The phrase "kid in a candy shop" comes to mind when thinking of the many and varied delights on offer at Phillips’ venerable watch auctions. If you're in the market for one of the most unique, iconic, and beautiful vintage watches the world has ever seen, you’d be hard pressed to find a better source than Phillips.
Next up, Phillips presents the Hong Kong Watch Auction XIII on November 25 - 26 and once again we're bringing you a few of our favourites.
Whether you're looking for a very special Paul Newman Daytona or a one-of-one royal blue wonder from Patek Philippe, this auction has a little something for every watch connoisseur.
There is a certain romance to owning a small part of horological history. Now's your chance…
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
€24,400 - 46,500
Few watch styles are as important to the modern watchmaking landscape as the dive watch, and few dive watches are as important as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms; a watch truly deserving of “icon” status. The Fifty Fathoms has been in production since the early 1950s and began life as the sketchings of one Captain Bob Maloubier, head of the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage (an elite branch of the French Navy tasked with underwater espionage and other covert operations), who required a water-resistant watch capable of handling the toughest conditions. Blancpain’s CEO Jean-Jacques Fletcher, a passionate diver himself, threw his team’s horological might at the project and the Fifty Fathoms was born.
Named after the greatest depth that a combat diver was believed able to withstand at the time, the watch combined cutting edge features such as an anti-magnetic and water-resistant case, a screw-down case back, a "double O-ring crown system", an automatic movement and a rotating bezel. It was extremely robust and reliable: the perfect tool for any military professional and, as such, was soon on the wrists of military diving units across the world.
The present Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has an early case number (circa 1953) and the beautiful 3 / 6 / 9 / 12 dial layout typical of Fifty Fathoms and Aqua-Lungs of the era, with puffy luminous material that has aged beautifully over time, an exceptionally well-preserved case, and a perfectly intact Bakelite bezel. Correct for an early, pre-1960s example, the luminous material is radium and has high Geiger reading.
True to the earliest examples, it features what collectors have dubbed the "Luxor" minute hand, referring to the small separation between the tip of the hand, resembling the obelisks of Luxor Temple in Egypt. Furthermore, the inner case back features the designation "Patent-pending" which classifies the present example as one of the very earliest specimens, realised when the patent was still in the process of being granted.
This is one dive watch which might just be worth you taking the plunge.
MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual Ref. 03.PL.W
€44,400 - 88,700
Maximilian Büsser & Friends, or MB&F for short, is a brand that specialises in collaboration. Steered by the brilliant mind of Maximilian Büsser himself, it brings together some of the finest thinkers in horology to create the weird, the whimsical, and the contemporary. Oftentimes, it’s penchant for creating watches that resemble the likes of, say, a jellyfish, a bulldog, or a fighter jet mean that the mechanical artistry at their heart can play second fiddle to their novelty, but there’s a reason why MB&F calls these products ‘Horological Machines’ – they are a masterpiece of highly technical watchmaking.
In that ilk, its Legacy Machines collection focuses on celebrating the watchmaking innovations of yesteryear through the lens of the modern day. Debuted in 2015, the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual is a reinterpretation of a perpetual calendar that offered significant improvements to eliminate the fragile drawbacks and gear jams tied to the conventional perpetual calendar mechanism. A mechanism device by Stephen McDonnell, an Irish independent watchmaker, an open-worked design by Eric Giroud and a spectacular movement finished by the great Kari Voutilainen (more on him later) result in an extraordinary avant-garde timepiece that calls back to the past.
Chief among its successes is a revolutionary in-house mechanism that sees the processor use a default 28-day months – as opposed to the traditional use of 31 days – and instead adds extra days as required rather than “skipping over” redundant days. This is a much more efficient system for protecting against incorrect manipulation. There’s a reason it picked up the gong for Best Calendar Watch in GPHG 2016 (a little like winning an Oscar in the watch world).
The present Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar is numbered 8 of a limited edition of only 25 pieces, making this incredibly rare and collectible timepiece from the brand. The present example is preserved in excellent overall condition and offered by the original owner with its complete set of accessories. The winning bidder will also receive complimentary servicing of the watch from MB&F within a period of 6 months after the sale.
Patek Philippe “The Blue Royale” Ref 3448/100
Now, here’s something a little bit special. Known as the “Blue Royale”, this is the one and only example of the Patek Philippe Ref 3448 finished in platinum with sapphire-set indexes. And, boy, is it a beauty. In of itself, the Ref 3448 is the epitome of 1960s watchmaking – where bold designs and refined aesthetics were the order of the day – and the very first self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch when it launched in 1962, but the option of ordering this model set with diamonds or gemstones has created this unique combination available at auction for the first time since 1998.
