It’s that time of year again when Geneva plays host to auctions that boast some of the finest watches in the world – and this year will be no different! Our friends at Phillips invited me to a preview of the watches and there were, as we have learnt to expect, a plethora of incredible watches. Paul Maudsley, International Specialist, was very upbeat about the next round of auctions and is delighted with this season’s offerings. “We are delighted to be able to show some truly fantastic watches here in our London head office. The thematic sale we’re holding in Hong Kong of ’38 ROLEX MILESTONES’ has some truly spectacular pieces, from an untouched Rolex Prince to a full set Khanjar Sea-Dweller. Our Geneva Four auction highlights has watches from the most collected makers, with rare Breguet’s Cartier’s and Patek Philippe, including the magnificent Steel Ref:1518. We look forward to welcoming all to Geneva next month”.
I was fortunate enough to see watches from both the ‘Geneva Auction 4’ sale in November and also the ‘Rolex Milestones; 38 timepieces that made history’ sale that will be held in Hong Kong at the end of November. For lovers of vintage Rolex this sale will be nothing less than breathtaking; 38 of the finest vintage Rolex watches that have been curated by John Goldberger, all captured in a catalogue produced by Pucci Papaleo…could it get any better? Stay tuned for a dedicated article on this piece – today it’s all about ‘Auction 4’.
As per the title, this is the fourth outing for Phillips in the Geneva auction calendar since the venerable house launched its association with Bacs and Russo. Numerous world-record-breaking lots later and these guys show no sign of slowing down. The 196 lots that go under the hammer, across two sessions, next month will undoubtedly set even dizzier heights for exceptional watches in a vintage market that is more bullish than we have ever previously witnessed.
There a number of outstanding pieces that we could highlight, but as you know in traditional B&S style we will be highlighting lots that we think are cool and that we love.
Everest 6610 Explorer
You all know that we love the Ovettone watches – also known as Big Bubblebacks from the 1950s. These watches also encapsulate the early Explorers and there are a few in the sale, but one example in particular has a brilliant story. Lot 114 is a Rolex Explorer reference 6610, with a beautiful condtion gilt dial and correct long minute and seconds hands. Dating to approximately 1958, the engravings on the case back hint at the fascinating story behind this watch. ‘RPS Sovereign Mt Everest’ would suggest that this was given to a member of the Royal Photographic Society either for use on or to commemorate an expedition to Mount Everest. Whatever the detail of the story, this link with the birth-place of the Rolex Explorer makes this 6610 a watch with true history.
The two dive watches from the Rolex stable that battle it out for the King of the Sea (well, in my mind anyway!) are the Submariner and Seadweller. Arguably the king of the SDs is the Patent Pending Double Red Seadweller (PPDRSD) and Lot 181 is a particularly nice example of these pieces. Developed in conjunction with COMEX, the gas escape valve on Seadwellers enabled saturation divers to use the watches for professional use without concern about the crystal ‘popping off’, as had been the case with earlier experiments with the Subamariner (which is why early prototype 5513 Subs and non-commercially available COMEX issued 5514 Subs existed). The earliest versions of the Seadweller have the text “PATENT PENDING” on the case back due to the fact that Rolex still hadn’t actually been awarded the patent for the valve by the time these watches were produced. There are estimated to be only around 150 such examples and this one is a peach!
Early 6202 Monometer
Lot 49 is fantastic looking watch and is considered by many to be the first watch in the long and illustrious line of diving and sports watches produced by Rolex over the past 63 years. This reference 6202 has MONOMETER on the dial and was an experimental piece (I’ll opt not to use prototype!) whilst Rolex worked on the various names for their professional watches. Eventually Rolex plumbed for the name Turn-O-Graph for the reference 6202 with 60 minute bi-rotational bezel, which makes the short run Monometers very desirable. This example has a fabulous so-called waffle dial which features the ‘split’ Oyster Perpetual text across the width of the dial. The original radium filled pencil hands and lollipop seconds hand surrounded by a nicely patinated bezel insert give the Monometer an honest look that we would love to own!
Tropical James Bond 6538
Everybody loves a Big Crown Sub and most people love tropical dials and so lot 37 is going to be crowd pleaser – absolutely no doubt! A reference 6538 that is in, its own right, stunning condition in terms of the case and bezel – but the real fun starts with the dial. The additional “OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED CHRONOMETER” script beneath the ‘SUBMARINER” makes this watch very very rare and when combined with the immaculate condition colour change dial…it’s just incredible! This maybe my favourite piece in the whole sale.
Waffle Ovettone 6352
We discussed Ovettones earlier and lot 45 is one of the very nicest I’ve ever seen. With a stunning black waffle dial, this 6352 ‘Pre-Explorer’ also boasts a “50m = 165ft” depth rating which is seen on very few early 1950s Oyster non-sports watch dials. I have owned a good number of Tudor Oysters with dials such as this and it is always amazing to me how the printing on such an uneven dial was executed so perfectly. This example is no different and the flawless dial makes this Ovettone box and papers set one to watch.
Non-Oyster Chrono Love
The final piece that I want to share with you is a beautiful chrono in a non-Oyster case but the size is striking at 38mm, which would have been huge in its day back in 1939. Featuring three chrono dials and an additional telemeter scale this reference 3335has survived the last 77 years in remarkable condition; the case is simply stunning. The patina gives the watch a warmth that is difficult to appreciate from the pictures but I have absolutely no doubt that, despite the non-Oyster case, this watch will only be won following a fierce battle!
If you get chance to go to any of the previews I suggest you do to give yourself a chance of seeing an array of world class watches. There are so many big hitting watches in this sale that we will no doubt see new world records galore. One thing is for sure – this ale will prove that quality will always be king.