In another record-breaking sale this past weekend at the Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva, Switzerland, Phillips Watches, the leader in watch auctions achieved $21,250,815 USD after selling 99% of their 226 lots offered at auction. Just as usual, new records were set for Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet and independent brands like F.P. Journe. Even though most of the lots were very important from a horological standpoint, there are sixteen watches that broke records and that are considered highly important due to their rarity and history in the world of horology.
First and foremost, it is important to mention that the market maintains a steady upward trend in terms of pricing achieved by the usual suspects. Paul Newman Daytonas in the half million range, Patek Philippe Grand Complications selling over one million dollars and this time a few Nautilus setting an all time high for this particular Patek Philippe collection. But one thing worth mentioning is that not only vintage watches performed extremely well at this auction but also current production watches like the BNIB Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Rainbow in 18K Everose gold ref. 116595RBOW with stickers still on it—even though Rolex has instructed their ADs to remove all stickers upon sale— or a BNIB Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi ref. 126710BLRO.
Without further ado, let’s go straight to each of these lots.
Lot 78A - Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar in Platinum ref. 3974P
Patek Philippe discontinued this reference in 2000, and given how complex it was to manufacture, very few examples were made over its 11-year production period. In fact, the present example is only the eighth known in platinum. Platinum is a metal known to dampen the sound of chimes in a repeating watch, however, thanks to Patek Philippe’s technical expertise and Hagmann’s case making savoir faire, the chimes in the present timepiece are crystal clear, loud and extremely pleasant to the ear. The present watch sold complete with rotating winding box, setting pin and additional solid case back.
Sold for CHF1,032,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 174 - Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 ‘Single Red’ No Helium Valve Case Prototype
Rolex created a certain number of prototypes to trial test the watches delivering these to the world’s leading dive companies and US Military. These prototypes were housed in Submariner style cases with and without a Helium Escape Valve and with a new reference number engraved between the lugs and inside the case back: 1665. Furthermore, the dials bore the new model name Sea-Dweller printed in red on one line and followed by the depth rating. It is interesting to note that on the dial of these “Single Red” prototypes the depth rating is indicated in meters first whereas later production models would have the rating indicated first in feet. Furthermore the depth rating was 500m/1650ft whereas subsequent models would have a depth rating of 600m/2000ft. The present model without Helium Escape Valve features a case slightly thinner than the later production models.
This watch was tested by American diver Robert Palmer Bradley, a naval pilot and marine biologist. He was a pilot of the Deepstar-4000, a deep sea submersible designed by the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. The US Naval Oceanographic Office used the Deepstar-4000 for numerous dives along the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean to study marine geology, biology and the physical properties of the water column. It is believed that Rolex offered this watch to Robert Palmer Bradley in November 1968 to commemorate the 500th dive of the Deepstar-4000. In fact the caseback shows traces of an engraving that has mostly rubbed off but where the name Bob and a date 11.08 can be distinguished. As these watches were prototypes and used for intense testing, few have actually survived. Scholarship has found twelve existing “Single Red” Sea-Dwellers, seven of which do not have a Helium Escape Valve.
The known "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers have the following serial numbers —in increasing order—:
- 1'602'913: the present watch
- 1'602'91x (without helium escape valve) having belonged to Ian Koblick
- 1'602'920 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Philippe Cousteau
- 1'602'922 (with helium escape valve)
- 1'602'928 (without helium escape valve)
- 1'602'931 (with helium escape valve)
- 1'603'xxx (without helium escape vale) having belonged to Richard A. Waller
- 1'759'659 (without helium escape valve)
- 1'820'177 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Dr. Ralph W. Brauer
Three other "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers are known but we do not have the serial numbers.
Sold for CHF708,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 42 - Rolex ref. 6236 Oyster Chronograph Antimagnetic "Jean-Claude Killy"
The first element that impresses with this watch is its amazingly well preserved condition. A true time capsule that has crossed over half a century practically unscathed, this watch perfectly demonstrates what a reference 6236 looked like when it left the Rolex ateliers. In fact it is without doubt the best example of a reference 6236 in stainless steel we have encountered. The present example is an outstanding unmolested specimen. The case is unpolished with strong powerful lugs and harmonious proportions. The silver dial is superb condition and displays a crisp blue date ring with the correct closed-loops for the 6 and 9 numerals, typical for this reference and baton hands, which later set the benchmark for future Rolex chronographs.
The present watch formerly belonged in the collection of Gordon Bethune. The CEO of Continental Airlines from 1994 until his retirement at the end of 2004, Bethune is a well-known watch collector. An avid aviator himself, Bethune has led a long, storied life, beginning his aviation career in the U.S. Navy at the age of 16 by fixing electronic and mechanical systems on jet planes. After 20 years, he retired as a Naval Lieutenant.
