Oh no, we couldn’t possibly have missed this one. Here are our top picks for the upcoming Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI!
Despite the pandemic, the Phillips team has managed to put together a very diverse, varied and exciting catalogue, which, thankfully, will take place in the legendary hall in La Réserve hotel in Geneva between the 27th and 28th of June 2020. If you’re even the slightest bit unsure as to how auctions actually work, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Have a look at our comprehensive guide to watch auctions here. Otherwise, let’s dive right into our top lots. Happy reading!
Cartier Tank Asymmetrique – Lot 18
Many of you fully expected me to pick this one, but I can’t help it!
It made a huge comeback this year, and we talked all about it (more in depth) in this article here. But I’m still going to give a brief comment now, too.
Timeliness. It’s the ability of doing the right thing at the right time, and it is for this exact reason why it gets my pick. We (IWS) have talked about the Cartier Tank Asymmertrique, just as Roni Madhvani, Auro Montanari and the whole watch world have, inevitablity making it one of the biggest releases this year. So, what did the Phillips team do? With their incredible timeliness, they set out to find one of them and list it as one of their early lots to inflate this hype even more. But it’s not just any Cartier Tank Asymmetrique: this one’s from 1996.
(If you’re unfamiliar with this 1996 version and why it’s important, we strongly suggest you check out this article)
Don’t just take my word for it – this is what Phillips had to say about this lot:
“…So desirable and attractive is this model that Cartier launched a new interpretation of the Tank Asymétrique in its 2020 releases.”
They just never seem to miss.
Unfortunately I won’t be in the actual auction hall, but I will make my presence known online! I will definitely be raising my virtual paddle for Lot No. 18, which is estimated to rake in 6,000-9,000 CHF (€5,700-8,500 ; $6,200-9,300 USD)
Patek Philippe 1579 in Platinum – Lot 214
Amongst the many gems in the GWA XI catalogue, I think the biggest talking point is Jean-Claude Biver’s 4 Patek Philippes from his private collection that he has put up for auction. Considered as one of the “fathers” of modern horology and collecting (as well as being a successful brand manager), the four pieces are marked with exceptional rarity, quality and taste.
The one that peaked my interest is the Patek Philippe ref. 1579… but not just an ordinary one.
Out of the (approximately) 450 exemplars produced between 1943 and 1965, only three ref. 1579s were made with a Platinum case, whose properties accentuate the beauty of those jaw-dropping spider lugs.
It’s also worth noting that all 3 platinum exemplars were made by Wenger, one of the most celebrated casemakers of all time, and all in the same year (1946). But it gets better: their serial numbers? Consecutive, although each exemplar has its own slight differences.
Compared to the other two Platinum 1579s, the one above (and below) has a peculiar feature which raises the eyebrows of any well-read Patek Philippe connoisseurs: the colour of the dial’s signature.
The ref. 1579 employed two different dial schemes, whereby the earlier versions had enamelled indices, and later ones had applied ones in case-matching material.
Normally, the varnish was black, but this 1579 up for auction (part of the earlier series) has a unique blue enamel colour-scheme.
This feature is unprecedented, further underlining the prestige of this lot, making it a once in a lifetime (or ever) opportunity to make one of the most important and peculiar Patek Philippe chronographs yours.
Being a top lot, it certainly won’t fail to fetch a top price: Phillips has placed their estimate for this piece between 800,000-1,600,000 CHF ( €752,000-1,500,000 ; $824,000-1,650,000 USD)
Editor and Writer
Rolex Day-Date Ref. 18039B “Tridor” – Lot 166
As with many aspects in watch collecting, there is almost too much choice. So, looking through the Phillips catalogue, I needed something that would stand out from the crowd.
Normally, this would mean seeking out “weird” or, as some would put it, downright “ugly” pieces. Instead, I have a liking for these kinds of watches; ones whose market shortcomings actually enhance their character. If you know me and/or you’ve read any of my articles, you understand exactly what I’m talking about.
I was already familiar with Rolex’s Tridor bracelet: one of the strangest, most peculiar and rarest bracelet they made. First produced in the 1980s as a way to flex their technological and manufacturing muscles, the Rolex Tridor’s links are identical to those of a President bracelet, but with the central link made up of all three types of gold: yellow, white and rose!
