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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

In October we browsed through the timepieces of the Geneva Watch Auction: TWO of Phillips Watches. The auction – in association with Bacs & Russo – realised CHF 27,844,575.

On 1st December the new Hong Kong department will present the first Hong Kong sale, at the Four Seasons Hotel with a wide range of vintage and modern timepieces and brands, including Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet or Cartier. Sam Hines, the International Head of Watches leads the global team of Watch Specialists at Phillips’ recently opened Asian Headquarters in the Landmark Building in Hong Kong.

“We are thrilled to bring a new type of sale to Hong Kong, with an emphasis on quality, not quantity. With a total estimate of USD 13.5 million, the sale will feature a smaller number of lots, but will have exceptional quality. Hong Kong is a very important watch auction centre, with a long collecting history and many of the world’s most important collectors. We will offer a wide variety of watches, including some historical antiques never been offered at auction in Asia.” – Sam Hines said. We bet many aficionados are following the new style of watch auctions with growing interest.

Sam Hines gave an overview of the upcoming events and highlights

Special Patek Philippe lots

Two important highlights of the auction are Patek Philippe timepieces. One is a white gold Patek Philippe (Ref. 3450) perpetual calendar with moon phases and with ivory colour dial in a beautiful condition, from 1985. It has a leap year indication at 4 o’clock, with Roman numerals, typical of the 3450 reference (244 examples were created with this reference). But most of the 3450 were made in yellow gold, making this version really precious.

Patek Philippe Ref. 3450, perpetual calendar with moon phases, 1985

The other is the Lot 315, an extremely rare and historically important Patek Philippe stainless steel (the only known stainless steel tourbillon in private hands) openface pocket watch with one minute tourbillon regulator. The piece was awarded the first prize at the Geneva Astronomical Observatory for the timing contest on February 3, 1931. (In the past – until the end of the 1960s – the Geneva Observatory participated in rating Swiss timepiece movements for accuracy. These contests were important events and prestigious results for the manufactures.)

Patek Philippe stainless steel pocket watch, 1924


Interesting Rolex lots

A wide range of Rolex timepieces are included in the auction, especially specimen with interesting dials. Some pieces with a wooden dial from the 80s or colourful hardstone dials (such as lapis lazuli, onyx, green Jasper, malachite, red agate) – mainly from the 70s. The latter collection was originally designed for the Middle Eastern market, but grew in popularity all over the world.

The Day-Date has seen an extraordinary variety of dials, watch cases and bracelets. One of these examples are the Stella dials, produced for a short period during the 1970s. The colours are diverse; oxblood red, turquoise, blue, green or light mint green. These dials are made with a multi-layered lacquer coat, to give the impression of porcelain with a certain translucency. Sometimes these watches come with matching leather strap to complete the look.

As it is common with Rolex watches, many stories circulate to find out the origins of a “Rolex-legend”. This is the case with the name “Stella dial”. Some say it comes from the Latin word for star (reflecting/echoing the effect of the dial). Others thought that the name is inspired by the artist Frank Stella, an American painter and printmaker (born in 1936), well known for his minimalist and abstract works. He had a major impact on the use of vibrant colours on paintings.
Rolex didn’t actually call these Stella dials but the guesses are still interesting, and the watches are particularly sought-after among collectors.

Two beautiful examples of Stella at the auction are Lots 163 and 166. Lot 163 is from 1974 and has a gorgeous blue dial. The Day-Date with the reference 1811 is very rare, it has interesting finishing on the bezel and on the centre links of the bracelet. The book of Pucci Papaleo (Day-Date, the Presidential Rolex) dedicates pages to a similar blue Stella.

Rolex Day-Date, blue Stella dial

The reference 1806 was introduced in 1959, Lot 166 is from 1969. The bracelet, the bezel and some parts of the case are decorated with a “linen-textured” pattern. The dial of the given watch is pistachio.

Rolex Day-Date, pistachio Stella dial

Some Stellas were also among the top lots at Phillips “Glamorous Day-Date” auction in May, such as a heavy platinum version with burgundy “Stella” dial (sold for CHF 305,000) or yellow gold and diamonds calendar yellow lacquered “Stella” dial (sold for CHF 275,000).


Pocket watch

Pocket watches are very interesting lots at auction, I would say they require special taste and knowledge. Lot 318 is a pink gold pocket watch from 1810, made for the Chinese market. The movement and the exterior of the watch are preserved in excellent condition. The timepiece is decorated with enamel and miniature painting, depicting an angel figure with a small harp. The little masterpiece is surrounded by a scalloped, and pearl set gold case.

Swiss gold, enamel and pearl, quarter repeating watch with sculpted case


Photo credits: Phillips Watches, Loupiosity.com.
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