With over $30 Million USD —inclusive of buyer's premium— sold in watches, the Important Watches Auction held by Christie's in Geneva on November 11, 2013 was a record breaking and extremely successful auction where most timepieces were sold exceeding their estimates —even Longines watches fetched extremely high amounts. The Important Watches Auction featured 406 lots —not all sold— with 122 Patek Philippe timepieces, 107 Rolex discontinued and modern references, several modern and vintage Panerais, a unique A. Lange & Söhne in stainless steel, Audemars Piguet assorted timepieces, Breguet museum quality watches and a Dürrstein & Co. Glashütte Uhrenfabrik Union Pocket Watch amongst others.
Aurel Bacs, International Head of Christie's Watch Department, mentioned: “On November 10th and 11th, Christie's dispersed over 370 fine watches in an historical ten-hour auction marathon, which set a new record total for any series of watch sales. In the past months, we exhibited highlights in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Dubai and in all locations we noticed an ever-growing appetite for high quality collector’s watches. This trend was demonstrated by a fiercer-than-ever competition generated by both experienced and new international bidders, in the room, on the telephone and online."
Now, for your viewing and reading pleasure, here are twenty amazing timepieces —not Patek Philippe— that are just exceptional and worth talking in-depth about. All hammer prices are in USD and are inclusive of the buyer's premium. All images from Christie's.com
1. Rolex "Padellone" 18K Gold Triple Calendar with Moon Phase ref. 8171 from 1962. This watch was produced in a very limited number between 1949 and 1952. With an incredibly sharp case and sharp engravings, this watch is a "safe queen" with only two owners —Father and Son— before the auction. Hammer Price $684,626.
2. Rolex Submariner ref. 6200 "Explorer" dial from 1954. The ref. 6200 is considered by most the real first Submariner. This watch not only features an amazing "Explorer" dial that includes the "Officially Certified Chronometer" writing —perhaps the only known example of this configuration— but it also features the original hands. Hammer Price $527,891.
3. Rolex 18K Gold Triple Calendar with Moon Phases ref. 6062 from 1952. This reference features a full calendar on top of the chronograph automatic movement. This watch was produced just for a few years in the 50s and is considered by most collectors as the most important Oyster model ever made by Rolex. Not only this watch comes with a perfectly preserved dial but the watch was also featured in John Goldberger's 100 Superlative Rolex Watches book. Hammer Price $501,769.
4. A. Lange & Söhne Stainless Steel Double Split Seconds Flyback Chronograph with Power Reserve ref. 404.035X from 2006. This is known to be the only piece ever made of this model in Stainless Steel and included box and papers. It seems like in 2007 A. Lange & Söhne created this one single prototype featuring a stainless steel case. Hammer Price $501,769.
5. Dürrstein & Co. Glashütte Uhrenfabrik Union 18K Pink Gold Ultra Complicated Pocket Watch. This watch is fitted with an Audemars Piguet movement, openface, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, split seconds chronograph, moon phases, instantaneous minute recorder, flying fifths of a second and grande and petite sonerie. Audemars Piguet was known to supply complicated ébauches to other companies during the period the watch was made. This watch took two years to make from 1891 to 1893 and finished right on time for its presentation at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition here in Chicago —the watch comes with the entrance ticket to the fair— where it sold for 5,000 Marks, price of a Villa in Dresden at the time. Hammer Price $475,646.
6. Rolex Stainless Steel Triple Calendar Chronograph ref. 6236 from 1958. This watch also known as the "Dato-Compax" or "Killy" included the original guarantee papers and is fitted with a two-tone silvered dial. The watch was nicknamed "Killy" as French Olympic skiing legend Jean-Claude Killy sported one of this watches. The three other "Dato-Compax" watches in the series are references 4767, 5036 and 6036. Produced between 1958 and 1962, this is a rare example with a dial in very good condition with open 6s and 9s. Hammer Price $397,279.
7. Rolex Stainless Steel Triple Calendar with Moon Phases ref. 6062 from 1953. This is a very rare example as stainless steel models of this reference are quite scarce and this one is in remarkable condition with sharp and crisp serial number and reference engravings between the lugs and a very well preserved original dial. Hammer Price $371,156.