In 2012, Bethune pledged 50 of his best watches for auction, the present watch being one of the key highlights of that historic sale. It then broke the record for any reference 6236 ever sold, a record which it still holds today.
Sold for CHF702,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 195 - Patek Philippe ref. 530 in Pink Gold Retailed by Astrua Torino
Launched in 1937, Patek Philippe’s reference 530 remains one of the rarest and largest vintage chronograph models manufactured by the firm, its large 36.5mm diameter being as relevant today as it was 80 years ago. Nevertheless, three elements, featured in the present chronograph, add even greater desirability to this grail watch: a perfectly preserved pink gold case, an ivory dial, and the prestigious ‘Astrua Torino' signature. Only 14 examples of the large reference 530 in pink gold are known, the present version is not only the earliest example identified but is also the only one known with the famed Turin-based retailer’s signature. Astrua was founded in 1860 in Turin, Italy, by Vincenzo Astrua to sell and repair pendulum clocks and pocket watches. It was one of only a very select few firms privileged enough to be allowed to put their name on a Patek Philippe dial.
Sold for CHF672,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 106 - Patek Philippe Stainless Steel Chronograph ref. 1463 ‘Tasti Tondi’ with Breguet Numerals
Reference 1463 is one of the most popular vintage chronograph wristwatches on the market today due to its robust case proportions and oversized chronograph pushers. Along with the elusive reference 1563, it was the only vintage chronograph model manufactured by Patek Philippe that was fitted with a water-resistant case and round chronograph pushers. The model was a "sportier" alternative to the less robust reference 130. Amongst the rarest and most desirable of reference 1463 chronographs are those cased in stainless steel. Yet, to offer one with this dial configuration is a true anomaly. The present watch is one of two dozen known steel examples with Breguet numerals —absolutely astounding, considering that the reference was in production for approximately 29 years. Furthermore, the Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives is a collector's ultimate dream come true as it confirms the Breguet numerals.
The dial furthermore features very strong enamel graphics, with the "accent" incredibly strong and apparent above the Patek Philippe Genève signature. There are no losses to the enamel, attesting to the completely untouched condition of the dial. One could furthermore easily wax lyrical about the case, which is sharp throughout. There is an incredibly crisp "step" between the bezel and the rest of the case, attesting to its crisp state of preservation. Manufactured in 1950, this example is a superlative second series "Tasti Tondi" in every sense, delighting with its sheer rarity, magnificent condition and utmost beauty.
Sold for CHF582,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 42 - Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman ref. 6239 Retailed by Tiffany & Co.
Some of the rarest, most historically important and valuable Rolex wristwatches have been sold through the American retailer Tiffany & Co. The present watch featuring not only the jeweler's signature but also a "Paul Newman" dial, is an extraordinarily rare specimen. To date no more than a handful of correct examples have appeared on the market. Few retailers have had a relationship with Rolex like Tiffany & Co. has. The jeweler has proudly emblazoned its logo on a variety of Rolex wristwatches, ranging from the GMT-Master to the Cosmograph Daytona.
Historically, the storied boutique has been the destination for collectors in pursuit of the finest and most attractive wristwatches. Furthermore, Tiffany & Co. has been mentioned numerous times in popular culture, ranging from literature to film. Joanne Woodward no less purchased the now record-breaking reference 6239 wristwatch with "exotic" dial from the retailer for her husband Paul Newman.
Prominently featured in Ultimate Rolex Daytona by Pucci Papaleo, the present watch has resided in a private collection for many years. It most notably displays a black dial with "T Swiss T" printed in slanted script —a common feature of reference 6239 Paul Newman dials. At the time of production, retailers brought the dials to a third party to stamp them. The precise and fine details on this example, such as the serifs on the edge of each letter are remarkable and unmistakably correct. Most impressively and importantly, this watch is accompanied by a letter dated June 9, 2008 from Tiffany & Co. confirming that the present watch was sold by the Tiffany & Co. boutique in New York in April 1969.
Sold for CHF540,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 224 - Patek Philippe ‘Officier’ Chronograph in 18K Yellow Gold from 1924
One of the earliest Patek Philippe chronographs, the present watch is the earliest to have left the Patek Philippe ateliers. This timepiece is also part of an extremely low production run of 27 single-button chronographs of which 16 had an officer case like the present model. Consequently, the present chronograph is not only collectible because of its exceptional condition and ultimate rarity, but also and maybe most importantly because of its historical relevance.
