The top 10 watches sold under the hammer at Christie's Rare Watches Auction Geneva 13th May 2019...
Christie’s Auctions have been around since 1766 and in their long life, they have sold a hugely eclectic mix of fine art, precious antiques, jewellery and watches. In their latest auction appropriately titled ‘Rare Watches Auction’ 222 out of the 249 lots offered were all sold resulting in a total of over CHF 11,000,000 worth of watches sold.
Today, we wanted to run through the top 10 watches that were sold under the hammer. There are some pretty insane watches here. You have been warned!
Lot 129 - Vacheron Constantin 18k single button chronograph minute repeater with province dating back to 1899 - £142,500
Here we have a beautiful salmon dialled Vacheron that sits in a 37.5mm gold case. The movement itself is actually a pocket watch movement which dates back to 1899. However, it was transformed into a wristwatch by Vacheron in 1956 resulting in this stunning design being able to still be enjoyed in a 21st-century world.
It’s also a single pusher chronograph and minute repeater. This dial layout with the sub-seconds at 9 o’clock, Breguet handset and salmon guilloche dial manages to combine simplicity with unique complex design only Vacheron could achieve.
Oh, we haven’t mentioned yet that it’s likely to be a unique piece. Hence the £142,500 final hammer price. Nice start right?
Lot 78 - Patek Philippe Celestial Grand Complications ref. 5102PR - £142,500
Next up is the first entry from Patek in the form of this bold grand complication. The watch is a combination of platinum and rose gold coming in at 43mm wide yet only 9.9mm thick. The watch itself on the surface of it is a very simple looking watch. However, underneath that watches sapphire it, well, houses another two sapphires.
Excluding the outer crystal, the second sapphire is where the image of the milky way and stars sit. The final crystal is that blue colouring to the dial.
Lot 84 - Patek Philippe ref. 5271/12P-001 Ruby Set - £194,750
The second Patek of the top 10 just happens to be a platinum perpetual calendar chronograph, with moonphase, leap year, day and night indication, date and 89 perfectly cut baguette rubies right around the 5.3-carat mark.
Admittedly this isn’t going to able to every watch collector out there, however, you can’t ignore the fact this watches sheer amount of complications and unique look is kind of cool. Patek Philippe is very well known to ‘not sell to anyone’ so you essentially have to be a good friend of the brand to even buy from them to start with. It’s fair to say an example like this is normally truly reserved for their top clients.
Lot 239 - Breguet 4544 Triple Calendar Chronograph with moon phase 1970. - £228,000
Is this probably my favourite one from the whole top 10. Breguet is known for moonphases, triple calendars and high-end chronographs, but you’ve likely never seen one like this. This specific model feels quite under the radar because of the silver dial, the dauphine hands and simple, 36mm case.
The almost over the top font used for the logo and the Rolex oyster style case result in an insanely cool watch to me. If I had to choose one from this top 10 list to take home with me and actually use and wear, I think it would be this. Or, potentially this next one...
Lot 94 - Rolex Paul Newman 6265 Panda Dial from 1971 - £275,500
This Paul Newman marks the beginning of a small reoccurring theme in this article. It seems the demand for Paul Newman models is showing no sign of slowing down. This model comes from the family of the original owner with the case, screw down pushers, crown, bezel and bracelet all still original.
The dial is perfect, 10/10 pristine condition with only the lume plots acting as the only evidence of the watches age. The 6265 is pretty uncommon with a Paul Newman dial and this reference was the final evolution of manually wound Daytonas. As if Paul Newmans weren't special enough...
Lot 57 - Patek Philippe ref. 5016 Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater Tourbillon - £312,360
This watch right here covers the big three grand complications that serious watch collectors look for. This example in yellow gold is one of only 10 examples that have appeared in public as of yet.
The watches dial uses both Breguet style hands and numerals. The retrograde date function, moonphase, hidden tourbillon combined with the minute repeater and iconic Patek case design. These features plus the limited nature of the watch all come together to result in a piece of art that is quintessentially Patek Philippe.
Did I mention that the watch is only 36.5mm as well?
Lot 200 - Rolex Paul Newman Mark II Panda 1971 ref. 6263 - £339,720
Back to Rolex now and, yes you’ve guessed it, another Paul Newman. This time we have a 6263 which favours a black bezel rather than the stainless steel 6265 seen previously. The bezel seen here is the MK1 bezel which over the years normally ends up being changed during service as they’re pretty fragile.
The black bezel has a big impact on the overall aesthetic of the watch making it feel more modern and familiar to those of us who are more used to the modern Daytonas.
Lot 201 - Rolex Paul Newman 14k Gold 1969 ref. 6241 - £357,960
What’s better than a ‘standard’ Paul Newman? Why not a yellow gold one. Here we have the 6241 which, to start with, isn’t commonly found in yellow gold. The dial, case, bracelet and bezel seem to be in near perfect condition. Christie’s also say that the case has some slight signs of oxidation which collectors will welcome as it means the watch was been sat unused for a long time.
The reference 6241 was introduced in the mid-60s. Only 2250 pieces in stainless steel, 300 in 18k gold and just 450 in 14k gold were made, further emphasising the importance of this piece.
Lot 193 - Rolex Steel and Rose Gold Chronograph circa 1943 ref. 3525 - £357,960
When most of us think about Rolex Chronographs we think about the wide selection of Daytona’s that have been available over the years. Rarely do we consider the pre-Daytona models such as this 3525.
Dating back to 1943, this watch is a time capsule back to an era of the purposeful design and creation of products. This one just happens to be insanely beautiful at the same time. The rose gold two-tone colour, the straight link rivet expanding bracelet, the cream/silver dial, the thin elegant gold hands, the rose gold bezel and crown. This is a seriously stunning piece of art.
The watches elegance isn’t its only charm, however. This specific watch comes from the personal collection of Andy Warhol. Naturally Mr Warhol was attracted to art, and clearly, his excellent taste expanded to the world of watches as well.
Lot 203 - Rolex 6062 Pink Stelline Triple Calendar circa 1952 - £741,000
We’ve seen a dominant presence of Rolex watches in this auction, but this might be the ultimate, non-sports model Rolex. Rolex order around 180 pink gold cases between 1950-53. Research tells us however that only 50 of those cases were actually sold with 20 of those original 50 known in today’s market. Out of those 20 models known in today’s market, it seems this is one of less than 10 examples cased in pink gold with the iconic star dial.
This style of Rolex is one of which that has been lost in time with the closest Rolex dial design available today that is somewhat similar being the Cellini Moonphase.
Check out this article from Cole Pennington which covers this watches history in a little more detail…
So, what have we learnt from this auction? Well, to start with, the Paul Newman’s popularity seems to be going only one way with no sign of that slowing down. Complicated unique Patek pieces remain undoubtedly desirable. And of course, watches with fascinating province (lot 126 and 193 for example) continue to appeal.
Bidders from 41 countries participated in the auction and the sale welcomed the highest number of online-registrants for any watch auction held at Christie’s. It’s fair to say everyone involved had a very good day...