Watchonista Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XIII
Vintage & Auctions

Top Lots: The Watches We'll Be Watching At The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XIII

Forget your non-fungible tokens. This weekend, Phillips is putting the focus back on very tangible assets at The Geneva Watch Auction: XIII.

By Rhonda Riche

Following a record-smashing 2020, with a market-leading annual auction total of over $133 million, Phillips, in association with Bacs & Russo, has assembled an exceptional collection of historical and contemporary timepieces, featuring red hot lots from familiar names like Rolex and Patek Philippe to independent watchmakers such as Roger Smith and F.P. Journe.

Auctions provide superb educational opportunities for any enthusiast. Even if you’re not bidding, you get a chance to examine rare examples of horological history before they disappear into the safe of a collector. And luckily for you, dear reader, Watchonista got an advanced look at some of these sensational timepieces and has assembled a list of the most provocative pieces on offer at The Geneva Watch Auction: XIII.

LOT 31 – Richard Mille RM 022 Tourbillon Aerodyne Dual Time Red Quartz

Though this watch is so modern that it’s still under warranty (it came out in 2018, after all), the RM 022 Tourbillon Aerodyne Dual Time still has an impressive history.

The case is composed of high-tech Quartz TPT, while the middle section is made of Carbon TPT, giving the watch both strength and lightness as well as its bright red color. The cutting-edge technology also translated to its complex RM022 movement, a manual winding tourbillon. It also comes complete with its presentation box and papers.

LOT 33 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 “Silk Road”

We dare say that this is the grailiest lot in the Geneva Watch Auction XIII. The earliest Patek Philippe Cloisonné reference 2523, this gorgeous 18K yellow gold worldtimer features two crowns and an achingly beautiful "Eurasia" cloisonné enamel dial.

Made in 1953, it had been off the map until now. But we know this masterpiece is legit because its 36mm case, dial, movement, and buckle are signed by Patek, while the enamel disc is signed "LC" by Louis Cottier, the individual watchmaker.

Unsurprisingly, the estimated auction price is "In Excess of 3.5 million," regardless of the currency, according to Phillips.

LOT 43 – Audemars Piguet Ref. 25636RP Royal Oak QP Openwork

Made in 1996, this rare example of the Royal Oak Quantiéme Perpetual Automatic is one of the most impressive iterations of the legendary sports watch.

The two-tone pink gold and platinum case and bracelet make it a visual showstopper. And the skeletonized dial showcases the gears as they move the moon and the stars (and all the other elements of this perpetual calendar)

LOT 70 – Patek Philippe Ref. 5950R

A modern piece with a vintage feel, this reference is a tribute to tradition, as can be observed from the detailed finishing of the cushion-shaped case and intricate craftsmanship of the manual caliber CHR 27-525 PS. But it is also a tribute to technology, as it is wafer-thin while still running with peak energy efficiency.

First presented in 2016 in stainless steel, this pink-on-pink edition is a rare combination of a pink gold case and dial inspired by the belle époque styling of a similar single-button split-seconds chronograph found in the Patek Museum.

LOT 77 – Rolex Ref. 1831 Day-Date “Imperial” No. 001

A piece for the books, this Day-Date is understood to have been made for His Highness Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, with almost every component customized for Rolex’s imperial customer. Even the Gérald Genta-designed platinum bracelet, similar to a King Midas' bracelet, comes in a configuration that has never been used for any other reference.

It is believed only eight examples of the reference 1831 were ever made, four of which have already sold at various auctions, but this one is engraved "No 001" on the caseback.

LOT 79 – Rolex Ref. 5513 Explorer Submariner Underline

For some collectors, the appeal of a watch is not in its provenance, use of precious materials, or mastery of mechanical excellence, but rather its weird quirks and rare details. Such is the case of this Explorer Submariner.

It is a lovely example of a stainless steel 1960s Sub, with a black dial, crown guards, and a small crown. But what makes it so covetable is that it features several display details not found in later Submariners. For example, its “3-6-9” dial and thin baton hands. Made in low production numbers, the watch gets its moniker from another small detail – an underline underneath the depth rating.

LOT 142 – Harry Winston and F.P. Journe Opus One

During his tenure as CEO of Harry Winston in the early 2000s, Max Büsser sought out young independent watchmakers to collaborate on watches that would honor the history of the famous jewelry house. But the unique aspect of these arrangements was that the dials of these watches displayed both the watchmaker's name and the Harry Winston signature.

In 2001, the very first Opus project was unveiled – the Opus One – with the then up-and-coming watchmaker François-Paul Journe. Twenty years later, the Journe name alone leads to bidding wars, but this tourbillon with remontoire d'égalité is a beautiful, rare bird indeed – only six pieces were ever produced.

LOT 145 – Roger Smith Series 1 “Onely Theo Fennell”

One of independent watchmaking’s greatest living treasures, Roger Smith’s manufacture is based on the Isle of Man. In the early days of the brand, Smith worked with the London-based jewelry designer Theo Fennell who helped him establish a name off the island.

Smith only produced nine rectangular Series 1s and only three were part of the “ONELY” series, which featured Fennell’s logo at 12 o'clock index and had his name engraved on the main plate.

LOT 147 – Audemars Piguet Ref. 5402ST Royal Oak “B Series”

The original “Jumbo,” produced six years after the launch of the first Royal Oak, this example from 1978 is in excellent, all-original condition with hardly any signs of wear. It also comes complete with its original box and Audemars Piguet Certificate de Garantie.

The Royal Oak model reference 5402 has been produced in four different families: A, B, C, and D. Each series features subtle design details, but the B is the most sought-after series (with a total production of just 1,000 examples.) Even if it wasn’t so rare, the condition of this stainless steel timepiece makes it a must-have.

LOT 152 – Rolex Ref. 6036 “The Jean-Claude Killy”

Produced between 1947 and 1962, this Oyster Chronograph Dato-Compax from circa 1953 is a rare example of a triple calendar chronograph housed in an Oyster steel case.

While it features an impressive collection of complications, the real appeal of this watch is its dial. It has an aesthetically pleasing, authentically vintage layout and is the only known example of a 6036 to be co-signed by the (then) Cuban retailer Joyeria Riviera. Plus, the patina indicates that the timepiece has some stories to tell.

LOT 185 – Rolex Ref. 6241 Cosmograph Daytona “Paul Newman”

By now, we don’t have to tell you how desirable a Paul Newman Daytona is. But this particular example is of the classic stainless steel reverse panda is incredibly well preserved – an incredible feat considering that this timepiece dates to around 1968.

The catalog calls it “practically flawless in all of its parts: from the unmolested matte finish…to the perfect tritium accents.” So, on behalf of watch lovers everywhere, we would like to thank the previous owner for taking such good care of this piece.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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