Top Lots: Treasure Hunting at Antiquorum’s “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” Auction in Geneva
Geneva watch auctions are often about the ne plus ultra of watchmaking. But even with their tendency for sky-high hammer prices, we still believe there are opportunities to snag something special yet but reasonably priced. And Antiquorum’s upcoming “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction from May 14th -15th in Geneva is a perfect example of why our hope springs eternal.
Attending auctions in Geneva can feel very much akin to window shopping at times (not least of which because most lots come with a high five-figures price tag). So, if you aren’t planning to bid, where’s the fun? Why even bother attending?
Well, for me, I love having the opportunity to see (or sometimes even try on) more than 500 watches that the average watch enthusiast seldom sees in real life. But if you do want to win a watch this auction season, then the upcoming “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction hosted by Antiquorum should be your first port of call in Geneva for 2023.
With more than 500 lots up for grabs at the Hôtel Beau-Rivage on Sunday, May 14th (lots 1-200) and Monday, May 15th (lots 201-351), Antiquorum’s upcoming “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction features innumerable top lots, including 3 F.P.Journes, 8 Patek Philippes with a perpetual calendar function, at least 9 pre-Moon landing Omega Speedmasters (including an “Ed White” from 1965, an “Ultraman” from 1968, and a ref. CK2915 from 1959), and 17(!!) Rolex Daytonas.
Of course, all of these lots come with high five-figure estimates; however, more importantly, the catalog is also filled with watches in the CHF 1,000 to CHF 15,000 price range that are high quality and chock full of charm.
So, keeping all that in mind, here is my list of the top 8 lots from Antiquorum’s upcoming “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction.
Lot 23: A Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Deepsea from 1960
Following the rebirth of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s interest in its vintage models not named “Reverso,” I discovered a new-found appreciation for brands that use their heritage departments to highlight what’s special or unusual as well as what’s sought-after. As a result, Lot 23’s example of an iconic Memovox reference E857 (European version) must be included on any “top lots” list for this auction.
Marketed as the world’s first mechanical alarm dive watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre made only 1061 pieces of this reference worldwide between 1959 and 1962 (the watch in this lot was made in 1960). Moreover, as the much rarer European version signed by Jaeger-LeCoultre, this lot is actually 1 of only 200 pieces ever made. It’s a very nice catch if you like divers in your collection.
Estimate: CHF 20,000 – CHF 30,000
Lot 38: An Early Breitling Superocean from circa 1959
Let’s face it, the Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II that Breitling released a couple of years ago – the one with the rainbow colors on the dial – was one of the most playful, feel-good watches in recent memory. Thus, here I am with an example of its real-life progenitor: Lot 38’s original, time-only Superocean reference 1004.
This 40mm stainless steel watch – with its proto-Sixties aesthetic, large rotating bezel, and chic mesh bracelet – is a brilliant example of how to enrich one’s collection with history and clever design without paying vintage Rolex Submariner prices.
Estimate: CHF 10,000 – CHF 15,000
Lot 139: A Rolex Precision Ref. 4417 from circa 1945
While I’m not the biggest Rolex collector in the community, I am Italian, which means I could talk to walls if they dared to answer. So, when asked about my generation’s interest in vintage Rolex watches such as the Precision Ref. 4417 from circa 1945 comprising Lot 139, I feel comfortable saying it looks like we can’t get enough of them because this one is getting popular.
Now, if collectors of my generation like classics, love a good bargain, and have a soft spot for a time when watchmaking was about nuances and class, then I don’t have any lot-specific details to add that will sweeten the pot of this enchanting watch.
However, since that is the purpose of this article, I will say that, given its fancy lugs, “priest’s hat” crown, and 34mm steel case, this watch will look great with any outfit, be it a bespoke suit or a t-shirt and cargo shorts, and you won’t have to miss out on the brand side of collecting.
Estimate: CHF 2,500 – CHF 4,500
Lot 225: A Svend Andersen World Time “Communication”
It’s not the first time Antiquorum has had Lot 225’s Svend Andersen World Time “Communication” up for grabs. In fact, I once bought this exact same model watch from a fellow collector who had acquired his from Antiquorum four years prior.
At 32mm, it’s a bit small, but what it lacks in diameter, it makes up for in good taste. Reminiscent of the Louis Cottier-designed Patek Philippes from the 1930s, this piece is very well made, featuring attractive lugs, a notched case, and a blue enamel dial with gold leaf to represent the globe.
What’s most amazing about this watch is Antiquorum’s estimate: CHF 2,000 – CHF 4,000! That is less than what I paid for mine (and much less what the watch was sold for by A Collected Man).
