Zach goes hands-on with five awesome lots from Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches auction Zach goes hands-on with five awesome lots from Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches auction

Zach goes hands-on with five awesome lots from Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches auction

Zach Blass

You can fly over to Geneva or Dubai for a watch fair, but the best selection of watches can always be found at an auction house. On December 7, 2023, Sotheby’s will be holding their latest Important Watches auction with 159 exceptional lots to go under the hammer. Ahead of the battle of the paddles, I made my way over to Sotheby’s to get a first-hand look at these pieces. To write about all 159 would be a task of epic proportions, so I have selected five awesome pieces I went hands-on with to share with you all.

Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023 collage

Lot 132: Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/001 retailed by Gübelin circa 1978

Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023 Nautilus

A watch that requires very little introduction, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is among the most sought-after and coveted watches in the world. With an alleged eight or more year-long waitlist for the modern 5711/1A before its discontinuation, during the pandemic, secondary market prices managed to soar beyond US$200K. While everyone is fighting over the modern interpretation, why not turn your focus towards the OG that started it all? This ref. 3700, which dates to approximately two years after the launch of the Nautilus in 1976, exhibits the perfect amount of wear and character to let you know it is all original. The lume has aged evenly throughout the hands and indices to the perfect and desirable sage hue.

Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023 6

Its jumbo 42mm case is super slender on the wrist with a thickness of just 7.5mm, and it balances well due to its wider bracelet. Adding further intrigue, the blue dial, in excellent condition, is co-branded with ‘Gübelin’ at the 6′ position – denoting its sale by the celebrated Swiss retailer. The watch is accompanied by a certificate of origin, its original Gübelin sale receipt, and a Patek Philippe presentation box.

To learn more or bid on this Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700/001, click here. Estimate: US$80,000 – $120,000.

Lot 102: Rolex Milgauss ref. 6541 circa 1959

Rolex Milgauss Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023

Like a sine wave, the Milgauss weaves in and out of the spotlight. Before modern Submariners, GMT Master IIs and Daytonas blew up to their unobtanium status, and secondary sale over retail, the darling of the catalgoue was the Milgauss Z-Blue with its tinted sapphire crystal and wacky lightning bolt central seconds hand. It was the IT Rolex, but after a time in the sun, it would fade a bit into the shadow of the other aforementioned Rolex sports watches and recently found itself discontinued. With its distinct look and modernity of a tinted sapphire crystal, you might think a vintage model would look astronomically different. But, as with pretty much all Rolex watches, the design of the modern Milgauss has clear throughlines to older models like this ref. 6541 from around 1959.

Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023 27

The Milgauss ref. 6541 was launched in 1956, in both rotating bezel and smooth bezel configurations like the one we have here. You can see the zig-zag of the lightning second hand, but where this Milgauss has distinct character is through its stunning tropicalized ‘honeycomb’ dial with perfectly even patina to the large circular hour lume plots. As I held the watch, I immediately noted the clear original lines of the case that suggest this piece has never been refinished – remarkable considering its condition and age. These are very rare, thus why the estimate has been placed even above the Nautilus ref. 3700 above.

To learn more or bid on this Rolex Milgauss ref. 6541, click here. Estimate: US$180,000 – $360,000.

Lot 9: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time ref. 145.025 circa 2012

A Lange Sohne Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023

Agree or disagree: the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk is one of the most beautiful watches ever designed. I would be inclined to agree with that statement, especially after holding this Zeitwerk Striking Time ref. 145.025 limited edition. The balance of the dial is impeccable with a power reserve indicator at 12′ and running second sub-dial at the 6′ position. Framing the running seconds, two exquisitely finished hammers shoulder it and line up with each of the digital time apertures inspired by the historic clock found in the Dresden Semper Opera House. Even more beautiful is the exhibited in-house manually-wound L043.2 calibre within, its German silver bridges patinated to a golden hue and adorned with Glashütte striping, thin hand-chamfering, black polishing, and, of course, the free-hand engraved balance cock.

Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023 42

It is a sizeable 44mm case, and you all are well familiar with the fact I have a smaller wrist (approximately 6.5 inches in circumference). But I was surprised, despite this fact, at just how well it wore on my wrist. With its size, and platinum case material, wearing it is arguably a form of exercise due to its luxurious heft. The high level of finishing seen beneath the sapphire crystals on both sides extends to the outer case, with a wonderfully polished bezel that is complemented by the contrast of a rich satin brush to the case band. And, Lange notably does their cases the old-school way with soldered lugs that are then hand-finished to remove the evidence of the welding. Beautiful, just beautiful.

To learn more or bid on this A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time ref. 145.025, click here. Estimate: US$110,000 – $220,000.

Lot 92: Ferdinand Berthoud ref. FB 2RSM.1 circa 2022

Ferdinand Berthoud Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023

Showcasing the might of independent watchmaking, my visit to Sotheby’s included a rare encounter with a classic yet complex Ferdinand Berthoud. This horological Mac-daddy, inspired by a marine clock from 1768, has a beautifully brushed blue central medallion that on its own immediately captures your gaze. In a sort of regulator style, the intrigue increases with a 2′ positioned aperture that reveals a rotating hours disc. At 9′ apertures reveal the inner workings of the movement, and at 12′ a sub-dial, unusually indicating the minutes, can be seen. Extending from the center, a polished central seconds hand, perfectly bent at its tip, jumps each second as a result of the constant force tourbillon movement within. The full movement is exhibited on the backside of the watch, but on the side of the case, a sapphire window has been included to allow the wearer to see the full depth of the movement – including its highly complex fusee-and-chain transmission. When looking up horology in a dictionary, this watch, I imagine, is what is pictured next to the term.

To learn more or bid on this Ferdinand Berthoud ref. FB 2RSM.1, click here. Estimate: US$80,000 – $160,000.

Lot 50: Cartier Triptych Desk Timepiece circa 1930

Cartier Sothebys Important Watches December 7 2023

It is no secret that Cartier is red hot right now, with collectors all over the world honing in on both modern and vintage wristwatches from the Maison. As a change of pace, however, I wanted to showcase this triptych desk timepiece from circa 1930. The alluring Cartier charm cannot be understated: the font of the dial text, the guilloched central medallion of the dial, the large and blued spade and lance hands, and the brand’s iconic Roman numerals spread out across three panels. The outer body of the timepiece is crafted in yellow gold, with enamel and onyx embedded within. Look closely at the latch, you will notice rose-cut diamonds set into it. It is also worth noting the panels displaying the Roman numerals also utilise black and white enamel. Whether with the doors closed as a piece of discrete desk jewellery, or doors opened as a beautiful and functional timekeeper, as I sit here writing at my laptop I certainly would not mind having this on my desk. Different, neat, and less common to see today. But also highly collectible.

To learn more or bid on this Cartier Triptych Desk Timepiece, click here. Estimate: US$10,000 – $15,000.

Editor’s note: The Sotheby’s Important Watches auction will be held December 7, 2023. You can view the full catalogue of lots here.