As if that wasn’t enough, this model flaunts one of the qualities of a wristwatch that I hold in the highest regard: a wood briar dial. Rich with texture, all sorts of shades and depth, there are no two “truly identical” pieces in the world, because of the naturally occurring resources. Also, since it’s a Phillips watch, the conditions are impeccable.
You know what? This Rolex reminds me of the luxurious interior of a 1980s Jaguar. Personally, I would wear it over the cuff of my shirt, zooming towards Cortina in a sports car equipped with a car-phone…every Yuppie’s dream!
Traduttore e Autore
IWC ref. 347 “Caravelle” Cloisonné – Lot 58
It’s no secret: if there are two features that I absolutely adore on watches, they’re a full yellow gold case (and bracelet), and enamel dials (hard stone ones, too – like the Datejust/Day-Date with a Lapis Lazuli dial… oh my Lord). And, well, this has both!
If I’m completely honest, compared to the other members of the IWS Team, I’m definitely the “newbie” to the watch world. In fact, it’s likely that I know the least about horology in the group. I can’t name any Patek references, nor the various iterations of bezel insets for the Submariner, or the meaning of those weird symbols on the inside of a caseback… that’s not really my thing. What I do cherish and love about watches, though, is if there is a story behind it, and their design.
Flicking through the Phillips GWA XI catalogue, this 1950 IWC ref. 347 stood out to me straight away. Immediately, my decision was made: if I were to bid for any watch in this auction, it would be this one. Sure, there’s also an ultra-rare ref. 5513 Submariner with a basically never-before-seen “Explorer” dial in the catalogue, as well as a hyper limited edition “Ultraman” Speedy, heck, even a rose gold Patek Philippe ref. 1518! But when it comes to the design, and more importantly, the character of the piece, this IWC is truly unique.
Nowadays, the vintage watch market is defined by two things: the tool watches (like the Daytona and the Submariner), and the ultra-complications (perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, etc.). However, I feel like enamel dial watches are massively slept on. They represent the mastery, skill and talent of a generation of artists and artisans which, unfortunately, are a dying breed.
This IWC in particular has had the “cloisonné” enamel treatment, and was entirely handmade from start to finish. The enameller draws out the outline of the design in a super fine gold wire, and then proceeds to meticulously fill these borders with successive layers of enamel. After this, it gets put into a kiln, where it undergoes a series of heat and chemical treatments. Depending on the conditions that it was prepared in, as well as for how long it’s cured, it creates these very subtle differences in texture, shading and colour. This means that, because of natural human behaviour (described as “error”, but this is far from the case), there are no two dials which are ever the same. And that, to me, is something incredible.
Just look at the vibrant colours and the expert shading!
As if that wasn’t enough, the watch comes on an original matching yellow gold signed Gay Freres riveted braceltet!
If you’re unfamiliar with this field of horology, this one in particular is like the Pelé of watch bracelets. It’s also, naturally, in prefect condition. It’s Phillips we’re talking about, here.
(To learn more about the history and the world of watch bracelets, have a look at our article here!)
With this watch, you literally have a work of art sitting on your wrist. If that doesn’t fascinate you, I don’t know what will. I wouldn’t be surprised if this watch gets auctioned off for well over its estimated price. (€18,000-37,000)
Translator and Writer
Patek Philippe ref. 2494 – Lot 59
The ref. 2494 is already rare in itself… but with this sort of dial? This is completely unprecedented: it’s the first known enamel-dialled exemplar. In fact, there’s word that this might be a piece-unique, an argument that appears to be reinforced by official Patek Philippe archive documents.
I’ve always loved these types of watches: to the untrained eye, it might appear as “just another blue dialled Patek”… but it is so much more than this. Historically, the Swiss watchmaker didn’t get too involved in enamel dials, as they needed to be entirely handmade and took quite a lot of time and attention. For the most part, they were made as special client requests.
On the caseback, we can find 2 very important engravings/markings: the 2 owls (meaning that it was exported to France); and the “JG”, for Jean Guillermin, one of the most popular distributors for Patek Philippe at the time.
