Povey’s Picks – Christie's Rare Watches Sale 12th November 2018By Ross Povey
Christie’s has put together a solid sale for this season, with a number of exceptional pieces including fresh-to-market examples from both Rolex and Patek Philippe. These two watch brands continue to dominate and are both arguably the kings of the salerooms. The catalogue is well balanced and there are a couple of interesting themes that emerge.
Last week I discussed the double-signed Patek Philippe 2499 with Asprey dial and case markings, a special watch indeed. Christie’s has another very desirable double-signed 2499, this time adorned with the name of Venezuela-based retailer Serpico Y Laino. There is lovely parallel in that the original owner was himself an Italian immigrant to Venezuela, much like the two Italian founders of famed retailer Serpico Y Laino. The watch was originally purchased in the early 1960s by the father of the consigners and remains in remarkable condition. The 2499 is a rare and desirable watch, with only 9 examples per year leaving the Patek factory. Figure in that this example is believed to be unique and the offered lot is incredibly special.
Tropical Air King
Keeping with the theme of double-signed dials, Lot 21 is a charming and unusual Rolex Air King reference 5500. A humble reference in many ways, this watch is elevated due to the rareness if its dial, featuring both an unusual Middle-Eastern signature and also having turned a very beautiful shade of light chocolate brown. There are three known watches with the signature of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, all 34mm steel Rolex Oysters dating to the early 1960s. This watch, which is again fresh to market from the grandchildren of the original owner, was presented to a gentleman called Vladimir Mostrov for his role in helping to organise the World Ohrid Swimming Marathon in Macedonia in 1964. Mr Mostrov was also the translator for the Sheikh at the event. Middle Eastern logo dials are a Rolex collecting theme in their own right, but the added element of the tropical dial gives this watch the extra length.
Over the past three or four years there has been a growing interest in and profile of steel chronographs dating to the 1950s. Brands such as Vetta, Gallet, Tavannes and Bovet have awoken from their slumber and are now feverishly hunted by passionate chrono collectors. So much so that the latest opus from Pucci Papaleo is entiled Fero and is a celebration of the vintage steel chronograph. Lot 115 is a nice and original example of a multi-scale chrono in a 35mm case. The dial has obvious signs of age and therefore originality, but what I really love are the blued steel hands that give the watch something of an edge. The estimate is reasonable too and I believe this would make a great entry level watch for a new collector looking to experience the thrill of buying at auction.
We’re totally obsessed with the Day-Date at Revolution at the moment. Who wouldn’t be? It’s a super cool watch that is both prestigious and easy to wear in equal measure. Produced (in the most part) in only precious metals, it always was and in many ways remains the top of the tree in the Rolex pantheon. The Day-Date, or President, is no stranger to the important sales in Geneva. In fact, in 2015 Phillips dedicated an entire mono-thematic sale to the Day-Date. And yes, it was epic and broke many records. This Christie’s sale sees a number of Day-Dates with interesting dials, many of them stone. Lots 101 to 106 is the first run of sapphire glassed watches, with all but the last being five-digit single quick-set models. The Onyx (106) and Tiger-Eye (105) examples are beautiful and striking, whilst the meteorite dial in Lot 103 is stunning. My favourite, however, is Lot 102, a bark finish yellow gold 18078 that is a rare watch. Add to the fact that it houses a diamond-set red Grossularite dial and this for me is the stand out Day-Date of the sale. The second run is Lots 142 to 150. The last four watches in this segment are again single quick-set models with interesting dials including marble and burl wood.
A coupe of weeks ago at Antiquorum, people were taken by surprise when an automatic Daytona achieved 2.2 million HKD. The reference 16599SAPH is a Zenith movement Rolex Daytona that features a lot more bling than you would find at a Hip Hop convention in the ’90s. Christie’s has the very same model in their sale and I will be interested to see how it performs. The 18K white gold watch has a full pave dial, with the hour markers set with blue sapphires. The bezel is fully set with baguette cut sapphires and the watch even has diamond-set fixed endlinks (the Daytonas made to be worn on leather straps all have fixed endlinks)! There is no doubt that self-winding Daytonas are becoming more and more important. This is a particularly rare version and I hope it does as well as the Antiquorum watch did. One thing’s for sure, there are very few bargain Daytonas around now!
As my final thought, I’d like to finish with the opposite end of the market to my opening piece. Lot 78 is an Omega Memomatic dating to 1972. The cushion shape case screams 1970s but the faded blue dial is timeless. The Memomatic is an alarm watch and is part of the Seamaster family. The light blue seconds hand is a cool touch and the alarm can be set accurately using both an hour and minute disc. This is a cool watch with a great complication that has an estimate of 1000-1500 CHF. That’s a bargain!