Back in October, my wife and I spent a little time in the South of Italy, Naples, Postiano and Capri – three places so vibrant and busy, oh and of course sunny. And yet, in the last month of the year 2017, a little bit of Naples has found its way into the heart of London’s bustling watch community – Mayfair, or to be more specific: The Burlington Arcade.
Many of you may or may not have heard of Caso Watches but I shall tell you a little bit about them, their humble beginnings and where they are now. Last week I spent some time with Roberto and Fabrizio Caso over at their pop-up shop in the Burlington Arcade. Originally, Caso Watches started as a vintage jewellery family business, run by the Father of the Caso Brothers, in the heart of Napoli. Around 1990, eldest brother [Roberto] also started working with his father, dealing in all sorts of vintage jewellery and watches.
In 2001, after completing his degree, younger brother, Fabrizio joined forces with Roberto and in 2002, they created a new company. At first, they specialised in just vintage chronographs, complicated Patek Phillips and of course Rolex. In 2004, they entered the online market, pushing their vintage timepieces to a wider audience and started to solely focus their core business on the web. They expanded their core watch specialisation and started to stock pieces in top condition from the likes of Heuer, Omega, Universal Geneve, Eberhard, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Breitling and Tudor – with Fabrizio specifically specialising in his passion for diving watches.
When it comes to Vacheron Constantin, however, the brothers have somewhat of a special appreciation for these. They like collecting a lot of them but importantly, the most desired and most important pieces they can. This collection of theirs is so impressive a portion of them are featured in Pucci Papaleo’s Micro & Macro Portfolio of Images Taken from Royal Vacheron Constantin. Every now and then, they put some of this exquisite private collection up for sale, either via their website, privately and sometimes through an auction house. Luckily for me that day, they brought out a selection of pieces to feast our eye on.
Vacheron Constantin are very well-known for making some of the most beautiful timepieces ever made. To me, the mere mention of their name always conjures up a slightly different emotion in comparison to the likes of Patek Philippe, even though they perhaps don’t have the same cult following. The triple calendar moonphase 4560 is something rather special though and its 35.5mm case is quite remarkable, considering it was first introduced in the late 1940s, the claw-style lugs add an extra element of sophistication and elegance. The 4560, was available with or without moonphase but I much prefer it with, as it adds a certain balance to the overall dial appearance. This reference 4560, was very in-keeping with what Vacheron Constantin were designing throughout the 1940s and a design that has been resurrected today.
Probably a more understated timepiece is this Vacheron ref. 4072. Alongside the ref. 4178, the 4072 is one of my favourite chronographs – period. This Vacheron reference 4072 is one of the early examples that surprisingly enough spanned almost 30 years in production. This early ref. 4072 features a striking two-tone silver sector dial, with raised hour makers and scales in black enamel; a technique known as champlevé. While the case does seem rather small at 34mm, it’s worth mentioning that this was a pretty common size of chronograph in this era but what makes this piece rare, is the case metal: stainless steel. Both these pieces feature in the Pucci Papaleo book mentioned above, as do many others from the Caso private collection.
As mentioned above, Roberto and Fabrizio have always had a penchant for Rolex, so naturally they also brought out some examples to show us. First, we have this absolutely, beautiful, Rolex Oyster Perpetual ref. 6098, one of those rare timepieces that were part of “history in the making” as it was on May 29, 1953 that Sir Edmund Hillary successfully reached the peak of Mount Everest – his mighty and faithful stainless-steel Rolex reference 6098 strapped on his wrist. At the time, its 36mm case diameter, the famed Rolex “Ovettone” was the largest bubbleback-type, time-only watch produced by the brand. However, what makes this piece instantly attractive is its tapestry dial, alpha hands and blued centre sweeping-seconds hand.
The Rolex ref. 6238 is referred to as a Pre-Daytona and to be honest, it’s not hard to see why. The ref. 6238 is the direct precursor to the venerable Cosmograph Daytona, which was in fact the last model to feature a tachymetre scale on the dial and it’s amazing to think that without this important reference there would perhaps be no Daytona today. When you look at previous Rolex chronographs that came before this reference, they were quite obviously more classically styled, however, the 6238 has a more modern and timeless design. What perhaps stands out on this example, is the fact that it is fitted with a silver sunburst dial and bears a retail signature: Tiffany & Co. One thing that has always intrigued me about these pre-Daytonas, is how relatively affordable they are in comparison to the Daytona and what’s more they arguably offer the same kind of sportiness too.
The Rolex 4313, is without doubt one of the rarest and perhaps most peculiar chronographs the brand has ever made. The reference 4313 was launched in the 1940s and is notable for its teardrop shaped lugs, a design hardly ever used by Rolex, and indeed only found on reference 4313. Another unusual feature is its size: with a full 37 mm diameter, which classifies it as oversized for the standard of the time. On top of that, the clean dial layout and the unusual lugs further amplify the wrist presence of the timepiece and the final result is among the most impressive, best proportioned and captivating designs that can be found on 1940s chronographs, by any brand. In addition, the warm champagne dial and solid gold oyster link bracelet add little extra refinement.
As you’ll know, the reference 6239 is the first Daytona ever produced by Rolex, even though the watch had yet to be formally named as such. Introduced in 1963, for a very short period, the iconic chronograph timepiece for the first time featured an external tachymetre scale on its bezel. This particular piece is known as “The Priest” because of its striking matte black dial, with white accents and the lack of the wording “Daytona”. It is the little details like this that keep Rolex enthusiasts keen till this day.
ZENITH EL PRIMERO A386
Just a few weeks ago we highlighted a Zenith A386 from the Watches of Knightsbridge November auction, however, this example is in exceedingly great condition. As mentioned before, I’ve always been a fan of the El Primero and this example is just downright gorgeous. Made in circa 1969, this ref. A386 El Primero features the iconic tri-colour, large overlapping chronograph registers, with date aperture at 16:30, baton hands and red sweeping-seconds chronograph hand. And what’s more, it comes on its original, highly sought-after, Gay Frères ladder-style bracelet.
PATEK PHILIPPE 565
The Patek Philippe reference 565, in my humble opinion is one of the manufacturers most solid yet elegant timepieces, the 565 is no sports watch, but its case structure does lend more towards someone with an active lifestyle. This model is not only fitted with a screw down caseback (something seldom seen in the 1940s) but also features an inner soft iron case as to shield the movement from magnetic fields. The smartly constructed 35mm case is composed of only two parts and no outer bezel, minimising points of entry for dust and humidity. The Patek Philippe 565, is quite simply a great all-round versatile watch.
I’d like to thank Roberto & Fabrizio Caso, as well as Stefan for taking the time to meet with me and show us this phenomenal array of vintage watches – some of the nicest, most genuine gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You may find them for sale, alongside other incredible pieces, online at Casowatches.com
Caso Watches pop-up is located at:
66-67 Burlington Arcade, 51 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0QJ
You can also contact them via email too at firstname.lastname@example.org