Yup, it’s that of the year and riding the wave of success from their previous auctions, Phillips are back once again with some exquisite timepieces for the Geneva Watch Auction FIVE. It goes without saying there’s some outstanding timepieces up for auction outside of the high-profile Bao Dai Rolex 6062. So over the weekend we spent some time at their Berkeley Square, London offices, to get up close with some of the rarest and truly stunning watches that will be auctioned over the weekend of the 13th & 14th May. In typical fashion we decided to pick out some of the lots that should be taken note of for very good reasons.
LOT 101: BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS – MILSPEC 1
Born out of the product of passion by French military combat divers’ elite troops’ captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Rifau who were on a mission to source a wristwatch fit for their frogmen. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, as many of you may or may not know, is the original divers watch. Named the “Fifty Fathoms” after the British measurement of 50 fathoms, which was then considered the maximum depth a diver could make, with the oxygen mixture used during those days. Released before the Seamaster and Submariner, propelling it into iconic watch status territory, ordinarily making it sought-after.
The example you are currently looking at is the highly desired MILSPEC I version with a humidity indicator at 6 o’clock. That said, despite some military specifications, this particular example is actually a civilian model as denoted by its two-body part case, bi-directional bezel and the luminous diamond hour marker at 12 o’clock. The case back has been engraved with the retailer’s name, in this case the diving equipment store Barakuda. The Milspec 1 Fifty Fathoms is in excellent condition with a superb black glossy dial and presents many hunting for such an example, a rare opportunity to own a watch that is not only in great condition but one that has been exhibited as the embodiment of the Fifty Fathoms collection during the exhibition commemorating the 275th anniversary of Blancpain.
LOT 130: ROLEX DAYTONA 6240 ‘SOLO DAYTONA’
The last time we highlighted a Daytona from the Phillips auction, it was the very rare – even rarer than PN – 6239 underline double Swiss. There are many idiosyncrasies in the early Daytona collection, perhaps ones that don’t jump out at you straight away but once you notice it, it becomes simply hard to miss. The Daytona 6240 herald another chapter in the Daytonas long and illustrious past. 1965 marked the screw-down push piece era of the Daytona but more interestingly the 6240 was the only reference of the Daytona to be exclusively manufactured in steel. It also only featured an acrylic bezel with tach-o-meter scale. The 6240 is largely known by scholars as a transitional Daytona and was eventually succeeded by the 6263 and 6265.
The 6240 is known to have been fitted with an array of dials, that range from the very famous “Solo Rolex” which has been sold by Phillips before, to the dials where the placement of the wording “Daytona” differs. This particular example features some unusual traits 1) the wording of Rolex has been placed slightly lower than most other examples seen and 2) sports Daytona only. This dial is void of the wording “Oyster” but moreover is also void of the wording “Cosmograph”. Now, it’s known that Rolex experimented with a variety of configurations during this period. That said, it is believed that it is entirely possible the wording Daytona was added later and the dial actually started life out as a solo “Rolex”, given the serial number.
This 6240 also features period correct MK0 push-pieces, with notable traces of the brass beneath starting to show and retains its original twinlock 700 series winding crown, denoted by the Rolex coronet on the crown. The importance of this ref. 6240 Daytona, coupled with its beautifully patinaed and well-preserved case makes it a lot that should be taken note of. According to Phillips, it is the only known “Solo Daytona” watch that has ever graced the market and what’s more, it comes with a yet to be released unique copy of the FERO 150 Steel Chronographs book by Pucci Papaleo.
LOT 161: ROLEX DAYTONA 6265 “FUERZA AÉREA DEL PERÚ”
Okay, so here is another Daytona we’ve chosen to highlight from the Phillips GWA5 but trust us, it’s definitely worth mentioning. Looking at this reference 6265 Daytona it is not blatantly obvious just how special it is but flip it over and all becomes clear. Engraved on the case back is the inscription “FUERZA AÉREA DEL PERÚ”. But what exactly does this mean? It’s no secret that Rolex made watches for the British Ministry of Defence and we’ve highlighted said Military examples right here before. However, one of the rarest series of watches produced by Rolex were those made for the “FUERZA AÉREA DEL PERÚ” (FAP), a branch of the Peruvian military that was created from the merger of the Peruvian Army and Navy. It is estimated that around 700 Rolex watches were supplied to the Peruvian Air Force. A few of these watches were Cosmographs, with the military designation engraved on the case back. Undoubtedly this means one of two things 1) these FAP Daytonas are very rare and 2) there is of course a premium attached to this over their civilian siblings.
What is interesting to note, is that the Daytona chronographs were ordered by the Peruvian Air Force, which may obviously make you ask a few questions, as we know the Daytona is not a typical Aviators watch. However, a few GMT watches, which we know have been tried and tested by pilots, were additionally ordered, as well as Submariners too.