The design of this timepiece is furthermore a perfect study in balance, refinement and elegance. The silver grené dial with Breguet numerals —as confirmed by the Extract from the Archives— has aged with grace, the continuous seconds and minutes counters are placed at 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock respectively, an unusual vertical layout as opposed to the more common horizontal one adding extra panache to the design. The brand name is boldly placed horizontally on the dial. A slide at 2 o’clock enables the crown to be blocked preventing the user from inadvertently starting or stopping the chronograph. The large double-hinged officer case houses a superbly decorated chronograph movement based on a Victorin Piguet ébauche featuring a column-wheel cover, an element that has become a Patek Philippe signature ever since. It is interesting to note that the movement number is also engraved on the inner back cover. Victorin Piguet is considered one of the world’s most important complicated movement makers, producing ébauches for some of Patek Philippe’s most sophisticated timepieces such as the Packard and Graves Grand Complications.
Sold for CHF492,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 14 - F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Platinum ‘Souscription’ Watch No. 16/20
The first prototype was made in 1991 and to finance his project and create a version that would be commercially available —ultimately launched in 1999— Journe used a subscription system for his first twenty tourbillon wristwatches, each individually numbered on the dial and offered to his close friends and clients. The present tourbillon bearing number 16/20 is in almost brand new unworn condition, as its owner, a friend of Journe’s, is a pocket watch collector who purchased the watch to support his friend’s new venture. He never wore it though. Owning one of Journe’s subscription tourbillons is like owning a piece of horological history and an opportunity that rarely presents itself as the present model is only the fourth to ever grace the international auction market and the third to be offered by Phillips.
Sold for CHF468,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 62 - Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Paul Newman Panda MK2 ref. 6265
Fitted with a rarely seen steel bezel, fresh to the market from original owner, and in superb condition, this highly sought-after Rolex Cosmograph ref. 6265 features a Paul Newman ‘Panda’ dial. would make a fine addition to any collection. Adding to the appeal and desirability of this watch is the fact that it comes from its original owner and as such is accompanied by its original box, Rolex guarantee, and invoice dated 1972. In addition, the watch features the correct Mark 2 dial, correct pushers, and bracelet —clasp stamped 2/72— and comes to auction in excellent condition, having been worn only a handful of times.
The owner of this reference 6265 received the watch during his early teens, during which he developed a profound love for motorcross racing —competing at the amateur level with others much older than him. His parents considered the watch suitable for a young man so enthusiastic about motor sports because of the chronograph function and great looks.
Sold for CHF444,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 31 - Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chrono ref. 1518 Yellow Gold
Truly a monumental model, reference 1518 was the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch ever produced in series when it was introduced in 1941. According to research, only 281 examples were manufactured until the reference ceased production in 1954. It paved the way for successors references 2499, 3970, 5970 and finally, 5270, which eatures an in-house movement.
Sold for CHF420,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 101 - Audemars Piguet Case Style 10198 Archive ref. 1533
Audemars Piguet vintage chronograph wristwatches are among the scarcest resources in the entire field of vintage watch collecting, with little more than three hundred examples overall produced between 1930 and 1962, after which no more chronograph wristwatch will be made until the modern era. Such a small production combined with the little information publicly available about the topic resulted in very obscure field, until the recent publication by Audemars Piguet “Audemars Piguet 20th Century Complicated Wristwatches”, which combines all available archive information on complicated timepieces made by the company during the past century. Thanks to Audemars Piguet’s efforts, new information about the models produced is available. Regarding the present piece, the archives indicate that it is a case model 10198 and bears archive reference 1533, differentiating it from the 2-counter reference 1532 which shares the same case style.
Offered by an Italian gentleman, a direct descendant of the original owner, this previously unknown treasure has slumbered in the safety of a deposit box for the past two decades and it is offered in astounding condition. The total output for this model is an incredibly meager nine examples in total, with this specimen being the third to be publicly known. Out of these nine examples, only three bear a steel-and-gold case such as the present one, while the remaining six are in gold —at least five in yellow gold, while the other unspecified. This watch was one of three sold in Bologna by the retailer Casanova, one piece in Istanbul, two pieces in New York and three pieces in Milan.
Furthermore, the present piece is among the largest vintage chronograph pieces made by the company, measuring 36.5mm. This is nothing less than remarkable considered that most of the vintage Audemars Piguet chronograph production features diameters varying between 32 and 34mm. Only 19 pieces are known with diameters between 34 and 36mm, and two special order watches were made exceeding this size. Thus, this model is the largest size employed by Audemars Piguet for standard production pieces.
