Three heavy hitters and sleepers from Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in Geneva November 5 Three heavy hitters and sleepers from Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in Geneva November 5

Three heavy hitters and sleepers from Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in Geneva November 5

Zach Blass

There is no better place to engage with some of the best and most desired watches in the world than auction houses – particularly esteemed ones like Sotheby’s. Tasked with curating high-profile lots, Sotheby’s seeks out exceptional timepieces to bring to the stage. Now, being realistic, this means there are a ton of lots at each auction that are billed to hammer off at prices far beyond what most can spend – this is ultra luxury at the end of the day. But, this does not mean you should check out and not take notice. So, today I am going to split my focus and offer some background on three intriguing heavy hitters set to hit six or seven-figure bids and highlight another three lots that may go under the radar from the upcoming Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction: Part 1 in Geneva on November 5th.

Sothebys Important Watches Geneva Nov 5 body

The heavy hitters

Sothebys Important Watches Geneva Nov 5 Heavy Hitters

An early George Daniels, London Anniversary Number 01

Sothebys George Daniels Anniversary

The two watchmakers who produce the most prized watches in the world have a last name beginning with the letter ‘D’: Dufour and Daniels. George Daniels’ watches, whenever they do appear at auction, inevitably become a headlining marquee lot. This Anniversary watch, along with the lot below, however, are exceptionally special Daniels watches. This Co-Axial Anniversary watch, number 01, was the very first watch made in the legendary Co-Axial Anniversary series and was completed in 2012. It also has the distinction of being one of only two from the series (including the prototype) to have been worked on while George Daniels was still alive. The Co-Axial Anniversary series marked the first time a watch signed with Daniels was made by himself, instead of being entrusted to his protege Roger W. Smith to complete the commissioned orders. The Series is to be comprised of 47 watches in total: 35 in yellow gold (including the first pictured above), four in platinum, four in white gold, and another four in red gold. I say “to be comprised of” because, while production began in 2010, Smith still has a few orders within this series to complete over a decade later. This series is important as it marks the transition of Smith from student to colleague and collaborator, as he is not only the watchmaker executing the creation of the series, but also responsible for creating a new British calibre of his own design for use in the Anniversary Series, complete with his refined single-wheel co-axial escapement.

Estimate: in excess of CHF 500,000

A unique George Daniels, London Millennium gifted from Daniels to Roger W. Smith

Sothebys George Daniels Millenium

As if the above could be topped, Sotheby’s has two significant Daniels watches up for auction – both consigned by the same unnamed collector. While the Anniversary 01 watch is emblematic of Daniels passing the baton over to Smith, this Millennium watch from 2001 represents the beginning of Smith’s watchmaking journey. The Millenium series was the first project Smith was tasked with by Daniels, the duo completing it over three years (1998 – 2001). Of the 60 Millenium watches made, the lot above is without a doubt the most special of the series. Not only is it the last Millennium watch to be completed in 2001, but it is also Smith’s personal watch.

Sotheby’s explains: “When George Daniels finally agreed to take Roger W. Smith under his wing, the young apprentice had only built three pocket watches up until then. His first assignment for Daniels was to help him produce the Millennium series – a celebration of Daniels’ now legendary complication, the co-axial escapement. Smith, who had always desired to own a George Daniels watch, asked his mentor to be given a watch in lieu of a bonus that year. The last model in the Millennium series, made outside of regular production, on which he was working with Daniels between 1998 and 2001 became his own personal watch for nearly a decade.”

Roger Smith Letter

Aside from the fact the lot is accompanied by signed letters from Roger W. Smith, the tell this is Smith’s personal Millenium watch is the fact that the dial is co-signed with his name. This is significant as it is the only time Daniels ever allowed one of his watches to have a co-signed dial, and it is also the first time Smith’s name was signed on the dial of a wristwatch. Upon the completion of the Millenium series in 2001, the end of which is marked by the completion of this particular watch, Smith would go on to establish the Roger W. Smith Studio later that year. For any collector that covets independent watchmaking, it does not get much better than this.

Estimate: in excess of CHF 1,000,000

Patek Philippe ‘The Clarin Mustad’ ref 1518R

Sothebys Patek Philippe 1518

As a testament to the treasures Sotheby’s is able to consign, the two Daniels watches above may not be the highest fetching lot of the auction. Estimates are notoriously inaccurate at times, with results often surpassing them, but the watch labeled with the highest range is this special Patek Philippe ref. 1518. Any 1518 will be a huge draw at auction, but not all 1518s are created equal. Approximately 281 Patek Philippe ref. 1518 watches were ever produced, and of the total largely encased in yellow gold, only 58 are believed to have been made in pink gold – the ref. 1518R. This alone makes it even rarer. But, wait -there’s more. Of the rumoured 58 examples, only 14 are believed to have been executed in the pink-on-pink colour scheme as most 1518 watches had silvered dials. And still, that’s not all. To take the rarity factor even further, the above lot, one of the fourteen pink-on-pink 1518Rs, has distinct elements that make it unique – including an integral Gay Frères bracelet.

