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Five “nicknamed” watches under the hammer

Five “nicknamed” watches under the hammer

Thursday, 11 May 2017
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Carol Besler

“Watches are functional art.”

Carol Besler covers watches and jewelry worldwide.

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6 min read

A watch important enough to have a nickname, no matter how silly it sounds, means it is adored by collectors. The Phillips “Geneva Watch Auction: Five” has at least five such Grail pieces among the 237 lots to be auctioned in Geneva this coming weekend, May 13 and 14.

Rolex Réf. 6062 « Bao Dai »

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062 is the watch every collector wishes he had bought when it last came up for auction in 2002 – it sold for $235,000, the highest auction price paid for a Rolex at the time, but the investment would have been worth it. This time the bidding starts at $1.5 million. “This is one of the world’s most important collector’s watches, across all brands, not just Rolex,” says Paul Boutros, head of Americas and international strategy advisor for Phillips. “Made in 1952, it is a rare creation for Rolex.” The watch belonged to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, who bought it in 1954 in Geneva. Made in 1950, it is a rare creation for Rolex, with an iconic Oyster case and an in-house movement driving a triple date calendar and moon phase. One of the most complicated watches of its era, it is one of only three made with a black dial and diamond indexes, and the only one to have diamond indexes for even numerals (the other two mark odd numerals with diamonds). The watch is in great, unrestored condition, with a case that has never been polished. Lot 93. Bidding starts at $1,500,000.

Rolex Ref. 6062
Rolex Ref. 6062 "Bao Dai"
Rolex Daytona Réf. 6239 « Double Swiss Underline »

The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239, nicknamed the “Double Swiss Underline”, is a transitional piece in the coveted Daytona line. “Any time Rolex introduces a new model, they experiment with the design with many iterations until they find a configuration that they think is going to sell well. This is a very early iteration of the Daytona,” says Boutros. It is among the first Daytona watches ever created and represents the first series marked “Cosmograph” as well as the first Rolex chronograph with the tachymeter scale moved from the dial to the bezel. It is also the first to use contrasting subdials rather than monochrome. Rolex transitioned from the pre-Daytona 6238 to this model, the Daytona 6239 – in fact the caseback is marked 6238, as Rolex used leftover casebacks from previous models. The nickname, “Double Swiss Underline”, comes from two distinctions on the dial; it has two Swiss designations, one barely peeking up above the bezel, and the other just above it at 6 o’clock (hence “Double Swiss”); and the underline beneath the Rolex Cosmograph signature signifies it used tritium instead of radium on the dial. In 1961, Swiss authorities banned the use of radium because it was so radioactive, so companies switched to tritium, which was much less radioactive. To signify the use of tritium in these early days, Rolex used an underline, but stopped using it in 1963-1964. A characteristic of early Daytonas fitted with “pump” pushers is that they were not designated as “Oyster” models, so they were not water-resistant. It is therefore rare to find these early models in such well-preserved condition. Lot 234. Estimate $100,000-$200,000.

Rolex Daytona Ref 6239 Double Swiss Underline
Rolex Daytona Ref 6239 "Double Swiss Underline"
Rolex Oyster Chronographe Paul Newman Réf. 6263 « The Legend »

“The Legend” is a rare yellow gold Oyster Paul Newman Chronograph, Ref. 6263, one of only three ever made. It is called the Paul Newman Daytona because it was the model favored by the actor and race car driver, and distinguished by the arrangement of the subdials and the contrasting colored seconds-hand scale along the periphery of the dial. It is called the Daytona because Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway in 1962, and so added the word “Daytona” to the Cosmograph reference. (“The Legend” was made in 1969). It is also distinctive for its screw-down pushers, as opposed to pump pushers, a change Rolex made to Daytona models starting in 1965 to make the watches water-resistant. The “lemon” dial is another draw, contrasting the black subdials with creamy yellowed “square lollipop” markers and distinctive Art-Deco style font. “This is the rarest of the Paul Newmans because it’s an Oyster with screw-down pushers, with an Oyster dial and in yellow gold. It’s the first I’ve seen,” says Boutros, who no doubt had a hand in authoring this intro in the auction catalogue. “There are some watches so elusive and so mythical that they stun even the most seasoned and weary of collectors.” Lot 237. Estimate $793,000-$1,590,000.

Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Paul Newman Ref 6263
Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Paul Newman Ref 6263 "The Legend"
Patek Philippe Réf. 2497 « Sydney Rose »

The “Sydney Rose” is a rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2497, one of fewer than 20 made in rose gold, and a pure representation of the brand’s heritage as a master of perpetual calendars. It is an early model of the reference, made in 1954, with a large case for the era, at 37mm, and Arabic numerals. It is distinctive for its long flared and curved lugs – “If you lay it down on a surface it rises up like a piece of modern art,” gushes Boutros. It is the only one in the world with luminous hands. It is called the “Sydney Rose” because it was sold to a private collector in Australia. The woven gold Milanese bracelet is original. “The watch sat in a safe for five decades and is now being sold by the family of the original owner,” says Boutros. Lot 171. Estimate $396,000-$793,000.

Patek Philippe Réf. 2497
Patek Philippe Réf. 2497 "Sydney Rose"
Patek Philippe Réf. 2499 « T&Co. »

The T&Co. Ref. 2499 is notable for its dual logo, with Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. both appearing on the dial. It is one of only two examples in its particular series to bear the Tiffany & Co. signature, and possibly unique in its use of markers rather than Arabic numerals. “In the world of vintage Rolex, the most desirable watches are Paul Newman Daytonas; in the world of vintage Patek Philippe, the most desirable models are perpetual calendar chronographs, especially the 2499,” says Boutros. Only 349 pieces of the Ref 2499 were made over a period of 34 years, which makes this watch exclusive. The yellow gold woven bracelet is signed Tiffany & Co. Lot 38. Estimate: $991,000-$1,980,000.

Patek Philippe Réf. 2499
Patek Philippe Réf. 2499 "T&Co."
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