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A watch collector's wish list: Important watches at Sotheby's Geneva
Patek Philippe, circa 1990. Yellow gold perpetual calendar minute repeating wristwatch with moon phases, leap year and 24-hour indication. Estimate CHF 380,000 – 600,000 / $380,000 – 600,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

GENEVA.- What makes watch collectors tick? Highlights from Sotheby’s flagship autumn auction of Important Watches in Geneva offer insight into that question, with wristwatches whose rarity, design, complexity and impeccable condition place them among the most sought-after timepieces on today’s dynamic auction market.

These include timeless designs and sophisticated complications from Patek Philippe, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin. The sale is led by two stunning Patek Philippe wristwatches: a minute repeating perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch in pink gold, reference 5016 (estimate CHF/$ 400,000 – 600,000) and a yellow gold perpetual calendar minute repeating wristwatch, reference 3974 (estimate CHF / $ 380,000 – 600,000). Alongside it are emblematic models from Rolex including a 1969 Rolex “Paul Newman Panda” Daytona, bearing the iconic reference 6263, (estimate CHF/$ 300,000 – 500,000) and a “Paul Newman” Daytona, reference 6239 in yellow gold, also from 1969 (estimate CHF/ $ 200,000 – 300,000). These pieces lead a fine selection of vintage timepieces whose rich patina and original features tell the story of watchmaking’s iconic manufactures.

Speaking ahead of the sale, Sam Hines, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Watches, commented, “Today’s watch collectors seek out rarity in all its forms, from the most intricate complications to the emblematic references everyone wants on their wrist, and of course impeccable vintage condition and character. For our Geneva sale on 12 November, we have brought together a very fine selection of wristwatches, many of them fresh to auction, led by superb pieces from Patek Philippe and Rolex. Following our strong results in Hong Kong in October, we are very excited to present these rare timepieces to watch-lovers in the coming weeks.”

A selection of sale highlights below offers the perfect illustration of elusive watches which combine the most sophisticated mechanical and horological features with timeless design and character.

Reference 5016 made around 2005
Pink gold minute repeating perpetual calendar tourbillon wristwatch with retrograde date, moon phases and leap-year indication
Estimate CHF 400,000 – 600,000 / $ 400,000 – 600,000

COVETED COMPLICATIONS: Patek Philippe’s reference 5016 brings together all the complications that aficionados of exquisite watches always dream of: tourbillon, minute repeater, perpetual calendar with an elaborate retrograde date, as well as a display for moon phases and a leap-year indication. A calibre composed of 506 parts controls the choreography of these intricately interdependent functions.

LIMITED PRODUCTION: Upon the reference’s introduction in 1993, around 200 pieces were produced in total, featuring the classic Calatrava case. To our knowledge only a handful of examples in pink gold have been offered at auction.

Reference 3974 circa 1990
Yellow gold perpetual calendar minute repeating wristwatch with moon phases, leap year and 24-hour indication
Estimate CHF 380,000 – 600,000 / $380,000 – 600,000

COMPLEXITY: One of most complicated wristwatches ever made in series by Patek Philippe, the reference 3974 combines a perpetual calendar and minute repeater.

CRAFTSMANSHIP: This example from around 1990 stands out in particular for its case, which was made by celebrated craftsman Jean-Pierre Hagmann.

RARITY: This signature shows that this was an early example of the reference, because Mr Hagmann only made the cases for the earlier production of reference 3974.

'Paul Newman' Daytona, Reference 6239 circa 1969
Yellow gold chronograph wristwatch
Estimate CHF 200,000-300,000 / $200,000 – 300,000

RARITY: The reference 6239 represents the first-ever model of Rolex’s highly sought-after Daytona, synonymous with the world-renowned endurance race ‘24 Hours of Daytona’ and arguably the most iconic watch in the world of vintage collecting.

LIMITED PRODUCTION: Introduced in 1963/4, the 6239 was discontinued in 1969. It is thought that as few as 300 pieces were made in gold.

