“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Christie’s Rare Watches – Rolex pieces made for The Sultan of Oman

Christie’s is presenting a number of highly sought-after watches and jewelleries during the 2023 Spring sale. Along with an event dedicated to the Art of F.P. Journe on 12 May, the Rare Watches auction returns the next day with 159 exciting lots.

UPDATE – 15 May: The ‘Rare Watches’ auction was sold 98% by lot and achieved CHF26,513,004. The Rolex section was highlighted by lot 31 (please see below) a Daytona chronograph watch with diamond-set bezel and a diamond and sapphire set dial and bracelet, ref 6269, made in circa 1985 for the Sultanate of Oman, sold for CHF1,134,000. The further 6 vintage and modern pieces once ordered by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman at Rolex, showcasing either the Khanjar emblem or the signature of the Sultan sold 100%.

Beyond the thematic auctions, Christie’s Rare Watches has been a regular sale for meticulously curated timepieces with little or no connection. The backbone of this spring’s edition are pieces from the most sought-after big brands: Rolex and Patek Philippe, making up almost two-thirds of the batch. They are accompanied by creations of other long-standing manufactures such as Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breguet, A. Lange & Söhne, Girard-Perregaux and IWC, as well as companies of the recent decades including Richard Mille, De Bethune or Laurent Ferrier to name a few.

Although the selection does not gravitate around a certain theme, some pieces are very much related to each other. Probably the most remarkable sub-selection is a 7-piece Rolex lineup especially made for Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the former Sultan of Oman. As our site was born in the Middle East, we came across these kind of bespoke pieces both in real life and at auction previews (like this Rolex Day-Date with Omani Khanjar or the Audemars Piguet Ref. 5402 ST Royal Oak A-Series ‘Oman’).

Three of the seven timepieces of the present sale have been part of the ‘Daytona Lesson One’ auction held by Christie’s ten years ago in Geneva. 

LOT 25 – the steel Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116520 from 2012 with a black dial bears the Khanjar emblem on the case back. If it wasn’t rare enough, the timepiece is in mint condition (the factory protective stickers are still on the back) which make it a very desirable combination. Inside is Rolex’s first in-house movement, the Daytona Cal. 4130, debuted in 2000 that aimed to replace the Zenith-based Cal. 4030 with a simpler and more reliable structure. In 2013, this piece was estimated between CHF 15,000 – 30,000 and sold for CHF 106,250. The current estimate is between CHF 40,000 – 60,000.

LOT 26 – is the similarly good condition brother of the previous piece with a white dial. Both come with the tag, seal, product literature, Rolex original fitted green presentation box and outer packaging with the national emblem of the Sultanate of Oman. The Rolex International Guarantee card for both is dated 1 April 2012, sold by the Omani retailer Khimji Ramdas. It is interesting that both timepieces were auctioned 1.5 years after His Majesty had acquired them. Estimated at the same level as the previous in 2013, it achieved CHF 100,000. Given the rarity, the condition and the increased demand for Daytonas in the past ten years, it is highly likely that both will go well over the current estimate of CHF 40,000 – 60,000.

LOT 29 – the Daytona Ref. 6263 was one of the highlights of the auction in 2013 and will be the same in 2023 too. Based on the hand-wound Valjoux 727 calibre, the Ref. 6263 was manufactured between 1971 and 1987 and is one of the most sought-after Daytonas today. It was the descendant of the Ref. 6340, which introduced the screw-down pushers in the Daytona family. The increased water resistance is symbolised by the Oyster inscription that appears also on the present lot. Interestingly, in order to give more emphasis to His Majesty’s red signature just above the centre of the dial, the brand name as well as the ‘Oyster’ label got moved closer to the crown symbol at 12 o’clock, while the Cosmograph label was placed just above the chronograph hours counter. Timepieces with His Majesty’s signature are rarer than those with the Khanjar symbol as these were given to recipients with extraordinary appreciation. Before the Omani retailer Khimji received the rights to sell Rolexes in the seventies, Sultan Qaboos sourced the timepieces from London-based retailer Asprey, engraved in the case back. The present lot was estimated between CHF 300,000 – 600,000 and sold for CHF 785,000 in 2013. This spring it is expected to reach between CHF 600,000 -1,200,000.

LOT 27 – is another Daytona Ref. 6263 from 1974 and purchased from Asprey, similarly to the previous lot. The satiné silver dial is in pristine condition and while the bezel remained the original black, the chronograph registers turned from black to dark chocolate brown due to the reaction between the dial coating and external interactive factors such as humidity and sunlight. Interestingly, although the watch was made for His Majesty, neither the beautiful tropical dial nor the case back have any Khanjar symbol or signature. The piece is estimated at CHF 100,000 – 200,000.

LOT 30 – only the Cosmograph label remained and the rest of the space had been freed up for the Khanjar symbol on this golden Ref. 6265, delivered to His Majesty’s court by Asprey in 1978. Probably never worn, the condition of this timepiece is superb. Crisp details everywhere, even the original reference sticker is on the case back. Although the main London boutique of Asprey was the key supplier of Sultan Qaboos, this unit was ordered and delivered through Asprey’s Geneva boutique they had opened in the second half of the 70s. The timepiece is accompanied by two golden Caran d’Ache pens in the original custom box. 

LOT 31 – the earliest known unit of the last hand-wound Ref. 6269 Daytonas is this richly gem-set piece delivered to Sultan Qaboos in 1985. The 18k gold case just like the last millimetre of this timepiece is in fantastic condition and is adorned with a diamond pavé on the dial and brilliant-cut diamonds around the bezel. 9 sapphires mark the hours, including the one at 12 o’clock where Rolex’s crown usually sits. The sub-dials and the backdrop of the ROLEX and COSMOGRAPH labels are golden. The Daytona ‘Jack of Diamonds’ is one of the two publicly known examples of the Ref. 6269s delivered to the Sultan with the Khanjar on its case back (the other was auctioned by Antiquorum in 2013 for CHF 470,500). Experts estimate this to sell between CHF 800,000 – 1,400,000.

LOT 28 – the Ref. 1665 Sea Dweller is the only non-Daytona among the seven Omani examples offered for sale at this auction, but the second to have the red signature of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos printed on the dial. Similarly to the rest of the timepieces, the dial has been entirely custom-made by Rolex for the buyer. It was manufactured in 1973 and sold by Asprey to the Sultan. According to the auction catalogue, this is one of only about 100 Ref. 1665 Sea Dwellers with either the Khanjar emblem or His Majesty’s signature (rarer), and only roughly a third have survived. The calibre inside is the automatic COSC certified Cal. 1570 produced between 1965 and 1974. The estimated sales price is CHF 200,000 – 300,000.

The auction is held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues on Saturday 13 May 2023 at 11:00.

Photo credits: Christie’s. Loupiosity.com
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