Another visit to Fellows Auctioneers in Birmingham to have a look at some of the most unusual and exciting watches of the lot.
A pre-viewing of a watch auction is always an exciting one for us, as it is a great chance to get to experience some of the less common vintage and modern pieces that the watch world has to offer. My aim in this article is to expose to you some of the hidden gems of the auction, the pieces that people would not usually focus on but actually provide tremendous value and character.
The great thing about looking out for these hidden gems is mainly due to the ‘hidden’ part, meaning you can usually snag a great watch at an even better price. Let’s get into my top 4 picks of the day from the lots that successfully sold.
The Top 4:
Wakmann Triple Date Chronograph
As quoted from the Fellows auction catalogue: “Wakmann Watch Company was founded in New York in 1946. They became known as experts in the world of chronographs and multipurpose timekeeping. Very soon Wakmann had partnered up with Breitling and were providing timekeeping devices for the U.S. Armed Forces and the U.S. Government. Wakmann helped develop high accuracy cockpit timers for U.S. planes in WW2 and went on to develop Navigation-timer wrist watches for the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association. This led to the birth of the well known and loved Breitling Navitimer.”
Despite its age, the larger case size of 38mm wears well on the wrist.
This incredible Triple Date Chronograph is rich in history, in an extremely subtle way. With no mention of the brand name on the dial and predating Breitling’s takeover this easily looks like many vintage chronographs from the era, but watches like these from the Wakmann brand were all part of the story that formed Breitling into the brand you know and love today, producing icons such as the Navitimer and Chronomat.
The dial is packed with details and presents a lot of information in a surprisingly legible format.
History aside, the layout of the dial and the overall design of this piece makes it a clear winner. At 38mm it was incredibly wearable and with the retro style black perforated strap it just screamed ‘vintage cool’.
Price Realised: £2,169.20.
Next up, something a little strange from the Italian luxury giant. The Bulgari Ergon. Featuring a unique sporty look full of soft curves and harmonious details, this automatic winding time and date watch is probably one you have never come across before.
Featuring an extremely unique case, the Bvlgari Ergon is the perfect choice for someone looking for something a bit different.
The proportions are slightly deceiving as it is a round dial watch but due to the case it wears more like a rectangular watch, so the 35mm size actually means it wears big as the lugs are extremely long. It is also quite thick due to the case geometry, however since the strap integrates well it does seem balanced and quite charming. The main reason I chose this watch was due to the surprisingly low auction estimate.
At £350-450 this provides a great opportunity to own a well-built piece from a high-end designer brand for not much money, especially during a time when Bulgari watches are quite fashionable with the popularity of their Octo range.
From the profile, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design.
Under a macro lens, you can really sense the attention to detail, such as through the sharply cut applied indexes.
Price Realised: £638.00
Blancpain Leman Chronograph
Now for my personal favourite of the auction. This stunning Blancpain Leman chronograph, very reminiscent of today’s Leman chronograph, but with a smaller case coming in at 38mm and a sharp baton dial with the Blancpain B at the 12 O’clock position.
An incredible lustre from the sharp dial details of the Blancpain Leman Chronograph.
Really, I love everything about this watch; The amazing applied dial details sitting upon the gloss dial, the chamfered and slightly skeletonised hands, the double stepped bezel and subtle curves of the thin case making it sit perfectly on the wrist. It is the perfect example of a slightly dressy sports chronograph that retains an aspect of originality and allows the high-quality finish of the brand to shine through.
Beautifully integrated solid end links create a harmony between the intricate case and bracelet designs.
Packed with details, the Blancpain Leman Chronograph looks pretty good under a macro lens, although it is starting to show some ageing.
Price Realised: £2,296.80 – Seems like quite a bargain, although the chronograph hand wasn’t resetting to 12 so would need a service.
Rolex Datejust 16030 Buckley Dial
The final choice for my top 4 goes to this ‘Buckley’ dial Datejust, and I know what you are thinking “A Rolex can’t be a hidden gem…”
The combination of Buckley dial and machined bezel make this Rolex Datejust something quite special.
Characterised by the black painted Roman numerals and hands sitting on this white dial, the Buckley dial Datejust is named after one of the biggest names in the vintage Rolex world: John Buckley. Story aside, this slightly rare dial variant of the Datejust is definitely out of the ordinary and quite different to what you would expect on a modern Datejust. It’s also a good opportunity to own something from Rolex that is quite different but doesn’t charge a premium for being so.
