An In­sider’s look at hap­pen­ing on the auc­tion cir­cuit

Plaza Watch International - - Auction House Report - WORDS SI­MON DE BUR­TON

By now most

Plaza Watch read­ers will have been in­formed 'ad nau­seam' that the Patek Philippe Henry Graves 'Su­per­com­pli­ca­tion' pocket watch of­fered by Sotheby's Geneva in Novem­ber es­tab­lished a world record for any time­piece – $24 mil­lion/€19.3 mil­lion in case you weren't pay­ing at­ten­tion. But we're fully aware that there are plenty of se­ri­ous, less well-heeled col­lec­tors who might be more in­ter­ested in hear­ing about watches that they can po­ten­tially af­ford – and, equally im­por­tantly, would ac­tu­ally want to wear on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

So here's our pick of six real world pieces that you could have bought dur­ing 2014’s fi­nal run of watch auc­tions. But don't feel too bad if you missed them – the sale sea­son kicks off again in the spring and you might get another chance...

1. Longines 'Big In­dian.' Sold for CHF31,250 (€25,950) at Christie's, Geneva, Novem­ber 10.

We've all seen the val­ues of mil­i­tary watches by firms such as Pan­erai and Rolex head to­wards the stratosphere, yet Longines (which has an equally rich his­tory in the area) has seem­ingly been left be­hind. That seems to be steadily chang­ing now, with un­der­val­ued rar­i­ties – such as the su­perb, 1950 Ref­er­ence 6111-2 'Big In­dian' of­fered here.

The watch is so called be­cause of its ex­cep­tion­ally large, 44mm case and, be­cause it was one of a small batch thought to have been sent as mil­i­tary is­sue to the Avadi air force base near Madras (now Chen­nai). Fewer than 10 of th­ese are known to have ap­peared for sale in re­cent years – which means this one might well have been a bar­gain.

2. Omega Speed­mas­ter 'Blue Grey.' Sold for £19,456 (€24,688) at Watches of Knights­bridge, London, Novem­ber 22.

Watch col­lect­ing is about a com­bi­na­tion of de­sir­abil­ity, his­tory, con­di­tion and rar­ity. Chrono­graphs don't come much more his­toric than Omega's Speed­mas­ter, the most de­sir­able ver­sions of which are the hand-wound, 'pre-moon shot' mod­els. Add to that a dial in an ex­cep­tion­ally rare colour and val­ues can rise sub­stan­tially – as in the case of this su­perb 'blue-grey' Speedy which fetched almost four times the low es­ti­mate.

Rather than be­ing a con­ven­tional black-di­alled ex­am­ple that had faded to a de­lec­ta­ble slate colour, the watch was one of a very small batch of 'spe­cial project' blue-grey pieces cre­ated in the fac­tory. There's one in the Omega mu­seum – but this ex­am­ple was in bet­ter con­di­tion.

3. Jaeger-LeCoul­tre Geo­physic. Sold for CHF52,500 (€43,725) at An­tiquo­rum, Geneva, Novem­ber 8.

Only a few die-hard col­lec­tors knew much about Jaeger-LeCoul­tre's de­lec­ta­ble '50s Geo­physic be­fore its re­cent re­vival in mod­ern, limited edi­tion for­mat – since when val­ues of orig­i­nal ex­am­ples have rock­eted. For those who don't know the story, The In­ter­na­tional Geo­phys­i­cal Year of 1958 saw 67 na­tions pledge to un­der­take a se­ries of sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments in and around the more hos­tile parts of the planet in or­der to fur­ther re­search in the geo­phys­i­o­log­i­cal fields of seis­mol­ogy, elec­tro­mag­netism, glaciol­ogy, ra­dioac­tiv­ity and so­lar ac­tiv­ity.

The year also marked JaegerLeCoul­tre's 125th an­niver­sary, so the Swiss watch­maker com­mem­o­rated the two events with the cre­ation of the 'Geo­physic' watch which was de­signed – de­spite its el­e­gant looks – to be one of the tough­est and most durable time­pieces on the mar­ket, in or­der that it could be used for the var­i­ous Geo­phys­i­cal Year projects. This ex­am­ple was ex­pected to fetch no more than CHF8,000.

4. Aude­mars Piguet Royal Oak Con­cept 'CW 1.' Sold for HK$1.7 mil­lion (€180,272) at Christie's, Hong Kong, Novem­ber 26

Back in 2002 Aude­mars Piguet's 'Con­cept Piece CW1', cre­ated to mark the Royal Oak's 30th an­niver­sary, was some­thing truly rad­i­cal – and now it has be­come es­tab­lished as a true, blue chip col­lectable among a sea of far more medi­ocre mod­ern-day watches. Even 13 years down the line, the CW1 still seems very spe­cial with its 44mm, 602 alacrite case, ti­ta­nium bezel and ti­ta­nium and ar­cap bridges.

