Highlights From The Phillips & Blackbird: SPORTS AuctionBy Kevin Cureau
Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, is no stranger to records and firsts, and on May 27th in Hong Kong will hold its first ever watch auction curated by an Asian collector.
The partnership between Phillips and Hong Kong-based collector Mr. TK Mak resulted in a thematic evening sale under the theme of sports watches and sorted into six different categories: Wind, Air, Snow, Tarmac, Lawn and Water.
Mr. Mak is the founder and Chairman of Blackbird Automotive Group and made headlines recently as the lucky car collector who commissioned the one-of-one Ferrari P80/C. He has also earned a reputation for his discerning taste and ability to define trends, which extends to his position as one of the region’s top collectors encompassing vintage watches, contemporary art, important design objects, historic racing cars and memorabilia.
You can expect a mixture of modern and vintage references among the 82 lots that will go under the hammer and even one celebrity watch. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of the sale.
Lot 806 – Patek Philippe Nautilus “Jumbo”
The Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711 is no doubt one of the hottest watches on the market. But what makes a highly sought-after watch even hotter? Ten letters: Tiffany & Co.
Reference 5711 was launched in 2006 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus and was inspired by the original ref. 3700 “Jumbo” but with a more modern and larger 42.5 mm case size.
TIffany & Co and Patek Philippe have had a strong relationship dating back to the 1800’s when the renowned jeweller started representing Patek Philippe in the American market. Today Tiffany is the only retailer in the world where Patek Philippe still allows double-signed dials, proof of the strong historical bond between the two brands.
This example is the 3rd white dial reference 5711 signed by Tiffany & Co to ever hit the auction block.
HK$360,000 – 720,000
Lot 814 – Blancpain Air Command
The Blancpain Air Command is a watch that is shrouded in mystery and the story goes that following the success of the Fifty Fathoms as a dive watch with the American Navy, Blancpain sought to provide a timepiece suitable for the Air Force in the late 1950s. No orders were placed and the Air Command project was not pursued. In total, no more than a dozen of these watches are in the wild.
Lot 814 could not have come at auction at a better time since one of Blancpain’s 2019 novelties is a re-issue of the Blancpain Air Command in a limited run of 500 watches and fitted with a modern flyback chronograph caliber and slightly larger case. If you miss out on an original Air Command, you’ll always have the modern recreation to fall back on.
HK$390,000 – 780,000
It wouldn’t be a proper watch auction with at least some vintage Speedmasters so here are three Speedys, each special in their own way.
Lot 817 – Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.022 with Tiffany dial
This is one of only three Tiffany stamped Omega Speedmaster ref. 145.022-69 to have ever surfaced. We covered this watch in detail in a previous story, which you should read here, to learn about the theories surrounding the exact time when Tiffany & Co started printing their name on the dials of Omega Speedmasters.
Lot 818 – 1969 Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI ref. 145.022BA
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing and Omega has released two limited edition watches to honor this milestone. One of them is a faithful re-issue of the present lot offered by Phillips, and the second is a stainless steel watch with an incredible presentation box. You can read all about these two timepieces here and here.
Back to lot 818 where we have a 1969 Speedmaster Apollo XI, a rare reference that was made in 18k yellow gold to commemorate the historical achievement of the moon landing. Only 1014 pieces were created with the first two in the series famously presented to President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew. Numbers 3 to 32 were given to astronauts and various personalities and the remaining made available to the public. This present lot is number 184 of 1014.
HK$120,000 – 200,000
Lot 819 – Omega Speedmaster “MIR 365 Days”
The Omega Speedmaster is intimately linked to NASA and space exploration. The present watch offered as lot 819 was part of an actual aerospace project where 35 Speedmaster Professionals (28 in steel and 7 in yellow gold) were allowed to be taken to the space station MIR for 365 days with the purpose of observing and forming the effects of microgravity on watch movements. As a result, these watches have earned the coveted title of watches “flown” in space.
Lot 842 – Rolex ref. 6036 “Jean-Claude Killy”
The Rolex ref. 6036, nicknamed the “Jean-Claude Killy” for the famous French skier who was often seen sporting the watch, is the most technically complex vintage Rolex ever created by the brand.
The watch features a triple calendar chronograph complication and was mainly cased in stainless steel but for prominent customers, a version was offered in yellow gold. One can only imagine the lifestyle of someone in the 1950’s wearing such a luxurious and complex timepiece which exudes grandeur and lavishness.
Lot 860 – Universal Genève Polerouter owned by legendary martial artist Bruce Lee
As one of the biggest pop culture icon of the 20th Century, Bruce Lee bridged the gap between East and West and his influence on martial arts will forever be remembered.
Something less well-known about him maybe is the array of watches that he owned over the years and was known to give away to close friends and colleagues. This is where this present lot comes from.
This Universal Genève Polerouter was given by Bruce Lee to Herb Jackson, one of Lee’s earliest students and later a close friend, in 1968. A letter confirming the provenance of the watch accompanies the watch and is further enhanced by photographs of Lee wearing the watch when he was martial arts choreographer for The Wrecking Crew.
HK$80,000 – 150,000
Lot 869 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2499
The reference 2499 from Patek Philippe makes collectors go nuts. The 2499 is the successor to the reference 1518, the world’s first serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatch with a chronograph function. This particular example is in a jaw-dropping condition and in yellow gold, of which about 110 pieces were made. It comes as no surprise then that it is featured as the top lot of this thematic sale.
Lot 869 belongs to the 4th series of 2499s with round chronograph buttons, applied baton numerals, outer seconds divisions and sapphire crystal. The dial is crisp and the signature stepped lugs are well defined and is accompanied by an Extract from the Archives confirming the dial configuration and production.
HK$3,200,000 – 6,200,000