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The vintage watch icons you need in your collection

With good reason, the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet grab the headlines at vintage watch auctions. But what’s on the vintage watch market that you can pick up right now?

Patek Philippe Ref. 5726/1A-001 Nautilus Annual Calendar

Over the last year, Phillips saw a 50% increase in online participants compared to 2019 – and record-breaking sales to match.

The pandemic ensured that the vintage watch market was fully digitised, and this has helped open sales up to a far broader audience.

There are some significant auctions coming up this Spring – the biggest of which is Phillips’ own The Geneva Watch Auction: XIII. But what if you can’t wait – or don’t want to take your chances against a hungry international audience?

We’ve picked out four vintage watch icons from Phillips’ luxury retail boutique – Phillips Perpetual in Berkeley Square – that you can pick up right now.

Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570

Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570

One of the big launches at this Spring’s Watches & Wonders was the new Rolex Explorer II. The Crown’s update to this iconic watch were subtle to say the least.

In fact, it’s testament to how good the original was that Rolex can’t really figure out how to improve it.

There’s a superb 1996 Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570 available from Phillips Perpetual at the moment.

Preserved in practically 'new old stock' condition and featuring a stickered case back and vibrant, almost porcelain dial, this reference 16570 comes with an untouched International Guarantee, swing tag, calendar card and Rolex box.

James Marks from Phillips Perpetual says: “A superb entry piece into the world of vintage Rolex, this is a watch that combines everyday practicality with collectability.”

Patek Philippe Ref. 5726/1A-001 Nautilus Annual Calendar

Patek Philippe Ref. 5726/1A-001 Nautilus Annual Calendar

The waiting lists for a Patek Philippe Nautilus are now reaching decades rather than years. So buying one from a distinguished seller such as Phillips Perpetual is as close to new as you’re going to get.

This Ref. 5726/1A-001 Annual Calendar is an excellent example of a Patek icon.

Made in 2012, it’s fresh to market and is being sold by the original owner. It was first sold by the prestigious retailer Wemp, and comes complete with full accessories.

James Marks from Phillips Perpetual says: “A rare complication from Patek’s most recognised sports watch, and something of an overlooked reference.”

Cartier Tank Ref. 1734D One of Thirty

Cartier Tank Ref. 1734D One of Thirty

Andy Warhol once said of his favourite watch, the Cartier Tank: “I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time. Actually I never even wind it. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear!”

That essential truth endures to this day. The Tank has never been so popular – and this is a superb example.

This platinum limited edition Tank Americaine was produced in a limited series of just 30 for the Italian market – and features a striking dial with green numerals.

Presented in superb condition, very few examples of this classically elegant Cartier have come to market underlining its rarity and desirability.

James Marks from Phillips Perpetual says: “A hugely in-vogue brand, achingly desirable with vivid green numerals on the dial and platinum case. One of just thirty pieces, exclusivity is guaranteed.”

Audemars Piguet Ref. 15202BA Model: Royal Oak "Jumbo" Yellow

Audemars Piguet Ref. 15202BA Model: Royal Oak "Jumbo" Yellow

Yellow gold watches made a big come back a few years ago in horological circles, yet it was the 1970s that really defined them.

Which may go some way to explaining why Gerald Genta’s iconic 1972 Royal Oak design looks so damn good in gold.

This beautiful example was made in 2017, but certainly still channels the spirit of that era.

Found in superb, crisp condition with no signs of careless wear, it also includes the original AP box, and certificate stamped by AP's own Geneva boutique.

James Marks from Phillips Perpetual says: “‘Iconic’ is often overused in horological circles, but in the case of the classic 39mm Royal Oak, it is absolutely the right word. This example in 18ct yellow gold is nothing short of magnificent, channelling all the spirit of the 1970s’ machismo in a super-slim, comfortable case.”

For more vintage watches, check out the brand's website.

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