The 'dy­namo­graphe' main­spring torque in­di­ca­tor and lin­ear power re­serve gauge also look funkier than ever – and the tri­an­gu­lar plate con­tain­ing the small seconds hand is marked with the let­ters 'R', 'N' and 'H' to in­di­cate whether the wind­ing crown was po­si­tioned for 'rewind,' 'hand set' or 'neu­tral'. Even the leather-backed, fi­bre strap was ahead of its time. At almost $223,000, this wasn't ex­actly an auc­tion bar­gain – but let's see what it's worth in another 13 years.

5. Cartier Mono­pusher Chrono­graph.

Sold for CHF22,500 (€18,700) at Sotheby's, Geneva, Novem­ber 11.

Much is made of Cartier's in-house watch mak­ing prow­ess th­ese days, and quite rightly so. But be­fore it es­tab­lished its own man­u­fac­ture in 2007, Cartier tra­di­tion­ally used mech­a­nisms from the best mak­ers around, in­clud­ing JaegerLeCoul­tre, Vacheron Con­stantin, Aude­mars Piguet and Ebel. And be­fore it de­vel­oped the range of high-end pieces on of­fer to­day, it would tempt true horophiles with limited edi­tion num­bers from its so called 'Col­lec­tion Privée.

At the SIHH show back in 2006, I re­mem­ber be­ing highly cov­etous of one par­tic­u­lar Col­lec­tion Privée watch – a pink gold, square cased, sin­gle pusher chrono­graph be­ing made in an edi­tion of 100 ex­am­ples. I still love th­ese watches, but they very rarely ap­pear on the pre-owned mar­ket and, when they do, prices tend to be high. So it was hardly sur­pris­ing to see this mint con­di­tion one ex­ceed its high es­ti­mate by almost 25 per cent. Dis­creet and el­e­gant dress watches just don't come much bet­ter.

6. Pan­erai Lu­mi­nor Day­light 'Sly Tech.' Sold for € 23 400 at Artcuriel, Paris, De­cem­ber 8.

As many Plaza Watch read­ers will be aware, Pan­erai had more or less faded in to obliv­ion be­fore be­ing bought in 1997 by the Ven­dome Group (now Richemont), hav­ing come to the at­ten­tion of the lux­ury goods gi­ant via the rec­om­men­da­tion of – per­haps sur­pris­ingly – Sylvester Stal­lone. The story goes that Stal­lone was in Italy in 1995 dur­ing film­ing of the ac­tion movie Day­light when he came across a jew­ellery store sell­ing Pan­erai watches.

He sub­se­quently wore one in the film and then com­mis­sioned an edi­tion of 200 'Sly Tech' pieces en­graved with his sig­na­ture, which he is said to have dished out to mem­bers of the cast and crew. Once word of Pan­erai reached Hol­ly­wood, the brand ex­ploded and gar­nered a cult fol­low­ing. Nowa­days, all 1990s 'pre-Ven­dome' Pan­erais are highly col­lectable – but few more than the Sly Tech, hence the hefty sum achieved for this one.

7. Rolex, Ref­er­ence 6101. Sold for $425,000 (€342,000) at Christie’s, New York, De­cem­ber 9.

The fi­nal sale of the auc­tion sea­son was, rather suit­ably, a chin-stok­ing eye­brow raiser, as a pos­si­ble one-of-a kind Rolex achieved more than the auc­tion es­ti­mate of $400,000, fi­nally go­ing un­der the ham­mer for $425,000 at Christie’s in New York. This brought the fi­nal day’s to­tal to €5,149,626 / $6,357,563.

The Rolex Ref­er­ence 6101 is thought to be a unique 18K gold and cloi­sonné au­to­matic wrist­watch with Map of the Amer­i­cas from 1953. Doug Escrib­ano, Head of Sale, Watches, com­mented: “Christie's fi­nal watch auc­tion of 2014 con­tin­ued to em­pha­size the global ap­peal of fine, rare, and unique time­pieces. We were thrilled to see the va­ri­ety in to­day's top lots in­clud­ing a Rolex, Ref­er­ence 6101 with cloi­sonné dial of the Map of the Amer­i­cas, a unique enamel pocket watch by Patek Philippe, and a limited edi­tion Opus 3 wrist­watch by Harry Win­ston & Vian­ney Hal­ter. Once again, Christie's closes 2014 as a dom­i­nant fig­ure in the world of auc­tion, pri­vate sales, and eCom­merce for fine and rare time­pieces.”

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