek Philippe reference 1461
One of my favorite watches in the sale is this steel Patek from 1945. There is something magical about any steel Patek and this one is in exceptional condition with a beautiful dial. The crab claw lugs make it wear a bit larger and better than its 32mm size. It is an incredibly elegant watch with a suit.
This Patek 1461 has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
Honorable Mentions / True Favorites?
While I show you my favorite watches in the sale above, what are perhaps my favorite pieces in the auction are books. Books? Yes, books.
Lot 161: Catalogue of the Collection of Watches: The Property of J. Pierpont Morgan compiled by G. C. Williamson book
A grail book for any watch collector is one of the original books showing the collection of the 242 timepieces in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan. This example was printed in 1912 at Mr. Morgan’s request in an edition of 20 copies on Japanese vellum and is number 17. A number of plates in the book are hand-colored by incredible artists, and the book blurs the lines between great scholarship and incredible art. There are watch books, and watch books; this is the latter.
This J.P. Morgan collection book has an estimate of $20,000 to $40,000.
Lot 27: The History of the Self-Winding Watch 1770-1931 by Alfred Chapuis and Eugène Jaquet inscribed by Hans Wilsdorf
This book has the most accessible estimate in the sale, but I believe is one of the most incredible lots: a history of the self-winding (a.k.a. “automatic”) watch printed by Rolex and signed by the legendary Hans Wilsdorf, who founded Rolex. All those that love Rolex owe him a debt of gratitude. Beyond just the unbelievable fact it is signed by Mr. Wilsdorf is the inscription itself: “Geneva. December 1957 / To Mr. Jean Pierre Savary, / You may find it useful to consult this book whenever the origin of the automatic watch comes into question. / Sincerely, / Hans Wilsdorf”. How insane is that? This is the man responsible for the popularization of the automatic watch referencing its origin. Epic. Just epic.
This Hans Wilsdorf signed book has an estimate of $500 to $1,000.