Top Lots: Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XV
Flowers are blooming, and auction catalogs are falling from the sky – it must be spring. That is why, today, Watchonista’s US Director Vincent Brasesco and Marketing Coordinator J.J. Owens chose their favorite lots from the upcoming Phillips auction.
No surprise, this will be a banner year for watch auctions as modern watches are as hard as ever to get a hold of, and collector interest in vintage has never been stronger. As primarily vintage collectors ourselves (and with rather eclectic tastes), we hope to shine some light on some of our favorites.
This year’s Geneva Auction from Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo is split into two parts: The Royal Oak 50th on May 6th and The Geneva Watch Auction XV from May 7th to 8th. We decided to start with the latter and bring you our top four lots from the GWA, ranging from a yellow gold Lange 1 to a sapphire bezel’d Daytona and some things in between.
Lot 277: A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Ref. 101.001
Not much has changed with the Lange 1 over the years (if it ain’t broke… Am I right?). But there are many subtleties in these first-gen models that make collects go nuts.
For starters: the case is smaller than the current 41mm diameter. It is only 38.5mm, which is truly the perfect size for wrists. Second – and most importantly – is the movement and its finishing.
These early Lange 1 movements feature all the incredible hand work, ¾ plates, gold chatons, engraved balance cock, and German silver components that we have come to expect from Glashütte – but you would never know that. That is because the reverse side of the 101.001 is its greatest party trick: a solid caseback.
Of course, the beauty of the movement was such that these solid casebacks were quickly discontinued. However, it is for this reason that finding an example like this one is such a treat for A. Lange & Söhne collectors.
Lot 300: F.P.Journe Octa Zodiaque “Piece Unique”
Every mechanical watch has a certain amount of romanticism in it – after all, if accuracy and reliability were the point, we would all use our phones – but some complications are more romantic than others. Moonphases, an equation of time, and astrological complications are just some examples of the hopeless romantics.
Independent brand, F.P.Journe, has proven to be nothing if not a horological romantic. The man and the brand named after him rarely make zodialogical and astrological complications. Lot 300 – the Octa Zodiaque “Piece Unique” from 2005 – was one of the first.
The original Octa Zodiaque was produced in a 150-piece limited edition from 2004 - 2007 (when the brand was merely 5 years old). And while the brass movement (the calibre 1300) can be seen through the exhibition back, so too can the words “piece unique.”
Why? Because this was the only model of the 150 encased in pink gold. Made for 2005 charity auction benefitting Children Action. Fortunately, the owner has again agreed to auction the piece, with the proceeds going to the same charity. Phillips will also be donating the buyer’s premium to charity, making this another great example of horology benefitting great causes.
Lot 151: Rolex Daytona with a Sodalite Dial, Ref. 116589
In case you couldn’t tell by the jarring change in style, this is J.J. now. Hello!
My love of modern Rolex Daytonas has been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance recently (meanwhile, my father, an avid proponent of pre-Daytonas, is cringing somewhere). However, with its combination of white gold and sodalite, the Ref. 116589 making up Lot 151 is the complete anthesis in look and feel to a Ref. 6263 or even most modern Daytona references. This piece is simply everything.
This 2005 chronograph, with zero cracks on the pristine dial, is just begging to spend a summer in France with you. I know steel references are great and all. But seriously, when are you ever going to see a stone-dialed Daytona?
Lot 287: Rolex Submariner Big Crown, Ref. 6200
This possibly unique Big Crown Ref. 6200 will be one of many exhibits in my (hypothetical) watch collecting thesis that the 1950s was the golden decade for Rolex. After all, in addition to this 6200, my two favorite references of all time, the 6542 and the 6062, were also introduced then.
First introduced at the Basel Fair in 1954, this was the first dive watch with a water resistance up to 200m. Very rare, the 6200 earned the name “Explorer Submariner” because the dial features the 3-6-9 numeral configuration seen on Explorers. However, that’s not the most covetable element of this piece. Typically, one sees “Submariner” printed on the collection’s dials. But on this lot, one can see the words “Officially Certified Chronometer,” making the lower half of the dial’s text come to three lines.
Other than the previous life of the watch, my favorite thing about vintage is the “if you know, you know” little details demonstrated in this Ref. 6200. A 1950s Big Crown is significant enough, but it’s unforeseen attributes like the ones seen here that bring a secret smile and a strong kinship between collectors and enthusiasts alike.