For a few million more

Going under the hammer of Aurel Bacs on November 7th and 8th in Geneva, the 200 or so watches of this major collector’s event have one thing in common : quality. The latter is also matched by diversity on this occasion, since Patek Philippe and Rolex are sharing the limelight with Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Richard Mille, along with an unexpected twosome in the shape of Eberhard and Longines, to mention but a few.


Patek and Rolex

Among the flagship lots that should make sparks fly is the Patek Philippe reference 605 in yellow gold, a worldtime pocket watch with an enamel dial depicting a scene from a fable. This special order commissioned by an American customer is distinguished by its dragon-like sea creature occupying the space normally reserved for various continents, surrounded by gem-set stars that are a rare feature on Patek watches. Estimated at between half a million and a million francs, this one-of-a-kind creation had not appeared on the market since its last public sale in 1990. Reference 2497 in pink gold carries a similar estimate (CHF 400,000 to 800,000) and used to belong to the Knoll family, which has earned itself a fine reputation in the field of contemporary furniture. This is the first perpetual calendar with central seconds, of which there are only six known pink gold examples with this type of imposing case made by Vichet and appearing here in outstanding condition. Doubtless the star of the sale with an estimate of between a million and a half to three million francs, reference 1436 with its legendary mechanism is the best-known of Patek’s split-seconds chronographs. Collectors estimate that only two models were developed, cased up and sold in a steel version during the 1940s, including this lot in pristine condition.



Devotees of rare Rolex models who play in the big league should be impressed by the 1940s reference 3525, whose exceptional condition as well as the beautiful grey and blue patina conferred by oxidation (and which disappears with cleaning) prove that it has almost never been worn or polished. Also featuring a generous diameter for its era, it is estimated at between CHF 200,000 and 400,000. Estimated at between CHF 500,000 and 1 million, the pink gold reference 6062 is one of the two models made in small quantities in other metals during the 1950s with a triple calendar and moonphase display. Interpreted in two different dial configurations (with Arabic numerals and lozenge hour-markers, or with star-shaped hours like this one), this model nicknamed Stelline was sold in 2004 by the original owner’s daughter for a record price (CHF 460,000, double its estimate). Will this Rolex once again pass the one million-franc mark? The estimate for the far more modern and showy yellow gold Rainbow up for auction is CHF 90,000 and 140,000. The Rolex range comprises a fine selection of sports models including a Panda and a steel Paul Newman bearing the Tiffany inscription.



What else ?

The new trendsetters on the auction market have also sourced from various owners the most substantial array of vintage Vacheron Constantin chronographs presented since the 250th anniversary in 2005 of the oldest Manufacture in continuous operation. The ten or so chronographs dating from the 1920s to the 1950s and representing as many different references in a variety of metals, are estimated at between CHF 25,000 and 140,000. The particularly rare reference 6026 is one of the six models crafted in pink gold. When it comes to reference 6087 estimated at between CHF 50,000 and 100,000, only 28 examples of this model emerged from the Vacheron Constantin workshops and its nickname “Cornes de vache” (cow horns) was directly influenced by the Historique Cornes de Vache 1955 in platinum, ref. 5000 H, which has just been presented.



The Vallée de Joux is well represented through a pleasing selection from Audemars Piguet, with one of the most important lots being a rare and broad steel and pink gold 1940s chronograph estimated at between CHF 100,000 and 150,000. Fans of performance will doubtless be eager to get their hands on the Richard Mille “Nadal”, the world’s lightest tourbillon model (weighing less than 20 grams, including the strap) that also owes its reputation to an ability to withstand the massive groundstrokes hit by Rafael Nadal during his tennis matches. This RM 027 bearing number 31/50 is estimated at between CHF 400,000 and 600,000. More affordable yet equally appealing to devotees of history and aviation, is a pair of watches previously owned by Publio Magini, famous for having made the first successful flight from Rome to Tokyo and back in 1942: a Longines Lindbergh sold with an Eberhard split-seconds chronograph estimated at between CHF 60,000 and 120,000.

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

Review overview