Price Realised: £2,424.40
Subtly interesting, packed with history, and unfortunately unsold
These next 2 would have all made it into my top 6 (or even the top 4) had they sold, but unfortunately, they either didn’t make the reserve or were pulled from auction so they deserve their own category. Both of these watches are packed with amazing history. Sit back and enjoy…
Longines Greenlander ‘Dirty Dozen’
In the last half of 1945, the British Ministry of Defence set new standards for military issues watches. Under these standards, 12 watch companies produced the seemingly simple watches that would go on to be legends known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’ by collectors. The 12 brands were Buren, Grana, JLC, Lemania, Cyma, Eterna, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, Vertex, and Longines. Due to their exclusive use in the military many of these watches were lost, destroyed or repaired using random parts so to find one at all is quite rare, and one in a good original working condition is verging on impossible.
Showing some age and character, this Longines Dirty Dozen Greenlander tells a story.
This example from Longines (which was actually the largest at 37.5mm and the second rarest of the 12 after the Grana) with an estimated production of only 5,000 pieces. It’s in a pretty fair condition considering its history but potentially too damaged for the most serious of collectors to consider. The lume was basically completely gone but in my eyes this only adds to the character, but I guess that depends if you prefer the NOS look or not.
The original WWW military etched caseback.
Rolex Prince 3361 Aerodynamic
Another Rolex watch, but this time one you have probably never heard of…
Due to the long lugs, this Rolex Prince Aerodynamic wears well on the wrist despite being a watch first released in 1939.
The Rolex ‘Prince’, first introduced in 1928 quickly became known as the doctor’s watch due to the large seconds subdial that allowed for easy pulsometer style timing, where the doctor would use it to measure a patients heart rate.
Due to it’s marketing as ‘The wristwatch for distinguished gentlemen’ it also served as the perfect gift for doctors from their wealthy patients. There is even a more practical reason being that doctors were among the few people that could afford them, so I would guess this probably helped the name as well. On it’s release it also gained popularity due to the chronometer grade timekeeping, setting new standards of accuracy among wristwatches.
Incredible case geometry and construction, taking a-symmetric to a new level.
This particular example is known as the Rolex Prince Aerodynamic and has an asymmetrical dial design which removes the classic small seconds dial at 6 which is found on the other Prince models. The case is also thicker where the dial sits and so has some pretty complicated details.
Impressive hand engraving can be found on this model, you can notice all the slight imperfections under the macro lens which only add to the character of this piece.
This model also featured a quite unusual plaque at the 6 o-clock mark, which under a macro lens you can see is actually hand engraved (as opposed to modern laser etching) with the ‘EH’ letters. I have seen other examples of this reference without engraving on the plaque, or with other letters so I wonder if this is the mark of the original owner or potentially the retailer?
The silvered dial showing it’s age with the green oxidization marks.
Unfortunately, the dial on this watch features quite a lot of oxidization, which due to the green colour is not really the type of patina someone would want, so I presume that is why it might not have made the reserve price.
A stunning, perfect fit rectangular movement which was revolutionary on release due to the chronometer timekeeping standard.
Audemars Piguet Limited Edition ‘Alinghi’ Royal Oak
Diamond set with a unique stamped guilloche pattern, this is a great option for a woman after a slice of Audemars Piguet history.
Price Realised: £3,955.60
Rolex 4222 Dress Watch
The long lugs and large dial opening mean that this 34mm Rolex 4222 wears nicely on the wrist.
Classic and understated, a truly beautiful Rolex offering that would be welcome in the modern Rolex collection.
Price Realised: £1,786.40
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control Power Reserve 37mm
The 37mm case diameter and thin profile makes this sit exceptionally on the wrist while the date and power reserve functions make it supremely useful.
Price Realised: £3,955.60
Breitling Chronomat 808
A vintage Breitling icon that is unfortunately often overlooked in the world of Navitimer supremacy.
Rolex 1675 Pepsi GMT Master
Perfect pumpkin dial ageing makes this GMT master very desirable.
The incredible condition doesn’t hurt either.
Price Realised: £10,208.00
Rolex 5015 Bubbleback
This 32mm bubbleback is packed with details and vintage style.
It also features a pretty interesting version of the Rolex crown.
Price Realised: £1,199.44
Omega 2627-8 Seamaster Calendar
This gold capped Seamaster Calendar features a beautiful guilloche dial and is a great offering for vintage Omega at an affordable price.
Price Realised: £535.92
IWC RAF issue Mark XI
This RAF issue Mark XI also tells a story through it’s incredible patina.
Price Realised: £3,190.00
Audemars Piguet Ultra Thin Dress Watch
Wait for it…
Just look at that gilt dial.
Overall, I think this Fellows auction had great variety and something for everyone, I would definitely recommend checking their website out here to view future lots, and also attending or viewing online any other watch auctions. As usual, be sure to let me know what your favourite watch shown was and why you like it!
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