Audemars Piguet Chronograph Champagne Dial at Christie's

Important Watches Sale at Geneva: 2 affordable lots

This spring, the Christie’s « Important Watches » auction brings a total of 440 lots and everyone will find a lot that would fulfill a dream.

By Audrey Humbert

While many tend to stay away from the major auction houses, thinking that most of the watches are out of budget, we prepared a selection for you proving the opposite. You even get a great advantage by buying in these auctions. Indeed, the watches are carefully selected for you. All you have to do, is to pick your favorite. Among the represented brands, we find some of the best examples of A. Lange Söhne watches, the finest Cartier, a nearly new military Omega and beautiful enamels. However, here are my favorites for this sale and why I would recommend them.

Chronograph Universal (lot 129)

My first choice goes to this splendid Universal chronograph that can be admired under lot 129 of the sale. The watch will seduce through its sporty steel case combined with a most appealing black dial that has charmingly aged.

Universal Genève Chronograph 1946

The gilt writings highlight the black dial that enjoys a high legibility. When looking at the watch, right on the focus point where one would expect to read “Compax”, appears the most exclusive Hermès signature. Researches have showed that Universal was officially manufacturing watches for Hermès, the celebrated French manufacturer of quality goods situated 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The successful partnership between the two brands is sealed on advertisements from the period (see illustrations in Universal Geneve Watch by Pietro Giuliano Sala p.239).

For such a brand that strives only for premium quality, they chose to use their finest caliber 285 that is a chronograph movement.

In the early 1930s under the input of Raoul Perret, the in-house manufacturing of mechanisms is newly organized. The aim is to have a base calibre that will then be declined to be fitted into a wide selection of timepieces in various shapes or sizes and meet the strategy set by Mr Perret.

Universal Genève Chronograph 1946

This resulted in the use of two chronograph calibres 281 and 285 as base movement. The practically identical calibre 385 and 386 were usually aimed at other brands for which Universal were supplying movements.

The neighbouring manufacture Vacheron Constantin was among other high end brands who benefitted from the simply decorated movement yet well designed and both reliable and robust.

Models like the Compur, Uni-Compax, Compax, Dato-Compax, Aero-Compax and Tri-Compax were all equipped with either calibre 281 or 285. The celebrated family of the Compax was introduced on the market in the mid 1930s and they were produced for about 10 years.

Universal Genève Chronograph 1946

It included a technical ingenuity that is called the “climate proof” system and was developed by Universal. The specific case construction results in an unusual weather proof case. The particularity comes from its impermeable round push-pieces. Under the screw back is revealed a dust cap meant to be made in a special alloy to withstand weather changes.

The condition of the watch itself is a blessing as it was very well preserved over years with crisp engravings to its back. The natural aging of the dial adds great value to the watch and its future owner will enjoy staring at it for hours. One could not hope for a better find. A mere delight that one should not let go!

While it is known that Hermès has developed a close relationship with high end watchmaking manufacturers including Rolex, these watches are hardly ever seen and should be considered as highly collectible especially when they come in such a great condition.

Audemars Piguet Chronograph (lot 134)

By that time of the auction you will already have realized that there will be no break during the sale and the rhythm that is set with appearance of rare watches all along will ensure full attention from the attendance through the course of the auction. Another of the most charming chronograph will be staged just a few lots after the Universal under lot 134. Indeed, the selection of watches this spring again is rich and the watches were thoroughly selected for the sale.

Manufactured in 1943, this quintessential Audemars Piguet chronograph is part of the extremely exclusive production of the brand for the year. Indeed, archive researches show that the small number of 1487 watches was produced this year. These watches all received the same care from the brand with high end handmade finishing.

Audemars Piguet Chronograph Champagne Dial 1943

Especially the movement has received extra care during manufacturing. The 13’’’ VZAH sees an additional hour register compared to the base caliber 13’’’ VZ with constant second and 30 minute registers. The wheel train is finished in pink gold which adds up to the original beauty of this column wheel mechanism.

When looking at the cock, you will notice the inscription ROR. This was applied to movements aimed at being exported to specific places. In this instance, the watch was aimed at the American market. The official Audemars Piguet importer and distributor at that time was Roehrich in the late 1940s. Other examples of these import marks found on Audemars Piguet movements are AYP in use in the 1950s, BXP used around 1920 and KOZ around 1949. The import regulations observed by the North American market regarding the number of rubies have led to the necessity of identifying watches aimed at this destination.

Audemars Piguet Chronograph Champagne Dial 1943

The case, stamped by Henri Jeanneret, has beautiful proportions and the design is reinforced through the oval-shaped buttons. Its attractive condition is a testimony that it was, with no doubt, taken care of by its previous owners.

The dial shows incredible charm. The esthetic obtained through the three registers and the raised conic dot numerals results in a well- balanced dial with increased legibility. However, what renders this chronograph highly desirable is the honey-coloured patina that covers its surface in a surprising uneven way, with a darker coloration to the right side.

A curiosity of the dial comes from the inscription 4l5right above the number 15 of the minute register that is specific to Audemars Piguet. Although there was never an official explanation provided for this inscription, a quick journey into Mr Jacques Louis Audemars’ life will probably provide the answer to this mistery.

Audemars Piguet Chronograph Champagne Dial 1943

Who was Jacques Louis Audemars?

Jacques Louis Audemars took his first position within Audemars Piguet in 1933. He would later become the head of the technical Department of the brand and President of the Board of Directors in which position, his daughter, Jasmine Audemars took over from him in 1993. At that time, he was just back from a stay in England, a country that influenced his life and where his wife came from. He also enjoyed British traditional sports which includes football. Only a few years later, in 1938, the football World Cup took place in Paris.

This is also the year that has seen the appearance of the first Audemars Piguet printed with this inscription 4l5. 45 to represent the 45 minutes of the half time of a football game. Was this purely a matter of chance? Nobody seems to be in a position to confirm this information today. However, employees who happened to be working with Mr Audemars at a later time will confirm that he was a strong supporter of that sport.

Audemars Piguet Chronograph Champagne Dial 1943

The afternoon session will be pursued with another series of attractive timepieces. You will especially like the Eska (lot 233) with a beautiful enamel dial and its condition and if you are an aficionado of Vacheron Constantin, then don’t forget to take a look at lots 299, 307 and 308.

Take a look at the online catalogue for the full selection of the sale.

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