ICONIC “PAUL NEWMAN” DIAL: This piece features the coveted ‘Paul Newman’ dial, with its characteristic ‘exotic’ dial, art deco-style font and square markers in the subsidiary dials. This model in yellow gold represents a very tiny portion of the overall production, making it very rare indeed.

ORIGINAL VINTAGE CONDITION: Collectors seek watches in unaltered, ‘honest’ condition, which provides the watch with a unique and interesting aesthetic. The dial of this piece is in superb vintage condition, and the colourway in combination with the yellow gold case serves to emphasize the art deco nature of its design.

'Paul Newman Panda' Daytona, reference 6263 circa 1969
Stainless steel chronograph wristwatch
Estimate CHF 300,000-500,000/ $300,000-500,000

ICONIC “PAUL NEWMAN PANDA” DIAL: This piece also features the coveted “Paul Newman” design, this time with the additional appeal of a “Panda” dial, distinguished by black subsidiary dials on a white background, and no other colours.

HIGHLY SOUGHT-AFTER REFERENCE: Rolex’s reference 6263 is widely recognized to be the most sought-after reference among the Daytonas. Add to that the ‘panda’ dial and it can be considered a ‘holy grail’ among watches.

ORIGINAL VINTAGE CONDITION: Finding this reference in such extraordinary condition is extremely difficult today. Also very rare, this piece has barely been touched since it was made, having only had one simple movement verification.
ONE CAREFUL OWNER: This lot is being offered from its original and sole owner, who acquired the watch at Bucherer in the mid-1970s.

'Big Crown’ Submariner, Reference 6538
Stainless steel wristwatch with tropical dial and bracelet
Circa 1958
Estimate CHF 150,000 – 300,000 / $150,000 – 300,000

EMBLEMATIC: THE SUBMARINER: The Rolex Submariner arguably stands among the most iconic wristwatches of all time: it has been defining the design language for all diving watches since its inception in 1953. The ‘Big Crown’ Submariner was produced between 1956 and 1959.

ACCLAIMED ‘JAMES BOND’ REFERENCE, 6538: The most acclaimed Submariner reference is without question the 6538, which was closely associated with James Bond after legendary actor Sean Connery notoriously wore the watch in classic movies “Dr No”, “From Russia with Love”, “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball”.

VINTAGE FEATURES & CHARACTER: Manufactured in 1958, this is a watch of all superlatives, encompassing a host of extraordinary features collectors are longing for: strikingly well-preserved dial with rich brown patina; thick indexes with warm eggshell hue; and rare matching set of hands, including the highly desirable ‘white lollipop’.

Reference 3448 made in 1973
Yellow gold perpetual calendar wristwatch with moon phases
Estimate CHF 90,000 – 120,000 / $ 90,000 – 120,000

A HOROLOGICAL FIRST: The first watch made by Patek Philippe to feature an automatic perpetual calendar, the reference 3448 was first produced in 1962.

TIMELESS DESIGN: Many watch-lovers consider this reference to be among the brand’s most elegant, and its design is described as ahead of its time (chiefly because of its more angular lugs).

Reference 30010/000P circa 2001
Limited edition platinum minute repeating wristwatch with ‘teardrop’ lugs
Estimate CHF 100,000-150,000 / $ 100,000 – 150,000

VINTAGE AESTHETIC: Both the case and the movement of this elegant watch were inspired by Vacheron Constantin’s heritage. More specifically, the ‘tear drop’ shaped lugs of the vintage minute-repeating reference 4261, made in the 1950s.

LIMITED ‘HERITAGE’ PRODUCTION: 200 examples of this highly complex caliber were made, using reconditioned vintage movements from the manufacture’s stock. It is believed fewer than 20 were made in platinum.

AN AUCTION FIRST: To our knowledge, this is the first time a platinum 30010 is offered at public auction.

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