You may have already read Ben Clymer’s thoughts on the upcoming (May 14th) Phillips “Start-Stop-Reset” auction, which is populated with an almost improbably rich collection of 88 of some of the rarest, most interesting, and most desirable vintage stainless-steel chronographs out there (the offering’s so spectacular it’s a little unsettling). Phillips has another auction the day after, as well: “The Geneva Watch Auction: Three.” The latter isn’t themed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also full of some really interesting and unusual timepieces, so we sat down here at HODINKEE to do a little window shopping and see which ones from each auction we’d pick if we had the kind of war chest we dream of having. Here’s what caught our eye.
Start-Stop-Reset: 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronographs (May 14th, Geneva)
Cara Barrett: Lot 17 – Patek Philippe Reference 1463 In Stainless Steel, Ca. 1945
From the “Start-Stop-Reset” stainless-steel chronograph sale, I have chosen the iconic Patek Philippe 1463 in steel. The 1463 is probably the most desirable vintage Patek Philippe chronograph. It is the only chronograph reference, besides the super-rare 1563, to have a waterproof case and round pushers – and not just any round pushers, but round pushers detailed with florets that add that extra something special.
As for the one up for auction at Phillips, this one is special for several reasons. One, it was retailed by Freccero & Cia, a well-known retailer based in Montevideo, Uruguay (see the signature on the dial – which is highly desirable for watches such as this). Second, this example is said to be the only one in stainless steel with white-gold indexes and Arabic numerals (similar to that of a Rolex Sigma dial). Third, it comes with a stainless-steel Gay Frères bracelet. And the estimate? A whopping $350,000 to $700,000 CHF, which is just another example of how vintage Patek continues to creep up the price ladder. It will be very interesting to see how this watch fares at auction.
Jack Forster: Lot 87 – Omega Reference 2077-1 In Stainless Steel, Ca. 1940
This Omega reference 2077-1, to me, really represents everything that’s interesting about stainless-steel vintage chronographs. First of all, although they’re drawing a lot more attention than they used to lately, they’re still something of an under-the-radar model. Secondly, the execution of the dials on these models is incredibly attractive. Third, the case size – uncharacteristically large for the era, at 38.5 mm – really puts them in the Goldilocks zone for modern collectors. That, plus the general proportions of the “waterproof” case, give this reference a tremendous amount of presence on the wrist. And last, but definitely not least, there’s the movement: the Omega caliber 33.3 CHRO, a high grade, column-wheel-controlled wristwatch chronograph movement. This one in particular really beautifully represents everything that makes this reference desirable.
It’s anyone’s guess nowadays where prices are going to go on these, but at the very least, the wonderful presence the reference 2077-1 has on the wrist, plus the fact that they’re still, if not exactly unknown, a discovery for many collectors, is going to make their valuation and results at auction very interesting to watch in the near future. This piece is estimated to go for between 40,000 and 80,000 CHF.
Arthur Touchot: Lot 56 – Rolex Stainless-Steel Chronograph Reference 4113 Split Seconds
If Rolex made very few complicated pieces in series, they only every made one split-seconds chronograph, the 4113. Well, they made 12 examples actually, all in 1942. Only eight have since resurfaced, including this particular example, which came through our offices back in 2013, when Christie’s was offering it. Notice the blemishes on the dial are exactly in the same positions, so unless there are twin 4113s out there, it’s the same one. At the time, it hammered in at $1,161,436. It’s much larger than watches I typically wear – it measures a shocking 44 mm – but it’s also one of the thinnest split seconds chronographs, vintage or new, you’ll ever find.
Despite its blemishes, this very rare 4113 should attract between $800,000 and $1,600,000 CHF.
Louis Westphalen: Lot 55 – Longines ‘Tre Tacche’ Reference 4974 In Stainless Steel
When the highlights of the auction were laid out on a table in front of us, one thing hit me: a flat bezel does look incredible on a chronograph! Yesterday, this impact of this design quirk was obvious, as the contrast between flat lines and straight angles really increased this chronograph’s presence. Not that my favorite Longines needed much with its case already standing at a whooping 37.5 mm – a considerable size for the 1940s. However, the true reason I picked this Longines was because all I wanted to do was play with the flyback of its caliber 13ZN, arguably one of the greatest chronograph movement ever made – explaining why we went bonkers about it here.
This Longines reference 4974 is expected to bring between $50,000 and $100,000 CHF, but I have a confession to make: I was so enamored with its look on my wrist that I did not even look at the waterproof case back, nicknamed “Tre Tacche” for the three notches that it displays – another key feature of this dreamy chrono.
