A Vintage Selection from Phillips’ Hong Kong Watch Auction
The Hong Kong Watch Auction: Four happens at the end of the month, with 356 lots over two sessions that includes the collection of uber-retailer Laurent Picciotto of Chronopassion in Paris (which we covered in-depth here).
The rest of the auction is a diversity that encompasses everything from the weirdly pricey De Beers diamond hour glass that’s de rigueur in any Hong Kong watch auction to major collectibles like a Heuer Autavia “First Execution” and a Rolex Sea-Dweller “Golden Khanjar.
The full catalogue is online, but here’s a look at a dozen vintage highlights from the catalogue, including fashionable Heuer Autavias and less known but not less compelling Longines.
Lot 814 – Heuer Autavia ref. 2446 “Second Execution”
The sale includes three examples of early Autavia chronographs, a genre that has enjoyed a remarkable rise in interest and valuations in the last two years (with perhaps room to go with the upcoming Heuer thematic sale at year’s end). The first of the trio is an Autavia ref. 2446 “Second Execution” in worn but honest condition, a state that will appeal to collectors who want something original.
Smaller sub-dials, applied baton numerals and luminous dots on the dial are several features that distinguish this from the considerably more expensive “First Execution”.
Notably it’s on a vintage Tropic Sport rubber strap that complements the look well (though strictly speaking it’s a dive watch strap). This is estimated at HK$160,000 to HK$240,000, or US$20,000 to US$30,000.
Lot 821 – Heuer Autavia ref. 2446 “Third Execution”
Nicknamed the “Rindt”, after 1960s German Formula 1 driver Jochen Rindt whose brief career ended in a track crash, the Autavia ref. 2446 “Third Execution” is circa 1966 that’s stamped “EWD” on the movement bridge, indicating it was exported to the United States.
Notably it has a 60-minute bezel, the same version Rindt wore (and making it specifically a ref. 2446M).
Like the Autavia above, this shows plenty of wear but remains original. The estimate is HK$160,000 to HK$250,000, or US$20,000 to US$32,000.
Lot 824 – Heuer Autavia ref. 3646 “First Execution with Second Execution Hands”
The lengthy nickname for this surprisingly valuable watch – its value has jumped over 20-fold in five years – is due to the fact that it’s an early first model Autavia dating to 1963 (the reference was introduced in 1962), but with hour and minute hands more commonly associated with the “Second Execution”.
The first execution dial is distinguished by its large sub-dials – hence the occasional nickname “Big Subs” – one of which is 30-minute counter, as well as baton hour markers in radium applied directly on the dial.
According to widely held belief, the first run of “First Execution” watches had “First Execution” hands that were entirely painted with radium. The second production run of the model had identically shaped hands but with luminous fill in the centre framed by a metal border.
This carries an estimate of HK$650,000 to HK$850,000, or US$83,000 to US$110,000.
Lot 826 – Longines Nautilus Skin Diver ref. 6921-1
From the same period as the Longines ref. 7042 diver (which has been remade as the modern day Longines Legend Diver), the Nautilus Skin Diver ref. 6921-1 shares many of the same design characteristics, though is not as widely known, presumably because no reissue has been produced.
The Nautilus Skin Diver is a prime example of a 1950s dive watch with a design typical of the era, having a flat and largish case, along with a rotating Bakelite bezel. And the case is a Compressor made by Ervin Piquerez SA (EPSA), the case manufacturer responsible for many water-resistant cases of the period. This example has the original crown with the crosshatch top characteristic of the Compressor.
Being 60 years old, the watch shows signs of age, but is appealingly well preserved and original. Not only is the crown original, so is the bracelet with a diver extension clasp. And it’s accompanied by the original leaflets proclaiming the merits of the Nautilus Skin Diver. The bezel, however, is strikingly crisp, which indicates it might be a later replacement.
The estimate is HK$46,000 to HK$62,000, or US$6000 to US$8000.
Lot 840 – Longines Lindbergh Hour Angle
A historically interesting and tangible unusual wristwatch in brilliant condition, this is a prime example of the wristwatch designed by Charles Lindbergh for navigation in the air. This watch dates to 1937 and interestingly was sold to the American consulate in Bern, Switzerland, in 1941.
It’s just over 47.5mm in diameter, with a beautifully preserved enamel dial and enamelled markings on the bezel. Both the case and cuvette (the inner lid under the outer hinged back) are identically numbered as they should be.
Unsurprisingly for a watch this size, it’s powered by the calibre 18.69N, a lever-set pocket watch movement. A lever needs to be engaged by pressing the tiny button below the crown, in order to set the time. Additionally it has been modified to have a centre seconds, with the indirect seconds train visible on the back.
The watch is accompanied by a intriguing paraphernalia, a postcard and an actual newspaper from 1927 bearing the headline announcing Lindbergh’s successful transatlantic flight. This is estimated at HK$270,000 to HK$400,000, or US$34,000 to US$50,000, which is not so much for a sharply maintained, historically important wristwatch – if only it had a Formula 1 connection and catchier nickname.
