As you all know, there are a number of highlights throughout the year for people in the watch space (us included). It will not surprise you to hear that these are: Salon Internationale de Haute Horologie Geneve (SIHH), Baselworld, anytime Hodinkee release a Talking Watches, and the few times a year where Christies, Phillips and Bonhams to name a few, put on watch auctions. Now, I am sure most of you will be familiar with this practice. Some of the most famous bits of watch news EVER have come out of watch auctions, and do normally involve the name Aurel Bacs. In case you have been living under a rock for the past five years and have no idea what I am talking about, below I am going to go into a little bit of detail about three of probably the most favourite watch auctions of all time. I am then going to give you my top five picks from the recent set of auctions. This one is going to be packed full of photographs and lots of watch porn for you geeks, so enjoy!
Paul Newmans Paul Newman
We are not easing into this by any means. This is the most expensive watch ever sold at auction. Including buyers premium, the hammer fell on this watch at a staggering $17.75,000,000 (£13.9,000,000). Yes, you have read that right... SEVENTEEN MILLION DOLLARS. Some people who do not understand just how cool this watch is will inevitably 'poo-poo' this and say how ridiculous it is, but lets just talk about the watch for a second. To be iconic enough to have a watch reference, a 6239 Panda Daytona no less, nicknamed after you is no mean feat. This watch was purchased in 1968 by Paul's wife, as a gift to him from Tiffany & Co. It was inscribed with 'Drive Carefully, M.E.' and has been probably the most important watch of all time ever since.
The legendary Rolex 6239 Daytona, nicknamed the 'Paul Newman'
The Most Expensive Submariner Ever
There is going to be a recurring theme in this article I must admit... Most of, if not all, of the watches I am going to be talking about are probably going to be the most expensive example of their particular brand. To be honest, when the watches that come up for sale at auction are as rare as they are, they usually fetch pretty high premiums, that is just how it is. This Rolex Submariner is one of the rarest configurations ever seen. Firstly, it has an explorer dial, which is rarely seen on a reference 6538. It then has a meters first depth rating, without units present. Just to add to the rarity it is printed in red instead of white. If you asked any watch geek to make their dream vintage sub, the three qualities I have just mentioned would definitely be three ingredients that would go into the mixture. As if that was not enough, this particular sub is bezel-less. Yes, you have read that right. This one million pound Rolex Submariner isn't even complete?! The watch has come from the family of the original owner and the story is that the owner popped the bezel off years ago when working as a painter because paint would get between the bezel and the crystal and prevent it from rotating. He never put it back on before passing away in 2017 and his son decided to leave the watch this way. How cool is that??
The £1,000,000 Rolex Submariner
Omega Stainless Steel Tourbillion
This is one incredibly rare and under-the-radar watch. This believe it or not is one of the first Tourbillion wristwatches ever made, made all the way back in 1947. Now the tourbillion is not the first complication that springs to mind when thinking about Omega, especially when you consider that this one was made back well before tourbillions were cool or desirable, that alone sets it apart from the rest. The other very cool thing about this watch, and another reason why it a) came to auction in the first place, and b) fetched just over £1,000,000, is this. This watch, and the movement specifically, is one of just twelve. When this went up for auction last year, it fetched CHF 1,428,500 (£1,127,243), which I think is a pretty good deal considering how gorgeous and rare this watch is.
A Stunning vintage Omega, with an even cooler movement...
Right , now that you all have a flavour of the sort of hard hitting and rare watches that come up for auction every year, lets dive into this years catalogues, and talk about my top five watches from the latest round of auctions.
First Watch: Rolex 6062 'Dark Star'
Auction House: Christie's
Estimate: $1,000,000 - $2,000,000
This watch is without a doubt a complete unicorn. This piece has aged in a unique way that will probably never be seen on a watch ever again. Taking away the awesome patina that has affected this case, the watch itself is a bit of a 'hens tooth' anyway. The watch in question is a Rolex 6062 from 1952. This is certainly one of the more obscure and unknown Rolex references. It features an automatic triple calendar with moonphase in a solid (formally) yellow gold case. The coolness does not end here though. This watch is made even rarer by the addition of what is known as a 'Stelline' dial. As you can see in the photos below eight of the twelve hour markers are in fact stars. The reason behind the name is that 'Stelline' in Italian means 'little stars'. Now as I said these watches in their normal configuration are rare enough. It is believed that there are only 670 of these that were produced, with an incredibly small percentage of those made with this unusual dial.
