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

The Geneva Watch Auction: Four is coming up in 12-13 November. It is already customary that Phillips Watches showcases the pieces in Hong Kong, London and New York before the sale. We went to Phillips’ London headquarter to experience them.

UPDATE: final sale prices, excluding buyer’s premium:
 

  • Lot 38. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 – 1943, steel:    CHF 9,600,000
  • Lot 30. Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 Tiffany – 1970, steel:    CHF 720,000
  • Lot 11. Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph Excellence Platine Ref. 47120 – 2006, platinum:    CHF 30,000
  • Lot 123. Breguet N° 267 – 1948, steel:    CHF 235,000

 
The huge 7-meter tall windows at the north-western corner of the Berkeley Square scream that art lives within the walls of 30 Berkeley Square. Almost to the day two years ago Phillips inaugurated their new European headquarters in Mayfair. The seven-floor building serves as an office centre and exhibition space with dedicated rooms for auctions, of course.

Once a residential area, Berkeley Square is home to banks and wealth management funds today. It is named after the first Lord Berkeley of Stratton, who was a Royalist commander in the Civil War from 1642–1651. He had built Berkeley House (in a little side street called Hay Hill) in 1660 and sold it to the first Duke of Devonshire in 1696 with a clause in the agreement to protect the northern view of the house with an open south-north corridor – the square. The east and west sides were developed between 1738 and 1745, and thanks to an Act of Parliament in 1766 the “unkempt” middle area received “a grass plot in the middle, a gravel walk round, and iron palisades” one year later. The plane trees of the square are from 1789. The north side, where Phillips is located today, was built in the early 19th and 20th centuries.

The opening of the building coincided with the announcement of Phillips’ new watch department created in collaboration with Bacs & Russo. Since then, vintage timepiece auctions have been organized twice a year (in spring and autumn), hosted in the cradle of watchmaking: Geneva, and the gate of Asia: Hong Kong. Before each event, Phillips travels the majority of the collection to three key market hubs, Hong Kong, London and New York in order to introduce them to possible bidders and impassioned connoisseurs. This May we saw the pieces of the Geneva Watch Auction: Three and the Start. Stop. Reset. steel chronograph sale.

Between 22-24 October another set of vintage wonders appeared at 30 Berkeley Square, getting ready for the big days: Geneva Watch Auction: Four will be held on 12-13 November. The 28th November in Hong Kong will be all about Rolex Milestones: 38 Legendary Watches That Shaped History, followed by The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Three on the 29th.

Let us pick few from the GWA4 that made our wheels turn. The first part is dedicated to chronographs, while pieces in the second batch excel in silent and simple perfection.

 

Lot 38. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 – 1943, steel

Probably the most awaited piece among not only the 196 lots of GWA4, but multiple years back, is this steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518. The importance of the timepiece comes from mutually reinforcing factors:

1518 is Patek Philippe’s (and the world’s) first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch produced in a series. Only 281 were created over the course of a bit more than a decade (between 1941 and 1954), encased in various metals: yellow gold, pink gold and steel. The 1518 established the new class of perpetual chronos and paved the road for later references, such as the 2499 (a yellow gold 1956 model sold for CHF 1,685,000 this May), 3970, 5970 and the 5270 introduced in 2011.

The fact that only 4 steel 1518 pieces were ever manufactured further increases the value. What’s more, Patek Philippe has never produced another steel perpetual calendar chronograph since. The inner case back is stamped with “1” stating that this one in front of me was the first in the steel series.

This will be its first appearance at an auction. It was made in 1943, delivered to a gentleman, Joseph Lang in Budapest in February 1944 together with the twin brother of the timepiece. The two examples resurfaced in the mid-1990s in Hungary.

In spite of the years and the turbulent times, the watch survived in a remarkable condition. The lines are sharp and the original brushing is wonderfully preserved. The dial is intact with crisp scales.

Aurel Bacs is talking about this piece and the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 Trilogy here.

phillipsgva4_265_1
Lot 38. Patek Philippe Ref.1518 - 1943, steel

 

Lot 30. Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 Tiffany – 1970, steel

Rolexes from all ages and styles represent themselves in decent numbers at the GWA4. Some of them do not only bear the Rolex inscription but also Tiffany.

Charles Lewis Tiffany together with John B. Young opened the Tiffany stationary shop in 1837 in New York. Soon they started selling other goods, including watches. In 1854 they became the exclusive retailers of Patek Philippe and in 1867 Tiffany won the grand prize for silver craftsmanship in Paris. By the late 19th century their influence was unquestionable to the extent that they were allowed to place their marks on prestigious brands’ dials.

The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 in lot 30 also bears the Tiffany & CO mark. The dial is called the Paul Newman Oyster “Panda”, which refers to the white dial and the contrasting black sub-dials with the art-deco fonts and squares. Together with the Tiffany marker this combination is said to be one of the rarest. The piece has never been for auction.

Back in the seventies Paul Newman fell in love with the Rolex Daytona and started to wear those pieces, which was not particularly a successful product of the brand at the time. The manual early Cosmographs reached an international audience when worn by him in his 1969 film ‘Winning’. When in 1995 at the age of 70, he achieved the IMSA GTS-1 class victory at the Rolex 24 in Daytona with the team (co-driving the No. 70 Ford Mustang), his name was forever fused with the model. One of my favourite images of Paul Newman is when he can be seen with the “Flying Scot”, the other Rolex icon Sir Jackie Stewart – the latter happens to be wearing a Rolex GMT-Master on his wrist. By the way, lot 162 in GWA4 will be a Ref. 1675 GMT-Master that Sir Jackie Stewart gave to his constructor Derek Gardner.

phillipsgva4_090_1
Lot 30. Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 Tiffany - 1970, steel

 

Lot 11. Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph Excellence Platine Ref. 47120 – 2006, platinum

Vacheron Constantin launched their Collection Excellence Platine limited series with the following timepiece in 2006. Members of this family are made of platinum entirely – even the dial is sand-blasted platinum. The Ref. 47120 Malte Chronograph model itself appeared in 2004 with a mixed reception when it replaced the Chronograph Historique. It was in production until 2009 and the present platinum version was only made in a 75-piece batch. The timepiece is just stunning in this metal and the sand-blasting technique makes the face very crisp and powerful. It is equally breath-taking from the back, having the manual calibre 1141 visible through the sapphire crystal.

phillipsgva4_230_1
Lot 11. Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph Excellence Platine Ref. 47120 – 2006, platinum

 

Lot 123. Breguet N° 267 – 1948, steel

The next watch has probably the most charming dial of all. The chronograph, which is blessed also with calendar and moon-phase functions, shines in the French tricolour. The tachymeter scale is bright blue, the night skies on the moon-phase indicator is several shades darker. The day, date and month indicators of the calendar are red, similarly to the date pointer hand which has a decent arrow at its tip. The steel case, which makes it rather rare among the Breguets of the age, encloses a Valjoux 88 manual calibre.

phillipsgva4_183_1
Lot 123. Breguet N° 267 – 1948, steel

 

The Geneva Watch Auction: Four lines up other astonishing, yet less complex models. Come back and check out our next chapter with our subjective selection.

 

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