Phillips Returns To New York For Its “Styled” Auction, With Exceptional Results
Top gavel prices for vintage Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, and F.P.Journe watches led the wildly successful sale.
Phillips, under the auspices of Aurel Bacs and Livia Russo, is taking the watch auction market by storm. Mr. Bacs and Ms. Russo and their team have succeeded in lifting Phillips’ profile in the global watch auction scene, breaking record after record of prices realized for wristwatches in multiple categories.
Last year Phillips’ first New York auction featured the much-anticipated “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona owned by iconic actor and race car driver Paul Newman. Its gavel price of $17.8 million sent shock waves throughout the world. This year’s auction was divided into style themes, but fashion notwithstanding, the exceptional pieces drew worldwide collectors both in the room and on the phones, producing outstanding sales.
Mr. Porter, the online menswear retailer, and The Rake, an international luxury menswear magazine, collaborated with Phillips to create a unique approach to presenting the auction’s timepieces. The watches were divided into style themes, with a display of fashion and accessories from Mr. Porter and The Rake accompanying the watches. The 12 categories, corresponding to the 12 hours on a watch, encompassed watches recommended for a range of occasions including a trip the Caribbean and a watch enthusiasts’ gathering. The themed presentation, however, did not dim the luster of the exceptional watches in the auction, including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and a vintage Bulova presented by Arde Bulova to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“A watch is an extremely intimate statement about yourself,” said Aurel Bacs during a panel discussion with Wei Koh, founder of The Rake and Toby Bateman, managing director of Mr. Porter. “It’s a very personal style statement that we make without actually recognizing it. For men, there’s not much ‘dressing’ left, we rarely wear cufflinks any more, and few of us wear jewelry,” he said. “If the watch makes you happy, go for it!”
‘We treat watches in a very different way than we treat fashion,” said Toby Bateman. “But I do think there are some watches that lend themselves better to certain occasions,” he continued. “If you are wearing a pinstripe suit to the office, you probably shouldn’t wear a diving watch, although a lot of men probably do.”
The watch with the highest estimate going into the sale was indeed a diving watch, a Rolex “Big Crown” Submariner 6538 from 1957. The watch’s 8mm crown spurred its name, and a lack of crown guards further enhances the crown’s prominence on the case. The watch also features a rare and highly desirable “four liner” dial, referencing the four lines of text at six o’clock. Below the depth reading and Submariner model name, the “officially certified chronometer” designation covering two additional lines sets it apart from other Submariners of the era. The watch came with the original box and papers including its chronometer rating certificate. The gavel price was $460,000.
Boast-worthy watches for a Watch Enthusiast’s Gathering were a Patek Philippe stainless steel Nautilus reference 3710 with full documentation from 1998 (estimate $40,000-80,000) that sold for $82,000. A Rolex triple calendar with moonphase was estimated at $220,000-360,000, and achieved a gavel price of $280,000. Not all of the watches in this section had astronomical estimates, however. An IWC ceramic and stainless steel pilot’s chronograph reference 3705 started with an estimate of just $6,000-8,000 but it sold for $43,000. Its unique provenance of having belonged to the late Günter Blümlein, former managing director of Les Manufactures Horologoères added to its unique appeal.
Recommended for wearing in the Caribbean’s atmosphere of “laid-back nonchalance” included an Omega “Big Blue” reference 176.004, with a hefty case height of 17mm and 44mm diameter, a true tool watch for SCUBA diving (estimate $4,000-6,000, sold for $5,500). A yellow gold Rolex Day-Date featuring a green malachite dial adding a bright splash of color perfect for tropical nights was estimated at $20,000-40,000, and sold for $66,000. A Vacheron Constantin white gold Chronomètre Royal from 1966, fitted with the brand’s first automatic movement with chronometer certification that would set off a tropical tan to perfection and was estimated at $15,000-25,000. Its gavel price? $37,000.