The absolutely insane 'Dark Star' Rolex 6062
Second Watch: Patek Philippe Ref. 5016R
Auction House: Phillips
Now I am going to be honest here and say that whilst the dial on this watch is gorgeous (of course it is its a Patek), this is not the reason why this gorgeous watch has made it into my top five. In order to see why this watch has made the list one has to flip it over... As you can see from the photos below this movement is just pure unapologetic watch porn, and is one of the most stunning examples of movement architecture that I have ever seen. The watch itself is not a Patek that you see often, and there is a good reason for it. Despite having an eighteen year production run, this is one of those watches that you could only purchase if you were a serious Patek collector basically. Across the eighteen production years, a mere two hundred examples were made. This watch is a perpetual calendar with a retrograde date, a hidden tourbillion AND a minute repeater. Now, lets just stop for a second and appreciate the back of this thing....
Now yes I know this is a platinum example, not the gold I am talking about, but I wanted to show off the superb movement architecture and this is the best photo for the job!
Third Watch: Rolex Ref. 6542 GMT-Master With Left-Hand Case
Auction House: Phillips
The GMT Master is one of the most iconic Rolex models of all time. It was released in the 50's, designed for Pan Am pilots who quite obviously would often need to be able to track more than one timezone. They were most made in durable stainless steel cases. However, there were some rare variations on this, such as gold cases. There are also some particular rare models that were made as Left-hand models. This particular watch is not only gold, but also left handed. The location of the engravings for the reference number and the serial number confirm that the watch was not tampered with, and that it was born a lefty, making it an exceptionally rare and original Rolex sports watch. Unfortunately it does not seem to come with its matching gold oyster bracelet, which would have made it approximately a flobedigilian times cooler (roughly), none the less this is an exceptionally rare and awesome watch.
Probably my favourite Rolex GMT model, in regular configuration or this Left-Hand Drive model...
Fourth Watch: Rolex 'Rainbow' Daytona reference 116595RBOW
Auction House: Phillips
Now I knew for a fact that when I chose this watch for this article that it would probably be the most marmite watch we have ever featured in any article to date. Do not worry, as this is why I chose it. Well that and the fact that I have gone from despising it, to in the next few weeks either starting to like it, or starting to hate it less. Which one of those it is I am still yet to decide. Anyhow, as you can probably tell, this is not your average Daytona. Firstly, it is cased in pink gold. It then also comes with Pink Gold Crystal sub-dials, 36 baguette-set sapphires in the bezel, 56 diamonds set into the lugs and case, and coloured sapphire indexes. This watch is not only hideous in a lot of peoples eyes, but also completely ridiculous and superfluous. I am not quite sure if I love it because of its aesthetics, or because it might be the most 'un-Rolexy' Rolex of all time.
Yes I know its gaudy and ridiculous, but is that not its whole charm?!
Fifth Watch: Cartier Tank Mecanique In Platinum
Auction House: Heritage Auctions
Sale Price: $7,500
Cartier Tanks are without a shadow of a doubt my favourite dress watch of all time. In fact they are one of my top five favourite watches of all time. They ooze elegance, class and sophistication. Worn by legends from Muhammed Ali to Andy Warhol, they are pure class. When it comes to vintage models, which I prefer, most of them are yellow gold. Vintage tanks in white metals are especially rare. Cartier did however make a limited amount of Tanks in platinum, the rarest case metal that they come in. This example is a platinum example. This tank is a small size, coming in at 30mm top to bottom and 23.5mm across. Most men would deem this too small, and would probably say that this is in fact much more suited to a womens wrist. Whether you think this the case or not, I would wear this in a heartbeat. The dial, which I assume was white at the time of manufacture, has turned a lovely cream colour; something that is synonymous with vintage tanks, and has added a massive amount of character to this particular watch. Some of you will be sitting there wondering how it can be proven as to whether this watch is actually a platinum example or not. To do this you need to turn the watch over and look at the case back. Here you will find a deep 'Plantine' engraving, with accompanying hallmarks. The case on this watch is still immaculate, which to me screams unpolished, which is an added bonus. As if all this stunning condition and originality isn't enough, it also comes with the original white gold deployant clasp, which is the cherry on the cake. Due to this watch not being either a rare Daytona, or a rare Speedmaster, it is a bit of a sleeper of this run of auctions. Despite this, I think it is one of the best picks from the auctions, and a cracking deal at £5,891.
Without a doubt one of the most classic and recognisable watches of all time...
Well, I think I can given those of you who weren't aware of the brilliance of auctions a pretty good introduction, and for those of you who are aware of the addiction of watching (pun intended) these rare and awesome watches go under the hammer, hopefully this gives you a flavour of five of the coolest examples that some collectors have been lucky enough to pick up.
Editor & Co Founder