A final layer of appeal is given by the highly unusual alloy employed for the dial: green gold. Scarcely used during the first half of the century by some companies, and eventually abandoned altogether, it shines with a slightly greenish/champagne tinge, adding aesthetic impact and quirk to this already mesmerizing gem.
Sold for CHF384,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 10 - Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Rainbow in 18K Everose gold ref. 116595RBOW
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Rainbow in 18K Everose gold, features 36 hand-selected baguette-cut sapphires in rainbow hues on the bezel. With a perfect gradient in lieu of the emblematic tachymetric scale, the bezel is set with a gradation of sapphires in rainbow hues. The case is adorned with 56 brilliant-cut diamonds set into the lugs and crown guard, and the dial features 11 baguette-cut sapphire hour markers, each of which matches the color of the corresponding point on the bezel. The chronograph counters are in pink Gold Crystals, a material with a particular shimmer effect, created during the crystallization of a pink gold alloy by means of a special process developed by Rolex.
Sold for CHF243,750 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 105 - Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3800/1 Platinum Anthracite Grey Dial
It is interesting to note that since the launch of the reference 3800 —over 35 years ago— a version in a platinum case and this dial combination has never before appeared on the international auction market. It was until now unknown to scholars leading us to believe that the present platinum Nautilus could most probably be a unique piece. Fresh to the market and in excellent condition this reference 3800 offers the savvy collector the once in a lifetime opportunity to own a most probably unique timepiece previously unknown to the collector market and that will certainly remain in a private collection for the next couple of decades before it comes back to the market, if ever.
Sold for CHF212,500 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 25 - Rolex Day-Date ref. 1803 Stainless Steel Prototype
Today, there are a handful of Day-Dates so rare that their very existence bewilder the most seasoned of collectors. Known only to the horological cognoscenti, they are the antithesis of the opulent Day-Dates we know so well today. While the reference 6611 in stainless steel is arguably the "holy grail" of all Day-Dates, this prototype reference 1803 in stainless steel comes a close second. The present watch was made to be used in the Rolex laboratory to test new the new Day-Date caliber 3055. Given the technical nature of this watch, it makes sense that Rolex did away with aesthetic flourishes, such as a ribbed bezel, giving this timepiece a decidedly sober and singular appearance. The Day wheel is French, which is fitting, given that this watch was used as a trial piece in Switzerland. The case back bears all the signs of an undoubtedly correct Rolex factory component, such as the "Montres Rolex S.A. Geneva Switzerland" stamping, as well as the crisp milled satin finishes in the center. An important detail is the "STAINLESS STEEL" script, indicating that the Rolex did indeed create stainless steel Day-Date cases.
This timepiece most notably does not have a reference or serial number, as it was never manufactured for commercial purposes. The movement number, 0005073, is incredibly close to another known example illustrated in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, which bears the movement number 0004547 and is almost identical in appearance to the present example. The other known example also does not bear any serial or reference numbers. The current owner bought this watch from a senior Rolex watchmaker who received it from his superior on the occasion of his retirement. The watchmaker was personally involved in the development and testing of the present caliber, and had personally serviced the watch himself.
Sold for CHF168,750 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 57 - Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3712/1A Brand New Factory Double-Sealed
Patek Philippe introduced reference 3712/1A in 2005, and it remained in production for approximately one year —some estimate as few as eight months. Its successor, the much-coveted reference 5712/1, was launched in October of 2006 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus, alongside the references 5712R —the first Nautilus to be offered on a leather bracelet—, reference 5800/1, reference 5980/1, and the highly successful 5711/1. This example, offered with all its original accessories and presented with its factory double seal, makes this already rare reference even more compelling.
Sold for CHF156,250 including buyer’s premium.
Lot 58 - Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore ref. 25721ST ‘The Beast’ from Emmanuel Gueit
Setting an all-time high for any stainless steel Royal Oak Offshore sold at auction and especially for the very first and original model reference 25721ST a.k.a ‘The Beast’ —you can read our in-depth study of this reference here—, comes one of the very first examples produced of this reference. The present example is rare in many ways. It is part of the first 100 models of this rare reference that omit the ‘Offshore’ designation on the case back which is simply engraved ‘Royal Oak’. Bearing number 39 it is one of the earliest examples of the Offshore to appear on the international auction market. More importantly however is that the present watch is the property of the man who designed it, Emmanuel Gueit, and as such it represents a great piece of horological history. This watch has now set a new price point for the very first Royal Oak Offshores ‘The Beast’ ref. 25721ST.OO.1000ST.01.
Sold for CHF102,500 including buyer’s premium.
For more info on Phillips Watches and the results of the rest of the lots click here.