Sotheby’s explains: “The present watch features several design elements that are unique to this example. It is the only known 1518 with an “Empire” case, integral bracelet, and pink dial with applied dot hour markers, pink day and month calendar discs, and baton hands.”

Further adding intrigue, at least for automotive aficionados, is the fact this example of the 1518R was commissioned by Hans Clarin Hovind Mustad, inventor of the ignition system, in 1944. Thus, with the allure of any ref. 1518, which is only further bolstered by the rare pink-on-pink scheme, the distinct elements that make it a piece unique, and the added provenance, we arrive at a watch that will likely sell well into seven figures.

Estimate: CHF 2,000,000 – 4,000,000

Sleepers you should watch while the focus is on the heavy hitters

Sothebys Important Watches Geneva Nov 5 Sleepers

Grand Seiko “First” ref. J14070

Sothebys Grand Seiko First

Now, I am not suggesting tens of thousands of dollars is spare change. The reality is this Important Watches auction has a lot of high-estimate lots on the table, and comparatively, watches like this Grand Seiko “First” could be more approachable opportunities. The “First” nomenclature for this watch stems from the fact this was Grand Seiko’s inaugural model upon their launch in 1960. The above example is dated to circa 1961, just a year after Grand Seiko was born. Aesthetically speaking, this 34mm gold-plated watch has a Calatrava-like feel with a crisp and clean three-handed layout undisturbed by complications. A handsome set of gold dauphine hands and faceted indices rests against a white dial, but if you look at the Grand Seiko logo at 12 o’clock, you will notice an element of depth. This is because this dial is known as a “carved” dial – one of a few subtly different “First” dial configurations. Sotheby’s also notes that the “E” suffix of the dial code signals that this is a rarer transitional model as well. Honestly, I have seen Grand Seiko “First” watches of this nature sell well beyond the estimate, but in the context of a Sotheby’s Geneva auction, it could very well get overshadowed by other lots – allowing you to snipe and score for a steal. Its 34mm size and gold-plated case, rather than a solid gold case, could aid in keeping the final hammer price down.

Estimate: CHF 6,000 – 8,000

Rolex “Texan” ref. 5100

Sothebys rolex texan

Rolex design is nothing short of iconic. I would go so far as to say that the majority of watch enthusiasts would be able to discern a Rolex simply from a silhouette. Whether they’re Oyster, Jubilee, or Presidential bracelets, or even the subtle variations of an Oyster case, Rolex’s incremental design updates mean that, over decades, the watches have only subtly changed. The Rolex “Texan”, on the other hand, is distinct in that it is a bit of an oddball within the context of their typically uniform design. In a more meaningful sense, this is a historically significant Rolex, as the ref. 5100 was the first quartz-powered Rolex watch – using the collaborative and infamous Beta 21 quartz that arose during the quartz crisis. Aesthetically speaking, you will notice a faceted integrated case design that was a precursor to the funky Oysterquartz watches that would come later. This particular example of the ref. 5100 is rather rare, one of only 1,000 ever made, which is a small number in the context of Rolex production. So, if you are interested in owning a Rolex, but want something atypical to be distinguished from the herd, this is one to keep an eye on.

Estimate: CHF 12,000 – 18,000

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 ref. 101.021

Sothebys A Lange Sohne Lange 1

Lange, Lange, Lange. A. Lange & Söhne’s watchmaking prowess is largely accepted as being on par, if not greater, than the Swiss brands that are traditionally held as the Holy Trinity. But for some reason, their power on the secondary market, while trending upwards, has never had the same strength as Patek or AP. This can be advantageous for those looking to get a lot of watch for their dollar, and the Lange 1, I would say, is their most recognisable model. This particular piece is a discontinued ref. 101.021 which comes in a more compact 38.5mm case – one I find more agreeable for a wider spectrum of wrists. It also features an early MIG dial, a subtle and early variant of how the ‘Made In Germany’ text is written beneath the hour and minutes subdial, and an exhibited in-house L901.0 calibre that offers 72 hours of power reserve and exhibits all the hallmarks of Lange’s high-end movement finishing – think striping, blued screws, chaton-set jewels, black polishing, bevelling, and a hand-engraved balance cock. A new Lange 1 would go for much more, but, assuming this lands close to the estimate, you stand to get effectively the same watch but for much less.

Estimate: CHF 12,000 – 18,000