If no one gets it, I will!
Estimate: CHF 2,000 – CHF 4,000
Lot 230: An Audemars Piguet Quantieme Perpetuel in 18K Yellow Gold
From Royal Oaks to pocket watches, there is an enormous variety of pieces from Audemars Piguet from which to choose, with no fewer than 29 lots included in the “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction catalog. So, in the interest of time, I will only highlight the one I’d be most thrilled to own: Lot 230’s 36mm Quantieme Perpetuel Ref. 25670.
A watch synonymous with elegance, this 18K yellow gold Ref. 25670 presents the perpetual calendar complication in its purest form. Add to that this lot’s impeccable white dial, and it becomes even more desirable (at least to me) than even its rarest iterations.
This Ref. 25670 is nothing more than everything you need, in the best case size you can have, and with the most iconic Audemars Piguet complication. What else is there to say?
Estimate: CHF 10,000 – CHF 15,000
Lot 177: A Patek Philippe Ref. 2496 (a.k.a. The Best Tuxedo Watch I’ve Ever Seen!)
You don’t see tuxedos much nowadays, not even at formal occasions like weddings. I’m no exception to this. I reject traditional dress codes, preferring to view fashion through the lens of a dos & don’ts list. However, despite my general dismay that some watchmakers still use these antiquated dress codes as guide stones, I must admit that the Patek Philippe Ref. 2496 of Lot 177 practically screams “black tie” from start to finish.
More than an extraordinarily well-preserved example of this reference from circa 1958, from the 1950s, this Patek Philippe 2496 features a 26mm x 34mm platinum case and a bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds. Subtle, rare, and refined, this may not be the first watch I’d bid on, but it is, for sure, the most elegant one.
Estimate: CHF 15,000 – CHF 25,000
Lot 432: A Vacheron Constantin 222 from circa 1980
One of three Vacheron Constantin 222s in this catalog (along with some Audemars Piguet models that share the same aesthetic codes), Lot 432 is my absolute favorite, and I truly wish it goes to someone who’ll cherish it.
This reference 44018/411 from 1980 represents, to me, the pinnacle of gold watches on a bracelet (made by Gay Frères, no less). Moreover, accompanied by its extract and original invoice (stating that it cost something like €4,000), I am very curious to hear the hammer price on this one.
Estimate: CHF 50,000 – CHF 80,000
Lot 470: A Skeletonized Cartier Pasha with Tourbillon and a QP
Last but certainly not least, the forgotten king (or should I say Pasha?!): Lot 470 featuring one of the most complicated versions of the Cartier Pasha ever made.
Sadly, I categorize this piece as “forgotten” because most people don’t seem to appreciate Cartier’s Pasha collection. However, this one serves as a helpful reminder of the importance of the Pasha collection.
Moreover, it is conclusive evidence that proves Gérald Genta’s influence inside Cartier. This piece’s aesthetic is very similar to Genta’s own complicated wristwatches: Placing the moonphase inside a lapis-lazuli insert, the skeletonization of the movement, and its overall Baroque taste.
This watch is a steal for a Cartier-made watch with a 38mm 18K yellow gold case, automatic movement, and perpetual calendar function, but maybe that’s because you can’t really tell it’s a Cartier or has a tourbillon. Oh, did I forget to mention the tourbillon?!
Estimate: CHF 20,000 – CHF 30,000
I hope everyone reading this registers with Antiquorum and gets a paddle number because, as much as I don’t know you, I am sure there will be at least one watch you’ll want for your own collection. And given the catalog size and variety of pieces, I’m sure there will be at least one watch you can actually win.
Register. Trust me; you’ll thank me later, or, better yet, join me at the lot viewing (just don’t bid on the same lots as me during the auction days!)
• Session 1, featuring Lots 1 to 200, will take place on Sunday, May 14th, beginning at 15:00 CEST.
• Session 2, featuring Lots 201 to 350, will take place on Monday, May 15th, beginning at 10:00 CEST.
• Session 3, featuring Lots 351 to 531, will take place on Monday, May 15th, beginning at 14:00 CEST.
Prior to the auction, Antiquorum’s office in Geneva (3, Rue du Mont-Blanc, 1201, Geneva) will be hosting previews of the lots.
Lots can be viewed from 10:00 to 18:00 CEST on Thursday, May 11th, and Friday, May 12th. Viewing on Saturday, May 13th, also begins at 10:00 but will stay open until 19:00 CEST.
Finally, on Sunday and Monday, May 14th & 15th, lots will be on exhibition, starting at 10:00 until 17:00 CEST on Sunday and 16:00 CEST on Monday.
(Images © Antiquorum)