Compared to the IWC above and other enamel dial watches in general, this has a much higher estimate price. This is because a) it’s a Patek Philippe (duh) and b) well, this is where it gets more interesting…
Notice the colour of the dial: blue. But not just any regular blue, this is French Royal Blue, the official colour of the French Monarchy. When reading into this, its context and the official archive extracts, there is very much reason to believe that this particular timepiece was commissioned by either someone with very close ties to the Royal Family, or indeed a French Monarch.
That’s most likely why the estimate price for this Patek Philippe ref. 2494 is of €74,700-149,000.
Audemars Piguet “John Shaeffer” Minute Repeater – Lot 205
Normally in an article, I wouldn’t lead with the price. But this one’s an exception: this timepiece is estimated to auction for €14,200-23,700.
To put that figure into context, you’re getting: a Minute Repeater; Platinum case; Breguet numerals and small seconds. Ususally, just the minute repeater alone will set you back 6 figures, but for this piece you could get that – and more – for 5.
Despite the brand being forever tied to the octagonal case of the Royal Oak, many collectors know full well that there’s more to Audemars Piguet than just the legend of 1972. One of the key features that we can admire from these images is its “cushion” shaped case, first made for a piece-unique collection for the American Industrialist John Shaeffer.
Back in the 20s and 30s, there was a very pleasant and relaxed brand-customer relationship, allowing for the faithful customers to make one-off requests. One day, one of these requests came from Mr. Shaeffer, who, upon realising that his full name (John Shaeffer) contained exactly 12 letters, asked AP if they could modify the dial of his watch by replacing the 12 hour markers with the letters of his name.
The one up for auction is a 90s “re-edition”, entitled the “John Shaeffer” line, paying homage to its ideator. There aren’t any letters, but the Breguet numerals are the closest thing we can get to them. In my opinion, this was an excellent choice by Audemars, and it gives just as much character as the letters themselves.
The photos, history and estimate price of this watch speak for themselves. But I would like to reiterate: this is a 34mm Platinum case Audemars Piguet Minute Repeater.
Good luck on this one. I won’t name names, but you will definitely have some competition in bidding for this one.
I don’t think anyone has ever used the words ‘Patek Philippe’ and ‘underrated’ in the same sentence. And why would they, especially if this particular one will fetch a 6 figure auction price? I never thought I would say this, but this is the most “bang-for-your-buck” Patek Philippe that you can get your hands on.
It’s no secret that rarity = more expensive. Yet, if that is the case, why doesn’t this ref. 2497 cost more than its “big brother” ref. 2499? The ref. 2497 was introduced only one year later, and would remain in production for 12 years. By today’s standards, this is a long time, but in the context 1951, it wasn’t. In fact, the production numbers hover around 180 exemplars when also counting the “étanche” versions (ref. 2438).
If you’ve already read our article on the ref. 2499 (which, if you haven’t, I’d definitely suggest doing so, by clicking here), you’d know that this is nearly half the number of 2499s which were made (over the course of 35 years).
The ref. 2497 is far more rare than the ref. 2499, so why isn’t this reflected in the price? The “only” thing that the 2499 has over it, is the chronograph function, but does this really warrant it being four times the price? I mean, I’m not complaining.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautifully designed Patek Philippes ever, the ref. 2497 features the most elegantly curved case in perfect Calatrava fashion (like the 2499), made by both Vichet and Wenger, between 1951-1954 and 1955-1963 respectively. These two casemakers employed two different sizes. Earlier (rarer) versions measured 36.2mm, whilst the later versions were 37.8mm across.
Considered to be the technical progression from the ref. 1526, the ref. 2497 does share some characteristics with its predecessor. One feature that separates it from it, though, is the relocation of the seconds hand. The ref. 2497 is sometimes named the “Central Seconds” 1526, as the predecessor’s were originally located in the sub-dial at 6.
It’s really difficult to understand how this piece has survived in perfect conditions for all these years, if not with the help of a time machine. The internal caseback still has crystal-clear hallmarks from the casemaker and all the relevant information. Naturally, with excellent condition comes a greater price, even if it is an “undervalued” €188,000-282,000.
Social Media Manager and Writer
Vacheron Constantin Chronomètre Royal – Lot 39
This watch has a blend of unique features, not only from a design standpoint, but also when looking at the quality and conditions: I’ve never seen anything like it!
The “Chronomètre Royal” title dates back to 1907, oweing to the cronometer certification and the incredible level of detail and finishing to the movements of a handful of Vacheron Constantin pocket watches.