The 6263 & 6265 were first introduced in the latter part of the 60s and replaced the piece I’ve highlighted just above this: the 6240. This particular example features a rare matte black sigma dial, which has aged beautifully, with the Greek sigma letters either side of “T SWISS T” – signifying the use of white gold hour markers and hands. Furthermore, it also sports period correct push-pieces and if you look carefully, the case back’s small, engraved issue number “149” is perfectly crisp – a detail seldom seen. And if this wasn’t enough, the rarity of this 6265 is further enhanced by the fact it comes from its original owner.
LOT 172: ROLEX REF. 6062 “TWO-TONE”
As mentioned there is an extremely high-profile reference 6062 in this auction: the very rare Bao Dai with black diamond dial, naturally collectors will gravitate to this piece simply because of its rarity. However, the piece that I think stands out more is this steel two-tone dial ref. 6062. Why you may ask; considering the unique Bao Dai 6062?
The 6062 was first introduced at the Basel fair in 1950 and without doubt you could just imagine peoples’ reaction when Rolex, who were known for their sports watches, unveiled the most complicated timepiece they’d ever made. But not only this, it was the first automatic wristwatch, with date and moon phase to be housed in a Rolex Oyster waterproof case.
We know that the 6062 was of course cased in yellow-gold, pink-gold and stainless steel, and were fitted with numerous dial variations. That said, among those made, the most exclusive and desirable examples made were cased in steel, with less than 25 having survived, making the steel 6062 rather elusive. Adding to this and echoing the same thoughts of our friend Edmond of Le Monde Edmond (who wrote an awesome piece on the Bao Dai 6062 by the way), the 6062 embodies the quintessence of what Rolex are truly known for and that is their waterproof Oyster cases – it is their trademark.
This steel 6062 features Arabic numerals at 3 and 9 o’clock, with arrow-head markers throughout atop of a lacquered silver dial, with a grained outer ring – lending a subtle two-tone effect. The blue hue print of the outer date ring, displays the preservation of this remarkable example and of course its correctness with open 6s and 9s.
Rolex steel watches made during this period of time were designed for one thing and one thing only, to be used daily and the fact that Rolex even cased one of their most complicated pieces at the time in a steel oyster case (which may have seemed a little insane at the time) is only something Rolex would’ve done. Nonetheless, the outcome of this led to many steel examples being used as intended, as “tool watches”, meaning many didn’t remain preserved and it is thought that only a handful exist today in an unmolested state. This is a truly remarkable example.
LOT 233: ROLEX REF. 1665 “PATENT PENDING FOR DIVCON-OCEANEERING”
I started this article with an iconic diver and so I am finishing it with one. I don’t quite know what it is but there is something about dive watches, which I just can’t seem to put my finger on, that I find just ensue unassailable sophistication. This is perhaps partly due to the fact they were made with one particular function in mind. Let’s be honest, they were relentlessly designed to be utilitarian watches for both professional and recreational divers but for the most part, they’ve probably forgotten what sea water tastes like.
The Submariner was the tool of choice for divers, which was rated at a 660 feet but Rolex being Rolex wanted to conquer the deep depths of the sea and were rather ambitious in wanting a watch capable of triple that – 2000 feet. A new model was given the reference 1665 and early deep saturation dive testing indicates that many of the first watches built failed due to the lack of a HEV (helium escape valve). Rolex then developed and patented the all-important helium escape valve, which was incorporated into the prototype Sea-Dweller. This valve released the helium from the watch case as the gas expanded during decompression after deep-water saturation dives, which prevented the watch from being damaged but still preserved its waterproofness.
When the ref. 1665 was first released in 1967, Rolex were still in the process of getting a patent for this innovation, therefore very early examples are engraved on the case back with the inscription of “Patent Pending Rolex Oyster Gas Escape Valve.” While there are no official figures, it is generally believed that just slightly over 100 of these watches were made. This reference 1665 featuring a Mk1 dial and double red-writing (which is now a faded light pink, because of the way the red paint reacted with the underlying white paint, the two “red” lines) is in no less than excellent condition. But, there is a bit more to this piece than meets the eye.
This watch has some serious provenance. It comes with, original, detailed documentation that the watch was loaned in 1971, by a Rolex AD, to an employee of the Divcon-Oceaneering AG. Who at the time was asked by Rolex to conduct some tests and provide some feedback, as well as images, regarding the watch and its performance at sea. After doing so, the watch was gifted to the diver – which is also documented. Nonetheless, what is rather interesting is that Rolex effort to further develop the HEV wasn’t solely exclusive to COMEX, making this current example historically rather important.
For more lot information on The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: Five that will take place on the weekend of the 13th & 14th of May at La Reserve Hotel, Geneva, visit the official Phillips Watches website to view the entire catalogue