8. Panerai Stainless Steel ref. 3646 "California" dial from 1940. This particular watch is one of the few examples left from the collaboration between Rolex and Panerai. Panerai Radiomir watches like this ref. 3646 were made by Rolex for Panerai and the so-called black lacquered "California" —half Arabic and half Roman numerals— dials were fitted on them. Some of these earlier Radiomir watches do not bear any Rolex markings or hallmarks. It is known, that approximately thirty of these watches ref. 3646 were intended to be presented to high ranking Navy officials during a ceremony. However, the delivery never took place and the watches were forgotten in a warehouse. Rediscovered decades later, these watches that had remained in unused condition are living testament of that era. Hammer Price $358,095.
9. Rolex Milgauss ref. 6541 with "Honeycomb" dial from 1958. This watch with 'open' papers features the sought-after honeycomb dial, consisting of two cross aluminum layers to protect it even further against magnetic fields. This example in excellent condition, still shows the traditional Rolex chamfers on the lugs. Hammer Price $345,034.
10. Breguet No. 4420 'Montre Simple Plate à Deux Cadrans Excentriques d'Heures et Minutes' 18K Gold and Silver Hunter Case Pocket Watch. This watch was originally sold to His Majesty King George IV of Great Britain on October 3, 1825 for 2,900 Francs. The watch comes with its original red Morocco box no. 4420. According to Christie's "it is unknown when King George IV parted with his watch but it can safely be assumed that he presented it to a member of the Scottish noble family Douglas-Hamilton, most likely to his close acquaintance Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), a Scottish politician, art collector and well-known dandy. According to entries in Breguet's books, watch no. 4420 was returned for a complete overhaul in 1850 by the Marquis de Douglas, furthermore mentioning "sold in 1825, never returned". In 1851, the crystal was replaced, also by order of the Marquis de Douglas. The watch was then returned to Breguet for a complete overhaul in 1860 by the Dutch de Hamilton and for a servicing in 1863 by the Duchess de Hamilton. After its servicing at Breguet in 1863, the tracks of watch no. 4420 vanish until around 1920-1921 when it reappears in the family of the celebrated inventor, scientist and watch collector Sir David Lionel Salomons (1851-1925)". Hammer Price $318,912.
11. Panerai Marina Militare ref. 6152/1 made by Rolex in 1955. This watch ref. 6152/1 was exclusively supplied to the Italian navy with or without crown guard with locking lever and with a rounded case band opposed to the case band on the ref. 6152 that features a sharp angle on the center of it. This watch features a simple Rolex crown without crown guard, Rolex movement, 'sandwich' dial and Rolex markings on the case. Following the production of ref. 3646, Panerai requested an improved model without wire lugs and increased water-resistance, the result was ref. 6152 and ref. 6152/1 widely known as the "Luminor" —tritium luminescent material that replaced the Radiomir mix used. Early examples of ref. 6152 still feature the "Radiomir Panerai" signed dials but the majority of these watches feature cases and movements made by Rolex. Most watches supplied to the Italian Naval Forces were requested to bear the designation "Marina Militare" on the dial. Hammer Price $266,667
12. Rolex 18K Gold GMT Master ref. 6542 with Bakelite bezel, Dauphine hands and Champagne dial from 1959. This fascinating watch all original, barely polished and with box and unsigned papers is as good as any vintage full-set gets. The untouched and unmolested champagne dial features the 'ghost' gold imprinting that is so subtle that it is only visible when holding the watch at certain angle or upon close inspection. The bakelite bezel in excellent condition and the hands with very little corrosion. Hammer Price $266,667.
13. Bovet 18K Gold, Enamel and Pearl-set Openface Duplex Pocket Watch from 1820. This watch especially made for the Chinese market, combines Bovet's Chinese calibre movement and a finely painted enamel miniature case by enamelist Jean-François-Victor Dupont. During the turmoil of the late Manchu China, Bovet watches became increasingly popular there. Fleurier —Edouard Bovet's hometown— is the European centre for the manufacture of Chinese watches, with several brands dedicated only to that market. This watch features cloisonné, champlevé enamel and pearl-set borders. Hammer Price $266,667.
