Josh and Benjamin’s Picks From Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: Eight
Auctions are interesting on many levels. If anything, they provide a glimpse of the watchmaking industry’s health. Auctions can offer a view into collector taste and give us an indication of which models will be desirable in years to come. Brands also play a huge part in auctions as nearly all want to know if their vintage novelties are sought after. At the end of the day, auctions are a great occasion to break records, tell stories, or simply, to strike good deals.
A large majority of the timepieces presented at Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: Eight are Rolex and Patek Phillipe. The appeal for these two giants does not seem to falter and we will probably witness new records this weekend, and in the coming years. This behavior benefits the whole industry as it propels certain creations into the rarified territory of art and investment grade assets.
Aside from the two ‘sacred monsters’ mentioned, very few brands seem to generate such irrational popularity. There are nonetheless brands which are of particular interest to us. Firstly, because they have produced exceptional timepieces in the past - and still do. Secondly, because they offer the possibility to acquire timepieces at relatively affordable prices - without the speculation frenzy biasing their intrinsic horological value. We may have different tastes when it comes to collecting, but Josh and Benjamin found some very intriguing pieces in this weekend’s auction.
Aurel Bacs and his team at Phillips will begin the proceedings this coming weekend, November 10th and 11th at the La Réserve Hotel in Geneva. Here’s a look at some of the particular timekeepers, which we deem worthy of collector’s interest.
Whether they are adepts of design, of fine watchmaking or of vintage tastes. Audemars Piguet is, of course, right up there with exceptional chronographs from the 1940s showcasing the manufacture’s excellence as much in terms of design as of watchmaking complications. Lot N° 101, ref. 1533 from 1941 and N°103, ref. 1529 from 1943, should find their buyers among discerning collectors without any problem. Similarly, Vacheron Constantin offers some extremely tempting opportunities for the latter. Lot N°102, ref. 4240L, a triple calendar with moon phases in rose gold from 1946 is a perfect example.
Finally, it is interesting to see that independent watchmakers are slowly building their own spot on the secondary auction market. At the helm is François-Paul Journe with Lot N°14. This piece is an incredible chance to get ahold of one of the 20 Tourbillon Souverain ‘on subscription’ from this spearhead of independents. A platinum timekeeper with remontoir that fine independent watchmaking fans will fiercely fight over no doubt. It is also noticeable to see a rare timekeeper from the Master Guilloche maker, Kari Voutilainen: lot N°144. A sumptuous Vingt-8 in platinum with power reserve indicator and a blue dial adorned with superb hand-made guillochés. The presence of these two masters, as well as others like Vianney Halter or Laurent Ferrier, show the increasing attractiveness of this particular side of watchmaking among collectors. Results of the auction will be followed very closely.
The fall auction season is a great opportunity to gauge the watch industry as a whole. In today’s auction market, we’re seeing new and vintage pieces being auctioned from the same stage. Perhaps no greater example of this than what Phillips has on offer this weekend. From a new-in-box Patek Philippe ref. 3712 to a coveted Tiffany & Co Stamped Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711. While many may comment on the integrity of the seller (err “flippers”) for selling these creations for obvious profit gains, you can’t discount the work that Phillips has done to acquire these timepieces for auction and put them up for what will likely be record returns.
I’ve been saying this for years, and I think it’s worth repeating. There are two pillars to the modern watch market, there’s the hot, hard to find modern references (Rolex Daytona, Rolex GMT ‘Pepsi’, Anything Stainless Steel Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, and the occasional sought-after Omega reference) and then there’s vintage, which is an entirely separate market in itself. However, between these two pillars is mostly everything else (with the broad exception of some amazing independent brands). Brands are clawing to climb aboard the first pillar, with some succeeding, but the fact that auctions have played such an important part in both markets is something we should respect.
As for my favorite vintage lots, there are some familiar names that captured my eye. The first being Lot 17, an Omega Speedmaster belonging to US Navy Sailor Charles E. Carlson ref. 105.012-66, a nearly complete set from the original owner, I believe collectors will yearn for this piece which may have seen battle and comes with a very intriguing story. Plus an estimate of $7,200-12,300 isn’t bad!
I’m a total sucker for anything with a custom stamped dial. Knowing the relative scarcity of these references only adds to their desirability. This, coupled with the fact that many of the original owners keep the watches in the family even after they’ve passed on makes Lot 175, a Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 with Oman stamp a very hot lot indeed.
Finally, while many have written about the phenomenal Patek Philippe references available in this sale, including a spectacular Nautilus ref. 3800 in platinum (lot. 105). My favorite Patek lot may be the most vintage of all the lots that attracted me. The last lot in the auction, Lot 224 is an extraordinarily rare Patek Philippe monopusher chronograph from 1924. This delectably vintage lot shows us that event nearly a century ago, Patek Philippe was willing to take risks. Let’s see if collectors recognize the uniqueness and collectability of this piece.