By Louis Westphalen
It’s always exciting to flip thought the pages of a fresh auction catalog. So we were thrilled to discover the lots from this week’s Watches of Knightsbridge auction. There are showstoppers of course, such as a big crown Submariner and an early Speedmaster CK2998. But we think we found a couple of sleepers as well. So we picked five and went to try them on. Chronographs are well represented, with an understated but handsome Omega DeVille and a colorful Tudor Monte Carlo, while an early diver from Longines and a rare Rolex Datejust also make our list.
Omega DeVille Chronograph Reference 145.017, With Slate Grey Dial
It’s not a Speedmaster, and that’s okay. This vintage De Ville was introduced in 1968, with the lever-and-cam caliber 860. This De Ville has a rare slate-grey dial, which is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the watch. This two-register chronograph’s dial changes appearance according to the light, turning metallic blue, grey, or even black.
An elegant, but petite watch, it’s been overlooked because of its 35 mm size, and perhaps lack of time spent on the moon. My only concern is the top pusher, which felt a little fragile when I tried the chrono. If you’re looking for another like it, make sure to check the handset closely for a cone-shaped second hand; a straight version means it’s been replaced.
More details about lot 203 can be found here; the estimate is between 1,200 and 1,500 GBP, or around $1,700 to $2,100.
Rolex Datejust Reference 1603, With Characteristic Early Bezel
This lovely stainless-steel Oyster Perpetual Datejust is an oldie but not the kind you’d expect. The bezel is fluted only at the hour marks, a simple and functional way of adding some legibility and texture to what many would otherwise consider one of the plainest models made by Rolex. This bezel is actually characteristic of an early 1960s production, and so are the dauphine hand – chronologically found in non-sport Rolexes somewhere between the use of leaf hands and baton hands.
On the wrist, it wears like any Datejust, but its unusual features make it stand out from the ocean of 1603s out there. The case has not been polished too extensively so it still feels like a good 36 mm, and the silver sunrays increase the perceived size of the dial. The watch is powered by caliber 1560, a perpetual chronometer movement with “butterfly” rotor. We only regret the absence of an original bracelet, although this Rolex wears very well on any leather strap.
The estimate on lot 312 ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 GBP, or around $2,100 to $2,900, before fees here. Note that you can find another early 1603 as the next consecutive lot, but it’s not in as good condition.
Tudor Monte Carlo Reference 7169/0, With Box And Papers
It’s not quite a 7032 or 7033, but the Monte Carlo is still a name you look for when you receive a new auction catalog. A racing chronograph full of character, with a design that sets it very much apart from its Rolex cousins, the Monte Carlo survived the 1970s pretty well – Tudor recently released a Heritage version (in 2013, on the occasion of its return to the U.S. market) that we reviewed here. So why is it on our list of unexpected watches? Well, it’s being offered with box and papers, and that’s going to excite quite a few collectors.
Vintage Monte Carlos sit pretty at 40 mm on the wrist, with a dashing look that you won’t find anywhere else. They are known to show their age with light spotting on the dial, and this one is no exception. You’ll find them here mostly on the bottom half.
This full set Monte Carlo is estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 GPB or around, $8,500 to $11,500, here.
Longines Diver Reference 7494-2 With Super Compressor Case
If you had to build an entire collection around one brand, you’d do very well choosing Longines. We’re pretty spoiled for choices when it comes to their watches, especially when picking out an elegant dress watch. But their great-looking vintage divers fly somewhat under the radar. The Legend Diver is not a prototypical diving watch but the Super Compressor case, twin crown, and internal bezel construction are part of its appeal. Add to that great patina and a contemporary size (42 mm), and the watch should do well at auction.
We actually covered the very same reference in Bring A Loupe, a week ago, and our praise remains. This diver from the 1960s still feels like a serious tool watch thanks to its ingenious Super Compressor case – a patented innovation that uses the pressure of the water to compress the sealing gasket and thus further tighten the case back – and the large hatched crowns. The upper crown activates the inner rotating bezel. And don’t overlook the nice engraving on the back: the diver holding a harpoon tells you what this watch is all about.
You can find more info on this Longines Diver here; it is estimated between 4,500 and 5,500GBP, or around $6,500 to $8,000.
Two Wakmann Triple Date Chronographs, Reference 71.1309.70
Wakmann’s triple calendar chronograph is a hot commodity these days, but so are most triple calendar chronographs – think Heuer or Zodiac. Wakmann’s panda dial makes it decidedly more casual than others though, and that’s what people are looking for these days. Because Wakmann would put the watches back together after receiving the parts from Switzerland, you’ll find many dial variations – lots 100 and 101 present very different date hands, for example. What Wakmann – mainly the U.S. importer for Breitling – lacks in terms of brand recognition, this triple calendar chrono makes up for in great details.
On the wrist, it is a very attractive and legible watch – say thanks to the panda dial – and the 37 mm case wears extremely well. You can also trust the reliability of its chronograph movement as the Valjoux 730 caliber used here is based on the manual-winding Valjoux 72, a movement you need no introduction to if you appreciate vintage Rolex Daytonas. Now you just have to choose which handset you like the most; note that there is a small chip on the lume from the minute hand of lot 101.
You can find the entire catalog of the upcoming Watches of Knighsbridge auction here.
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