It is that time of the year again where all eyes are on Geneva for auction season. With that comes my highlights of what I think are some of the most interesting lots at Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction: Seven. As usual, I tend to stay away from the more popular lots that most have already covered such as the Daytonas and vintage Pateks, and instead show some equally important and rare pieces that are more to my tastes.
LOT 119 & 121: BREGUET TYPE XX
Beginning with Lot 119 and Lot 121, Breguet has long been one of my favourite vintage brands and of course, at the heart of it all, is the Type XX. The Type XX has to be one of the most iconic pilots watches ever produced. They were commissioned by the French government in the early 50’s, as they were looking for a timepiece to supply both the Naval and Air Forces. The Type XX name was not a model name, but instead the specification laid out by the French government, just like how the Mk 11 was for the British RAF. Not only are they one of the most historically important watches of the 20th century, they are also some of the most rugged and attractive watches from the era.
The first example I want to highlight is Lot 119. Strictly speaking, it is not actually a Type XX, but instead it can be described as a Pre-Type XX, somewhat of a blueprint for all the future Type XXs that Breguet would produce. It has many of the characteristic Type XX stylings, with it unique bevelled case and black Arabic numeral dial, but instead it has a glossy dial and a blank, flat bezel. Furthermore, the dial is interestingly signed with its serial number of ‘1164’.
As expected, this is an insanely rare piece that you almost never see come to market. While vintage Type XXs are rare in their own right, this Pre-Type XX takes it to the next level. It is further accompanied by an extract from Breguet confirming its production year of 1952 and that it was delivered on the 3rd of February 1953.
Lot 121, on the other hand, is as pure of a Type XX as you can get. A beautiful example in a very well-preserved state, to the layman it looks like your typical Type XX, but look a bit closer and you will see that this is a very rare variant of the already rare Type XX, with a tachymeter dial. It is not often you find Type XXs with scales on the dial and it was revealed by Breguet that at the time, clients could make special order dials for their watches based on what activities they needed it for.
LOT 154: ROLEX DATEJUST WHITE GOLD HONEYCOMB
Let me just say up front with Lot 154, that I am biased. I am a huge fan of white gold Rolex Datejusts because of how stealth they are and I myself am a proud owner of a 1601 white gold Datejust. Because not many were made, with most precious metal examples cased in yellow gold, they sell for a huge premium on the market over its steel counterparts. While you might say you get the same look with a steel version, as an owner of one, let me explain why I could not disagree more.
There are a few subtle differences which really sets the watch apart, with the two biggest ones being the case and the bezel. The case of the white gold Datejust is actually different to the steel variant, as the lugs do not complete cut off at the lugs and instead gradually blends in to the case. Furthermore, the bezel is ribbed in a subtler way and the result is a timepiece that sits much flatter and streamlined on the wrist.
Lot 154 at Phillips this weekend is a Ref. 6605, an early reference and even rarer than my 1601. What makes this piece the ultimate white gold Datejust though, lies in the dial. It is just the most insane black honeycomb dial and while I’ve seen examples in stainless steel, I’ve never seen it in a white gold case.
This lot is made even more desirable by the fact it is in excellent condition, with all lume plots still present, a nice thick case with even lugs and an overall clean honeycomb dial. White gold cases tend to be more prone to over polishing as it is softer and honeycomb dials tended to catch dirt in its texture so to have one that is in this condition is impressive. In my humble opinion, this is the ultimate Datejust to own.
Estimate: CHF 50,000 – 100,000
LOT 230: BREGUET DIVERS WATCH
Inevitably, with my love for Breguet, we find ourselves back to another vintage Breguet piece. While the Type XXs are rare and in demand, barring the Pre Type XX that I highlighted earlier, they do still appear in the market every auction season. What you barely ever, or never see though, is Lot 230, a Breguet Divers watch.
This has to be one of the rarest divers ever produced and it has been confirmed by the Breguet archives that it was produced in 1963 and was sold on the 10th of July 1964. They also mentioned that less than 60 pieces were ever produced. Damn.
Rarity aside, this is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful watches ever designed. With its huge 37mm case, bakelite bezel dotted with lume and those huge lollipop lumes on the glossy black dial, I must say that the design team at Breguet at that time, whether it be the Type XXs produced or this diver, had excellent taste. I fully expect this Diver to go very, very high.
Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 80,000
LOT 252: ROLEX SUBMARINER 5512 FOUR LINE EXCLAMATION MARK
Lot 252 has everything going for it. Let’s analyse the watch first. It is a Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512. It has four lines of text as all 5512s were chronometer certified. It has a gilt dial with a chapter ring and the elusive exclamation mark lume (look at 6 o’clock) and it is cased in a pointed crown guard (PCG) case. Oh, and it also has a kissing 40 fat font bezel.
On top of this, the condition of the watch is amazing. The stainless-steel case appears to be well-preserved, with thick even lugs and bevels showing dings and scratches that shows it is an honest piece. The bezel is faded to a nice grey/black tone and it is consistent with the condition of the watch and the glossy dial is perfectly shiny with a very nice matching dark yellow patina.
What all this means can be summed up in a few words: A Rolex collector’s wet dream. The watch by itself is already something that collectors would go crazy for, but it gets even more interesting – the provenance of this watch is just as good as the rarity of the watch.
This watch comes from the original owner, Carlton Carlson, where he was gifted this watch by his grandmother when he graduated from high school. The caseback is engraved ‘Carlton from Grandma 1963’ and not only that, he went on to serve two terms in the Vietnam war, where he wore this watch constantly. The best part is, it is all documented.
Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 60,000
So, there you have it, my favourite lots from the Geneva Watch Auction: Seven. Phillips seem to continue to bring crazy rare pieces to the market and it must be a lot of pressure to constantly deliver. All of these watches are certainly out of my range…for now, so I will happily be watching to see how well these lots will perform.
For more lot information on The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN that will take place on the weekend of the 12th & 13th of May at La Reserve Hotel, Geneva, visit the official Phillips Watches website to view the entire catalogue.