As I mentioned before, this ref. 6111 is in remarkable conditions. The case has no scratches and shows no signs of gold oxidation, the dial is flawlessly clean… it still has the packaging sticker on the caseback, for goodness sake! For a watch from the 1950s, this is basically unheard of.
Like the IWC, it comes with a beautiful Gay Freres bracelet. For those not in the know, they were the most important watch bracelet maker. Ever.
The estimated auction price for this piece is a very suprising €9.300-14.000.
Rolex Submariner “Explorer” dial – Lot 32
Those who know me will know that I have a neverending passion for the Rolex Submariner, and that I’ve spent years studying them and all their nuances. Lot No. 32 is one of those lots that can appear totally out of the blue. And when it does, you best be quick, because they bring an exciting story with them that everyone wants to make their own.
This ref. 6200 was found hanging out in a suk (the name given to the street markets) in Cairo, Egypt. You may be asking yourself, how can a watch in such poor conditions wind up in one of the most high profile auctions of all time? And for that price, no less?
Often, people just simply “abandon” watches like an unwanted kitten, only for them to be found by a totally random person in an equally random time and place. This is the exact case for this Submariner: the circumstances of the story really drive up the hype and by extension, the price.
Just a quick bit of history: the Submariner made its debut at the Basel Exhibition of 1954 as Rolex’s first true diver. The ref. 6200, dubbed “Il Coroncione” (“big crown”) for its 8mm diameter, is the more “robust” and durable version of the ref. 6204 and 6205s. The one pictured above features an incredibly rare dial layout: the “Explorer” dial, characterised by the 3-6-9 indices, widely associated with the Explorer model.
The only known examples of these “Explorer” dial Submariners fall into the 31.9xx to 32.2xx serial number range. This particular one bears the number 32.258, only 10 digits different to the one sold last year (32.248) for a record-breaking price of €550,000. As you can see, these two models are very similar, but the one in the upcoming Phillips auction has an added bonus: it has the “Submariner” signature.
It may seem strange, because the vast majority of the pieces from the ref. 6200 do not have this stamp.
Another huge talking point for this lot is the bezel insert. At the time of its discovery, the original bezel was missing (really and truly “abandoned” as I said before). In a very clever move, the Phillips team have decided to sell the watch exactly as it is: with a broken bracelet, and without a bezel, letting the lucky future owner decide whether to buy an original period correct ref. 6200 bezel separately there and then.
It’s estimated that this will be auctioned off for between €235.000-470.000, slightly less than the one from last year (perhaps for the bezel conundrum?).
Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3712 – Lot 85
This is much more than just a lunar phase. For me, there wasn’t ever any doubt on which one I would choose.
The 3712 is an instant stunner: the first Nautilus to feature 3 complications; the bigger brother to the the 5712 released a year later. With production numbers ranging in the 900 territory, and a 42mm case, the 3712 is even more exclusive than the 5712.
“Sporty and Elegant” is the name of the game for this 3712. The dial uses the available real-estate to very tastefully and thoughtfully arrange the lunar phase, power reserve indicator and small seconds sub-dials. It’s perfectly balanced, and is complimented by a subtle shading from blue to black as you go down the dial, making it even more desirable.
This watch is truly a masterpiece.
Bonus – “Diamonds are Forever”
No, it’s not the Bond film, nor is it the nickname of our dear friend Alino Diamanti…. but it wouldn’t be a Phillips auction without a hearty dose of bling.
I (Andrea C.) have a little soft spot for diamonded watches, especially if they’re done tastefully and are wearable by those who know how to wear them right. This certainly isn’t the case, but hey, feast your eyes upon the diamond-mania that GWA XI is bringing to the table (or auction block)!
From left to right:
- Lot 19 : Rolex ref. 1804 1972
CHF150,000 – 250,000
- Lot 104: Patek Philippe ref. 3800/123
CHF20,000 – 30,000
- Lot 107 – Patek Philippe ref. 3800/107
CHF100,000 – 200,000
Excited for the Geneva Watch Auction XI? We certainly are! You can browse through all of the 215 watches up for auction via this link.
What did you think of our picks? Agree? Disagree? Which lots would and/or will you bid for? Let us know in the comments!
-Translated by Patrick R.