For anyone who has not yet heard, the world’s most sought-after watchmaking expert took a major professional step last year by creating, along with his associate Livia Russo, the Watch department of the Phillips auction house. Jury President of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, selected by Only Watch to orchestrate its 5th edition (held in 2015 and which doubled previous sales totals), and a regular contributor to WorldTempus, Aurel Bacs has made a strong impression and garnered considerable esteem by establishing a new style more respectful of authentic connoisseurs : fewer lots and greater quality, while remaining firmly in step with the times. This approach has led to convincing results that are naturally welcomed by collectors: in three sales held in Geneva and Hong Kong, he brought down on the hammer on sales worth more than CHF 70 million (alongside Only Watch that raised around CHF 12 million for its 44 lots).
This impressive track record means that, despite the economic climate that is distinctly less euphoric than at certain times in the past, the traditional Geneva spring auctions are liable to sparkle with renewed brightness under the auspices of Phillips Bacs & Russo. While the May 14th sale will be devoted to steel chronographs, the one slated for the 15th will feature exceptional models with no particular theme, although all distinguished by the highest possible quality.
Panerai, Patek or Rolex ?
These very active communities of collectors will be offered a fine selection. Highlights will include an oversized 1961 Panerai Luminor prototype with 8-day power reserve, of which the other known example is part of Panerai’s historical collection. As far as Patek Philippe is concerned, not only is the yellow gold reference 3450 with Tiffany signature one of just five known examples, but this perpetual calendar with moon phases and leap-year display is also proudly exhibited in the Patek Philippe Museum. The Rolex 6062 is an increasingly rare model, and the one on offer this May is distinguished not only by the fact that it is one of two equipped with a complete calendar with moon phases, but also because there are only four known examples in this version featuring a black dial set with eight stars. Nicknamed “Stelline”, this interpretation is the most exclusive of all, and the icing on the cake is that this model has never yet been sold at auction. Its estimate is fittingly sky-high at between a half a million and one million Swiss francs.
200th anniversary of the invention of the chronograph
Whether pure coincidence, or a means of combining watch business with cultural and historical pleasure, the theme sale held by Phillips Bacs & Russo in Geneva on May 14th is exclusively dedicated to steel chronographs… and 2016 happens to be the bicentenary year of the invention of the chronograph by Louis Moinet ! Among the range of horological complications, the chronograph is the one most widely appreciated by collectors, who are generally – and especially these days – keen on steel versions. Aurel Bacs and his team intend to illustrate the entire history of vintage steel wrist chronographs, from about 1920 to 1990. An extremely broad array of models and brands – presented not in chronological order but instead by families – will tell the story of the chronograph’s evolution. In each case, the challenge will consist in choosing the rarest model, in pristine condition. Patek Philippe and Rolex will naturally be in the limelight, alongside such varied and accessible brands as Breitling, Eberhard, Eterna and Longines.
Blancpain enthusiasts will be drawn to the 1960 Air Command Flyback for pilots with its bakelite bezel of which only ten were produced, all of them in steel. Its estimate ranges from CHF 50,000 to 100,000. Among the star lots in this theme sale are two Rolex models with upper estimates topping one million Swiss francs. Dating from the mid-1960s with only around ten known examples, reference 6239 with its ‘medical’ dial featuring a pulsometric scale is estimated at between CHF 350,000 and 700,000, while the 1945 reference 3330 has a salmon-toned dial and a diameter of 37.5 mm. Only a few dozen were produced, earning it an estimate of between CHF 200,000 and 400,000, notably due to its exceptionally well-preserved state, with a case that has never been polished. Connoisseurs will doubtless be quick off the starting blocks for these top-flight chronographs !