Povey’s Picks — the Phillips ‘Winning Icons’ SaleBy Ross Povey
Welcome to another edition of Povey’s Picks. Today we’re checking out the Phillips Watches sale entitled ‘Winning Icons – Legendary Watches of the 20th Century’. Now, in essence, these articles are the pieces that stand out to me (and admittedly they are often pieces from the Wilsdorf World… its how I roll!). The problem is, that these sales at Phillips are becoming increasingly epic and it is almost impossible to select just half a dozen pieces…I want them all!
The sale is essentially fifty lots, each being an iconic piece from the last century’s horological output. You may not be familiar with the entire catalogue, but unless you’ve been marooned on a desert island for the past six months, you will certainly be aware of the centre piece of the sale — the legendary Paul Newman’s ‘Paul Newman’; the actual exotic dial Rolex 6239 Daytona owned by Mr. Paul Newman himself. Whilst the entire sale is wrapped around this watch, I’m not sure that I can add anything that hasn’t been written before, other than to say its possibly the most exciting watch to come to auction since I became interested in watches. One of the hottest topics seems to be the final sale price. What will it be? I’ll opt for $13 million. Unlucky for some… but not the Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation, which will benefit from the sale.
Rolex leads the sale with 18 (including a Tudor) pieces, with Patek second at 10 watches and Longines and Cartier each with 3. There really is ‘something for everybody’ in this auction and Paul Boutros should be very proud of the watches that he and his team have curated for the first New York sale.
I intend to explore the history of these watches and their dials in a later article, but I had to mention this watch, as the first series is surely the king of the Tudor chronos. The references 7031 and 7032 (the ’31 has a black plastic tachymeter bezel and the ’32 has one in steel) were introduced in 1970 and the production ran for approximately 24 months. Both references are the rarest and most sought after Tudor chronographs and the vast majority have a grey dial. There are a small number of watches, however, that are fitted with a black dial and lot 11 is one such example. The watch is additionally accompanied by an original ‘peanut’ box, which in itself is a rare item. The story of the black dials is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and there are a number of theories that have circulated for years. Regardless, this is a lovely example and a watch that I’m sure will do very well in the sale.
Estimate: $60,000 – 120,000
Another watch with a possible urban-myth heritage is the Cartier Crash. The supposed story of the watches origin is that a Cartier’s service department received a Baignoire watch for repair that had been involved in a car crash. The case shape had distorted due to the heat of the blaze, which resulted from the accident. The then Head of the London office was taken by the Dali-esque shape of the watch and so it was born…the Cartier Crash. Recently reissued into the Cartier line, the vintage examples have become very popular with recently sold examples achieving six-figure sums. The unusual case shape has its asymmetrical properties highlighted by the unusually ‘exploding’ roman numerals on the dial and delicate winding crown. This example dates to the mid 1980s and is particularly desirable due to its oversize case which is 48mm in length. Beautiful and unusual? Yes. Will it sell high? Undoubtedly!
Estimate: $40,000 – 80,000
I love simple time-only watches and lot 17 is a stealthy mix of elegance and tool watch charm. Featuring a highly sought after Breguet numeral dial, the 565 is monoblocco in construction and has a screw case back, which added to the watches robust nature. The watch case has an inner section comprised of iron to protect the watch from strong magnetic fields…this little watch is full of surprises!
Estimate: $50,000 – 100,000
One of the rarest production Rolex sports watches made, the ‘SARU’ is a yellow gold GMT Master where the red and blue in the ‘Pepsi’ bezel is constructed with rubies and sapphires. Dating to approximately 1986 this watch is in incredible condition, with a crisp case and sharp bevels on the lugs. The watches were fitted with gold President bracelets with diamond set centre links. The ‘bling’ quotient is upped with a full pave set dial where the hour markers are sapphires in the traditional sports watch hour maker shapes that we see on GMTs and Subs. I would actually love to own one of these watches, but I think I’d wear it on a leather strap…keep it low key.
Estimate: $180,000 – 360,000
One of the most iconic and instantly recognisable dial layouts is the Rolex Explorer, with its triangle at 12 o’clock and then the bold numerals at 3, 6 and 9. Associated with the Explorer, it has been a constant in the Rolex line-up since he early 1950s. Lot 46 is a beautiful gilt dial Explorer reference 1016 with a glossy black dial in stunning condition – like a black pool of oil with relief-print text. The watch is accompanied by a full set of paperwork and both inner and outer boxes – a real collector’s dream.
It wasn’t only the Explorers that had this dial layout though. There are some very collectible early Submariners that had similar dials and lot 33 is such a watch – the mighty reference 6200 – the grandfather of the ‘Big Crown’ Subs. This example is in incredible condition. The case is seemingly completely untouched, with the original case profile and crisp lug holes. The original bezel insert without and minute hash markers is present and in virtually unmarked condition. These watches have high levels of radium in the luminous mix and it is unusual to see the dials on these watches in such good condition. For sure, this will be competitively bid on and I expect we could see a new record set for this untouched example.
Lot 33 estimate: $250,000 – 500,000
Lot 46 estimate: $8,000 – 16,000