The Geneva Watch Auction: Three (May 15th, Geneva)
Cara Barrett: Lot 107 – Platinum Rolex Day Date With Azure Blue Stella Dial
I’m going to have a little fun with this one and pick the Rolex Day Date in platinum with blue Stella dial; after all it was Phillips who put Day Dates on the map with their Glamorous Day Date Sale last year. I don’t know if it’s because I really love Day Dates or if the azure blue dial reminds me of summer (I feel like I have been freezing since September), but this watch is sick. Yes, I just used the word “sick.” This reference 18206 from 1998 still possesses the mystique captured by the Stella dial Day Dates of the ’70s and ’80s.
With the heavy (and I mean heavy) platinum case, President’s bracelet, and lacquered (not enamel) blue dial and applied diamond indexes, this watch belongs on the wrist of someone with extensive summer plans on the Riviera (or the Shmamptons). Oh, and it’s a complete set, all for an estimate of 35,000 to 70,000 CHF. Sigh, a girl can dream.
Jack Forster: Lot 174 – Patek Philippe Yellow-Gold ‘Tiffany’ Minute Repeater
If you are buying for sheer horological value, in my opinion this minute repeater pocket watch from Patek Philippe is absolutely, positively, the watch to bid on in this auction. At 49 mm in diameter, it’s a serious piece of horological machinery; based on the inscription it looks to have been a Christmas gift to David from Harriet in 1966. I don’t know who David was but he took very good care of this watch; it looks virtually new, with an immaculate case, dial (the watch was retailed by Tiffany) and, most importantly, movement. The movement and what it can do are the real reasons to buy this watch. This is a minute repeater from Patek Philippe from the early 20th century and that means that it is, if not unbeaten, at least unmatched in terms of beauty and quality relative to anything else on the market before or since it was made. The steel work is superb – probably no one has ever done anything better – with lovely, huge jewels set perfectly in hypnotically beautiful countersinks; everything, from the general layout to the last detail of movement finishing, represents the very highest manifestation of the Genevan watchmaking tradition; and a pocket repeater from Patek, made when this one was made, is going to have a volume, clarity, and purity of tone you can’t get anywhere else.
I love a nice stainless-steel collectible sports watch as much as the next guy but the fact that the estimate on this is less than half, or a quarter (or an even smaller fraction) of what everyone these days seems to be willing to pay for what were basically pieces of mid-range commodity watchmaking, could be interpreted as a sign there is something fundamentally un-fixable about human judgement. You can brood about that, or you can do what a smart person would do and grab this one while the grabbing is good. High estimate is 18k CHF and at that price this is one of the screaming bargains of the auction year.
Arthur Touchot: Lot 192 – Rolex Yellow-Gold ‘Stelline’ Reference 6062
Known as the “Stelline” in Italy, this reference 6062, with a black dial, and star-shapped hour markers, is one of the most coveted watches Rolex – or any one – has ever made. It is one of only two triple calendar and moon-phase references made by Rolex – the other is the 8171 “Paddelone” – and most were assembled with silver dials. Black dial variations are much harder to find, and usually come with dart or spade-shaped hour markers. Call me romantic, but I much prefer the star indexes, which complete the celestial motif established by the moon-phase indication. The 6062 comes is smaller than the 8171, at 36 mm, but the Oyster case offers some resistance. For this mint condition and very rare 6062, Phillips is hoping to attract bids between $500,000 and $1,000,000 CHF.
Louis Westphalen: Lot 135 – Patek Philippe Stainless-Steel Reference 530 With Black Dial
On paper, this watch sounded perfect, but on the wrist it was better; this is what I thought when I put this Patek 530 on. Let’s forget its extreme rarity – this is the only reference 530 known with this configuration – to solely focus on what makes this Calatrava drop-dead gorgeous. Obviously, the black dial drew me in, magnified by the silver shine of the Breguet numerals, the minute track, and the long signature.
And then there is the case; I mean a “normal” 530 is already fantastically large at 36.5 mm, but here it comes in stainless steel, ironically the most coveted metal for vintage Patek nowadays. This might actually be my dream watch, understated and yet special in every way. Unfortunately, the estimates range between $300,000 and $600,000 CHF, so for me it will remain a beautiful fantasy.
For more on Phillips Watches, and both upcoming auctions, go here. Highlights from both will be available to preview at Phillips New York from April 15 through 18th.
Photos: Will Holloway, unless otherwise noted.
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