14. Rolex 'Patent Pending' Double Red Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 with Prototype Bracelet and Mark I Dial from 1969. The ref. 1665 is a very sought-after watch and it's known that maybe about 150 of this watches were ever made. Since its helium valve had been developed and the patent had been applied, but Rolex had not received final approval the case back features the engraving in parenthesis “Patent Pending". This fantastic reference was only produced between 1969 and 1977. While most Mark I dials on this reference show that the Double Red writing has faded to a light pink or even white color, the dial on this watch is still as red as when it left Rolex. Additionally, this perfect example contains the last three digits of the serial number inside the case back along with the reference number as it should be. Lastly, this rare piece features a prototype bracelet with the Rolex crown located sideways on the clasp. Hammer Price $247,075.
15. Rolex 18K Gold GMT Master ref. 6542 with Bakelite bezel and burgundy brown nipple "Exclamation" Dial with Dauphine hands from 1958. This amazing example with very little polishing features the very desirable and ultra-rare burgundy brown so-called "exclamation" dial with gold printing. For those of you that don't know, the name comes from the luminous dot positioned right underneath the 6 o'clock hour marker making it look like an 'exclamation' symbol. After the US Atomic Energy commission asked Rolex to recall the first batch of the 6542s due to their supposed radiation risk, the dials were marked with a small dot below the six o'clock marker to note that the issue had been corrected. From the second batch on, the watches were either fitted with a dash or with the now well-known 'Swiss T<25' writing that indicated that tritium had been used but that the small amount of it presented no risk to the wearer. Hammer Price $214,422.
16. Rolex Submariner ref. 5512 "Square Crown Guards" Retailed and Marked by Serpico & Laino from 1959. This reference was introduced in 1959 featuring crown guards with square ends. It is known that very few of these watches were ever made with this type of crown guards and the serial numbers are in the low 478,000s. This watch fitted with a very well preserved gilt dial comes with the depth rating in silver and the retailer signature 'Serpico y Laino' —from Caracas, Venezuela— above said rating. The case back features a Serpico y Laino engraving as 'S&L ACERO'. The bezel insert features the red triangle at 12 o'clock common only in the Big Crown Submariners ref. 6538. It is very possible that this is the only example of a watch featuring these characteristics. Hammer Price $207,891.
17. Rolex GMT Master ref. 6542 with Tropical dial, Bakelite bezel, Red Font Calendar disc and no bracelet from 1958. This amazing example comes with a bakelite bezel in very good condition, a highly "tropical" dial with matching hands, a fascinating red font calendar disc but unfortunately no bracelet —the strap does match perfectly the color of the dial. Hammer Price $188,299.
18. Panerai ref. 3646 made by Rolex in 1943. This watch is another one of those Panerai timepieces commissioned to Rolex for its manufacturing. This is one of the so-called "no name" series with blank dial, generally reserved for the German Navy's Special Forces. The watch features a sandwich dial and a smaller than usual crown. Hammer Price $108,844.
19. Rolex Submariner ref. 6204 from 1963 . This watch features pencil hands and seconds lollipop hand, there is no depth rating on the dial and it features the bezel with no graduation on the first 15 minutes. Hammer Price $72,109.
20. Longines Stainless Steel Monopusher Flyback Chronograph ref. 5681 from 1950. According to the Archives of Longines this watch has originally sold in Amsterdam, Holland on September 8, 1950. A watch originally designed for military purpose with a chronograph that can be start/stop/reset with just one button. It was surprising to see a Longines fetch such a high amount on money at the auction. Hammer Price $50,340.
In addition to all the fascinating timepieces we featured on this post, there were many more that commanded high amounts and that are true collector's examples of some fascinating references across an array of brands.
As you can imagine, we are already looking forward to the upcoming Christie's auctions in Hong Kong —Important Watches Auction on November 27—, London —Jewelry and Watches Auction on December 11— and New York —Important Watches Auction to be held on December 17, 2013.
For more info on Christie's click here.