While it is known that the Ref 3448 was available for order with diamond and ruby-set indexes, the “Blue Royale” is the only example of the reference in platinum and tailored with the addition of 11 brilliant-cut sapphire-set indexes upon the request of the original owner. Through extensive research, Phillips has also concluded that this present example is perhaps the only complicated Patek Philippe reference cased in platinum from the respective era to feature sapphire-set indexes.
Boasting an extremely crisp case with strong bevels and edges that are further complimented with a clean and unrestored unique dial, the present example’s rarity is enhanced by the fact that Patek Philippe used the last available version (fourth series) of the 3448 dial which featured printed minute divisions.
This is definitely one of the most celebrated Ref 3448 to be offered to the public. Ticking all boxes for condition, rarity and importance, the “Blue Royale” is a long-lost treasure that has finally resurfaced at auction having been extremely well-preserved over the last 23 years.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, “Paul Newman John Player Special” Ref. 6241
€513,000 - 1,040,000
Like clockwork (sorry…), we must return to possibly the most famous vintage watch of all: the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona. It’s well known that Newman’s own Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239 sold for $17.8m at Phillips New York auction house in 2017, but what is perhaps less known is that the Daytona that bears the iconic movie star’s name is not one specific model but in fact a series of dials created by the Singer manufacture for Rolex.
Identified by an art deco style font for the numerals, hash marks with a small square at the end, and a small step in the dial between the minute track and the centre of the dial, these somewhat funky dials were actually less popular than the more traditional Daytona dials when they were first produced. Poor sales prompted Rolex to not make that many of them – and as a result their scarcity is now part of their significant appeal.
As for this particular model, the Rolex Daytona ref 6241 was initially introduced in 1965 with a production spanning just four years until 1969. It is estimated that only 3,000 examples of the reference were produced during the period across three metals, with just 300 examples being made in yellow gold, and fewer still made in the 14K yellow gold variant (showcased on this present example) for the American market. Add that to the fact precious few were fitted with the “Paul Newman” dial and you have an incredibly rare watch.
And, yet, there's more. Of all the Paul Newman dials, the present “John Player Special Paul Newman” is perhaps the most coveted by collectors. In 1972, John Player & Sons tobacco company sponsored the eccentric Formula One Lotus team which emblazoned the cigarette maker’s logo on its race cars. Clad in a powerful black and gold livery to match John Player & Sons’ colors, the Formula One car became an instant hit. Iconic on the circuit, the contrasting colour scheme down the intricate trim and details with uncanny resemblance to the aptly nicknamed JPS ref 6241 had become a grail piece for collectors.
The present JPS ref. 6241 bears all coveted traits that any collector could possibly desire. The dial is flawless, the contrast of the gold registers with concentric tracks is crisp, each luminous plot is perfectly intact. But beyond its exceptional preservation, what makes this example so special is that it dates back to circa 1968 and belongs to the final batch of the last production from the reference to be delivered to France.
An exceedingly rare example, it's going to take a pretty penny to claim this watch as your own.
€34,400 - 68,800
Without hesitation, Kari Voutilianen is one of the most talented living legends of master watchmaking today. Staying true to the essence of independent watchmaking, Voutilainen’s iconic expression of teardrop lugs and superlative handmade finishing captured the hearts of connoisseurs. The Observatoire introduced in 2007 was awarded “Best Men’s Watch” in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and is estimated only around 50 examples were made, making this an exceptional sought after piece.
A truly special timepiece, the present limited edition variant features a rich caramel brown guilloché dial with a mixture of techniques emits incredible depths and tones. Decorated with elegant applied Roman numerals and highly appealing blue steel Breguet-style hands, the timepiece speaks of exquisite sophistication. Powered by the cal. 260 from Pesseux, an observatory grade calibre from the mid-20th century, it is estimated only 3,300 examples of the calibre were ever produced, and were not available for public purchase. With heavy modification of the calibre by Voutilainen, the result is a breathtakingly beautiful and accurate movement with extreme attention to detail perceived.
Offered by the original owner, the present Observatoire is preserved in excellent overall condition and is complete with its full set of accessories. Furthermore, as an impressive finishing touch, the presentation of the fitted box is crafted with high quality solid Swiss Maplewood from Guyanne palm tree. All in all, the present example is a stunning acquisition of quintessential ingredients from the illustrious Voutilianen atelier.