Lot 841 – Breguet “sector dial” chronograph in yellow gold
This Breguet was produced in 1938, just a few years after the brand debuted it first ever chronograph wristwatch in 1935, making it one of the earliest Breguet chronographs.
The case is yellow gold and 33.5mm in diameter, with a silvered sector dial in a classic style typical of the early chronographs. It’s indiscernible at a distance but the lettering on the dial is actually two-tone: black for the time display and dark blue for the chronograph tachymetre.
Also typical of the era are the olive-shaped pushers and onion crown, but the finest detail is only visible at an angle – the fluting on the case flanks that extends to the tips of the lugs is an unusual feature. Though uncommon on ordinary wristwatches, the “coin edge” case is a trademark of Breguet, having first being found on its pocket watches and now standard on its modern day wristwatches.
And another Breguet trademark that’s also found on its contemporary watches is the prominent serial number on the dial, “4094”, which is repeated also on the case and movement.
This is estimate at HK$240,000 to HK$400,000, or US$30,000 to US$50,000.
Lot 1102 – Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 “Gilt Underline PCG”
Dating to 1963, this is an uncommon variant of the Rolex GMT-Master, explaining the triple-barrelled nickname. Finished in a glossy black lacquer with gold-tone printing (hence “gilt”), the dial also has a small horizontal stroke at six o’clock, which is the titular “underline”.
And “PCG” is short for pointed crown guards, a reference to the angular crown guards that were later replaced by the rounded form still seen today on Rolex sports watches.
Coming from the collection of a prominent and respected Rolex collector, the watch is fitted to a period correct rivet Oyster bracelet and is in prime, original condition with a well defined case and exemplary dial.
Notably, the case back is engraved “Donald S. Pressman”, along with his city and a date, presumably referring to the late Donald S. Pressman of Seattle who was in the navy and then a textile salesman.
This has an estimate of HK$160,000 to HK$240,000, or US$$20,000 to US$30,000.
Lot 1105 – Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 “Golden Khanjar”
Known as one of the biggest collectors of clocks and watches today, the Sultan of Oman has made a habit of gifting wristwatches. Most notably he gave Rolex Sea-Dweller watches like this one to the British SAS troops who helped him depose his father.
Omani watches are usually emblazoned the national emblem of the Sultanate, which consists of a traditional Omani dagger known as the khanjar over two crossed swords. The khanjar is found on all manner of timepieces, often Rolex watches, but this Sea-Dweller is especially rare, with only a handful known. Slightly more common is the Sea-Dweller with the red Omani emblem from the same period.
Printed in gold on the dial at six o’clock, the “Golden Khanjar” takes the place of the usual four lines of lettering. The authenticity of this watch vouched for in a 1999 letter from Rolex Geneva that accompanies it. The letter also says the watch was produced in 1977 and delivered to Khimji Ramdas, the Rolex retailer in Oman till this day.
Interestingly, this watch also comes with the past owner’s purchase invoice showing a price of £5900 back in 1999. Now it’s estimated at HK$2.2m to HK$4.0m, or US$280,000 to US$500,000.
Lot 1108 – Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6265 “Tropical”
This is a well maintained and original example of the Rolex Daytona ref. 6265. It is also one that’s relatively early, dating to 1971 and stamped “6262” on the inside of the case back, a characteristic of the earlier specimens.
But what really gives it extra allure in the eyes of vintage watch fanatics are the chronograph registers, all of which have turned to a milk chocolate brown over time. They were originally black when the watch left the factory in 1971, but over time UV rays have caused the pigments to deteriorate, fading the colour to brown.
This is estimated at HK$460,000 to HK$640,000, or US$58,000 to US$82,000.
Lot 1111 – Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6263 “Paul Newman Panda”
A particularly rare, early variant of the world’s most popular vintage sports watch. This “Paul Newman Panda” has an early “Mark 1.5” dial featuring different fonts for the lettering at 12 o’clock. Notably “Oyster Cosmograph” is in sans-serif font.
Furthermore it has the original “Mark 1” pushers, as well as being in fine condition inside and out. The case is well defined and substantial, while the dial is clean and evenly coloured.
The estimate is HK$1.5m to HK$2.5m, or US$190,000 to US$320,000.
Lot 1112 – Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 6265 in yellow gold
Fitted to a rare and unusual woven 18k gold bracelet instead of the common Oyster bracelet, this Daytona is enhanced by the uncommon typography on the dial. Nicknamed “Oyster Split”, this has an obvious gap between the twin lines of text at 12 o’clock, as well as “Oyster” in a noticeably smaller font – details that make vintage Rolex watches special.
While not unique, the bracelet is rare and adds substantially to the look and feel of the watch. But like all such bracelets, this has a fixed length (though some small adjustment can be done at the clasp), meaning lengthening it is impossible and shortening it requires painful cutting.
This is estimated at HK$800,000 to HK$1.2m, or US$100,000 to US$150,000.
Preview and auction details
The HKWA4 preview takes place in Geneva from May 11 to 14, and then Taipei from May 20 to 21.
The auction will happen on May 30 at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. The full catalogue is available here.
This was brought to you by Phillips.