May 23, 2024

Christie’s is one of the most well known and established auction houses in the world, having been founded in 1766. Their upcoming sale features some stunning lots. Of especial interest, to me, is the Rolex Afternoon, which will be a monothematic sale of some very important Rolex watches.

I had a brief catch up recently with Eric Wind, Vice President and Senior Specialist of the Watches department and he was really upbeat about both sessions of the sale. He told me, “We are very excited about the upcoming auction and the diversity of pieces in our catalogue.

“In our Rolex-only afternoon session, we have everything from amazing early Rolex chronographs, such as the 3525 in steel with salmon dial to rare modern Daytonas. For our morning session, we have a wide array of accessible vintage chronographs, exceptional pocket watches, and a few outstanding Heuer and Universal chronographs”. Personally speaking, I can’t wait!

Mr. and Mrs. Rindt — A Chrono Pair (Lots 28 & 29)

I thought I’d start by looking at a pair of watches, each linked to one half of 1960s power couple Jochen and Nina Rindt. Jochen Rindt was a racing driver (tragically killed in 1970), who married Nina Lincoln in 1967. Both of the Rindts wore chronograph wristwatches; Jochen a Heuer Autavia and Nina a Universal Compax. In the same manner that the exotic dial Rolex Daytona was nicknamed the Paul Newman, due to the film star’s wearing of said watch, so too have collectors named particular variants of Heuer and Universal chronos after the Rindts.

Lot 28 is a 1966 Universal Geneve Compax chrono, reference 885103/01 in very beautiful condition. The original red stopwatch hand is still present and the watch features a rare bezel variant. The regular, so-called, ‘Nina Rindt’ model features a white dial, with black sub-dials. This inverse version of the dial, with large applied U on the dial, has been referred to as the ‘Evil Nina’. Evil or not, it’s a great watch.

Lot 29 is a Heuer Autavia reference 2446 dating to 1965. Jochen Rindt was often seen wearing this model, which led to its now famous nickname. Like lot 28, it has an inverse panda dial and a bi-directional 12-hour bezel. The watch is in stunning condition and the lume in the hour and minute hands has taken on a nice patina that matches the lume dots at the end of the applied hour markers. A really cool vintage chrono!

Universal Geneve

Heuer Autavia

Jochen and Nina Rindt

The ‘Stellar’ Dressier Dress Explorer (Lot 175)

I wrote about the 6088, in the Phillips sale, in my last auction piece. The 1950s Ovettone big bubbleback watches are enjoying a surge of interest from dealers and collectors alike. Lot 175 is a reference 6098, which is a 36mm dress-Explorer watch.

These 6098s (and 6298s) have been given this nickname because on the 1953 Everest expedition. Hilary et al wore stainless steel reference 6098 Explorer prototype watches. The present lot is an 18kt gold version that houses an exquisite ‘hobnail’ waffle dial in stunning original condition.

The icing on the (already epic) cake is that the hour makers are star shaped. The overall effect is fantastic with very clean and original lume throughout. For a genuine Ovettone obsessive like me, this watch is something special. I’m sure it’ll do amazingly on the day.

The ‘Stellar’ Dressier Dress Explorer

John and Pucci’s Monoblocco (Lot 193)

With vintage Rolex, good provenance can have a significant impact on the desirability of a piece. Lot 193 has a provenance double-whammy in the form of two of the vintage Rolex world’s most renowned experts: John Goldberger and Pucci Papaleo.

Owned by the latter and featured by the former in his 100 Superlative Rolex Watches this watch couldn’t have a better pedigree. These watches are known by their Italian term monoblocco, due to the fact that the entire midcase (including bezel and lugs) is manufactured from a single piece of steel. This chrono is in exceptional condition, with perfectly crisp engravings on the outer caseback and razor sharp case edges. The dial has a lovely salmon hue, which is punctuated with a rich blue telemeter scale and blued steel hands. This is a lot to watch!

John and Pucci’s Monoblocco

John and Pucci’s Monoblocco

Rolling Stones (Lots 231-243)

I mentioned in my last auction round up that sapphire Daytonas were heating up. Since then, the long-anticipated book by Pucci Papaleo has been announced for an Autumn release. Dedicated to the special and rare dials on automatic Daytonas, the book and an imminent exhibition will celebrate these pieces.

I anticipate that 2017 will be the year of the automatic Daytona. Prices of the modified Zenith movement Daytona have significantly risen and there is a growing interest in the stone and gem set watches from both the Zenith and Rolex calibre 4130-powered watches (series 165xx and 1165xx respectively).

Christies have anticipated this and have dedicated a run of sixteen lots of automatic Daytonas (as well a number of stunning and rare manual wind Daytonas before them), thirteen of which have rare stone dials with a number set with diamonds.

The first four (Lots 231 to 234) are a full set of white gold Daytonas reference 116519; the iconic Daytona Beaches. All four watches are on leather straps that match the eye-catching dial colours of green, yellow, blue and pink. The blue and green dials are made from chrysoprase and the pink and yellow from mother of pearl.

The Blue Beach

The Pink Beach

The Yellow Beach

The Green Beach

Individually they are very cool summer watches and collectively they are a veritable group rainbow. There are also two 116519s each with variations of the blue sodalite stone dials; one with white gold Arabic numerals for hour makers and one with diamond dot hour markers.

The finale of the run is a very rare reference 116599SA — the king of bling! There is very little surface space that isn’t covered with a gem of some sort. The dial is pave set with diamonds as are the fixed ‘end pieces’, where the strap attaches to the lugs. Additionally, the hour markers are set with beautiful sapphires and the bezel is set with thirty-six baguette cut sapphires. The guide price is CHF100,000 – 150,000 but, I know, this one-of-five known examples piece will smash its upper estimate.

Diamond Indexes Sodalite Underline Daytona

Arabic Numerals Sodalite Daytona

Sapphire & Diamond

The Prototype White Gold Sub (Lot 271)

One of the headline pieces in this sale is a white gold sub reference 1680 with a unique bezel and a blue nipple dial. Reputedly one of only two known examples, these watches were never taken to production or sold; as supported by a lack of serial number engraving.

The term prototype is used a lot, but it would appear that this watch is a genuine experimental piece manufactured by Rolex. One of my favourite aspects of the watch is the bi-directional bezel ring that only has knurling in two small sections of the circumference.

The insert is also white gold with milled detail and the ten-minute markers in relief. The watch is presented on a white gold President bracelet with bark finished centre links, which gives the watch an intriguing fusion of sports and dress appearance. The performance of prototype pieces is very difficult to predict. However, the fact that it could be one of the rarest Submariners ever offered at auction would indicate that this lot could run and achieve an impressive result.

Download the complete auction catalog here.

The Prototype White Gold Sub

Auction Details

Geneva, Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Quai des Bergues 33

15 May, 10am (Lots 1 – 166)

15 May, 3pm (Lots 167 – 282)