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Sotheby's Important Watches sale in Geneva to present rare and collectible timepieces
Probably by Piguet & Meylan. An exceptional and rare gold enamel and pearl musical fruit knife with double blade made for the Chinese market circa 1805-1815. Estimate: CHF 250,000 – 350,000 / US$ 260,000 – 364,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

GENEVA.- Sotheby’s spring sale of Important Watches in Geneva will present a selection of rare and distinguished timepieces, led by an extraordinarily rare Rolex Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ wristwatch, reference 6239, with highly-coveted “tropical” subsidiary dials. Beautifully aged dials such as this one are given the nickname by collectors because their colours fade over time from black to rich brown, and are so rare that the effect now ranks among the most exciting features on today’s market (estimate CHF 200,000 – $ 400,000 /210,000-420,000). Alongside this exceptional piece, the auction on 13 May at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva will also include rare vintage and modern wristwatches by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille. Of historical significance and showcasing Swiss crafstmanship, we will also present a museum-quality enameled musical fruit knife probably created by Piguet & Meylan.

Sam Hines, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Watch Division, commented, “Following strong results for our spring watch sales in Hong Kong and London, we are delighted to present in Geneva a very fine selection of rare watches and timepieces. The exceptional Rolex Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ - with its stunning toffee brown subsidiary dials - and the superb 1938 Patek Philippe reference 130, with its beautiful black sector dial, each exemplify the untouched original features which are so sought-after on today’s auction market.”

The star highlight of the sale, the rare Rolex Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ wristwatch presents a highly unusual effect: the colour of its three subsidiary dials – originally black when the watch was made – has naturally faded to a beautiful rich brown. The piece has been cherished by a single owner who received it as a wedding anniversary present from his beloved wife in 1975. More than 40 years later, a chance meeting on a visit to his local jeweler revealed that this gift held a thrilling secret: not only was it a ‘Paul Newman Daytona’, widely recognized as the most highly coveted vintage Rolex models on the market, but the watch features what are known as a “tropical” subsidiary dials.

The piece will be offered in Geneva on 13 May 2018, with a pre-sale estimate of CHF 200,000 – 400,000 ($208,000-416,000).



In the late 18th century, luxurious miniature novelties such as this exceptional and rare gold enamel double-bladed musical fruit knife, became extremely popular and appealed in particular to the Chinese market. This piece is believed to be the only remaining example of its kind in private hands (featuring two blades rather than the more common single blade).

The other two known examples are housed respectively in The Sir David Salomons Collection of Watches and Clocks at the L. A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem, and the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. In addition to the exquisite enamel work on this piece, it also features a fully-functioning barillet musical movement, with a steel comb concealed within the handle plucked to play the music (lot 200, CHF 250,000 – 350,000 / $ 260,000 – 364,000).

The reference 130, introduced in 1934, was the first Patek Philippe chronograph wristwatch made in series, and its enduring appeal can be said to have defined the manufacture’s horological expertise in early chronograph wristwatches. Featuring an extremely rare and collectible black sector dial – only a few samples have ever appeared on the market - this distinguished example was made in 1938. There are clear signs that the watch was destined to be exported to the French market: the hallmarks on the case and case back of the watch, as well as the ‘Fab Suisse’ inscribed on the dial (indicating that it was made in Switzerland) (lot 315, estimate CHF 200,000 – 250,000 / $ 208,000 - 260,000).

Rolex Daytona wristwatches have taken on legendary status among many collectors. The iconic design of these watches – often imitated – and the history associated with them have placed them among the undisputed giants of this influential brand. The reference 6265, first produced in 1970, ranks among the rarer Daytonas, and as such is highly sought-after. Examples such as this one, with case and Oyster bracelet in 18-karat yellow gold, boast elegant well-balanced dials and are far more difficult to come by than their stainless steel cousins (lot 79, estimate CHF 70,000 – 90,000 / $ 73,000 – 94,000).

The Nautilus, created by legendary designer Gerald Genta and first launched by Patek Philippe in 1976, was the manufacture’s first real sports watch and remains a classic in collecting circles today. The present watch, dating from 1979, is a very attractive stainless steel example of the ‘Jumbo’ Nautilus, the largest of the vintage series bearing the reference 3700/1. What’s more, it is accompanied by the original presentation case made in cork and the original certificates, both of which are sure to appeal to seasoned collectors (lot 301, estimate CHF 40,000 – 60,000 / $ 41,600 – 62,000).

Pieces by independent watchmaker Richard Mille are celebrated for their combination of avant-garde high-tech materials and sophisticated, robust movements. This limited-edition blackened ceramic and carbon skeletonized wristwatch honours the brand’s collaboration with Polo Club Saint-Tropez (lot 244, estimate CHF 60,000 – 80,000 / $ 62,500 – 83,500).

The Chopard watch company began modestly, manufacturing precise pocket watches and chronometers. This beautiful example from 2017 – which is number 11 of a very limited edition of just 18 pieces - shows the creativity and state-of-the-art technology for which the brand is known: a double-dialled perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch in pink gold with equation of time, time of sunrise and sunset and synodic orbital moon phase. The tourbillon carriage is visible through an aperture combined with constant seconds, twin aperture for date, and the reverse is calibrated to Geneva (lot 245, CHF 80,000 – 120,000 / $ 83,500 – 125,000).

The selection of pocket watches in the sale will be led by this open-faced perpetual calendar watch with moon-phases by Patek Philippe. It features a highly complicated minute repeater movement of the finest quality, which was produced in 1947. The manufacture set these movements aside and then built watches around them for special orders only. According to our research, only around 80 pieces were produced.

This example boasts a stylish and pared-back aesthetic in yellow gold and is accompanied by the original certificate (lot 140, estimate CHF 120,000 – 220,000 / $ 125,000 – 229,000).

Testament to the fast-expanding watch auction market, the Geneva sale comes hot on the heels of a series of successful sales and strong/solid results at all price levels in 2017. Last month, the Hong Kong “Important Watches” sale achieved US$17.7 Million, the highest total for a sale of watches in Asia since 2013. A few weeks ago, our London Fine Timepieces sale saw similar success, with a record number of participants (1,000), over 90% of the lots sold and almost 70% of the lots realizing prices above estimates. In March, an online-only sale managed by our Geneva team achieved the highest-ever sale total for an online watches sale at Sotheby’s. With participation from 94 countries in our sales last year, the market has never been as global and the appetite is growing fast.

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