Now that the dust has somewhat settled after the Phillips Watch Auctions, we decided to share our thoughts and how the lots we highlighted performed. I think it’s fair to say that even before Aurel took to the rostrum on Saturday evening for the Start-Stop-Reset auction, we were about to witness, for lack of a better word, some Epic hammer sales. That said, there were some lots that massively over performed and some that did quite the opposite from both the SSR and GWA3 auctions. Without doubt, most of the focus was on what would happen on Saturday evening in the sale of 88 ‘Epic’ stainless steel chronographs. Let’s be honest, there were a lot of brands that most would not have heard of before, so it was always going to be interesting to see how these lots would perform. That said, it was a thematic auction, which most often than not do well anyway. The sale of all 88 chronographs, with no lots passed, is testament to the rare timepieces assembled for this auction and the enthusiasm of vintage watch collectors in general. But how did the lots we highlighted fare?
LOT 9: LONGINES REF. 5699 ‘DOPPIA LANCETTA’
As we mentioned, Longines feature heavily in this auction, and rightly so. If there was a 20th century watch manufacture that would best represent the stainless steel chronograph, it would have to be Longines, with both the legendary 13ZN movement and 30CH movement, later on heralded to be some of the greatest chronograph movements of all time. This Ref. 5699, nicknamed ‘Doppia Lancetta’, which translates to ‘double hand’ due to the presence of what looks to be two central seconds hands performed quite admirably in my opinion.
Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 80,000 – Sold: CHF 87,500
LOT 19: UNIVERSAL GENÈVE AERO-COMPAX
This Aero-Compax , which sported a Spillman case was just an absolute gem. With the subsidiary dial at 12 o’clock being a ‘memory’ register, where the user could set the time with the crown at 9 o’clock in order to establish a start time when timing. As mentioned, it was important to note that dials of Universal Genève watches, especially the calendar models, were known to tarnish a lot, making this Aero Compax even more desirable. It is fair to say this particular piece will be greatly received by its new owner.
Estimate: CHF 15,000 – 30,000 – Sold: CHF 32,500
LOT 25: GRANA KURTH FRÈRES ‘SPLIT SECONDS’
We did mention just how unfamiliar this brand was a few weeks ago in our highlights and if you had heard of them, it was probably because they were known for supplying the British Ministry of Defence with W.W.W. watches in World War II, alongside 11 other brands making up what is known today as ‘The Dirty Dozen’. This Grana Kurth Frères chronograph not only featured a beautifully preserved black lacquer dial but a rattrapante function, making it perhaps even more sought after.
Estimate: CHF 20,000 – 40,000 – Sold: CHF 86,250
LOT 55: LONGINES REF. 4974 ‘TRE TACCHE NERO’
Another 13ZN we highlighted was this 37.5mm stepped case with round pump pushers and black gilt dial with Arabic numeral, Longines reference 4974 ‘Tre Tacche Nero.’ It is just such a good-looking watch, with a design that in my opinion is effortlessly timeless. To add to that this Ref. 4974’s has a ‘Tre Tacche’ caseback, sought after by collectors which translates to the ‘three notches’ found on the caseback.
Estimate: CHF 50,000 – 100,000 – Sold: CHF 93,750
LOT 65: LONGINES REF. 5009 ‘FLY BACK’
One other 13ZN that we separately highlighted was this very attractive Longines reference 5009, which has a beautiful two-tone dial. It features two oversized chronograph registers, enamel Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock and a very thin 37mm case. Oh, of course you can read here just why the calibre 13ZN is so revered.
Estimate: CHF 30,000 – 60,000 – Sold: CHF 72,500
LOT 79: EBERHARD & CO ‘SPLIT SECONDS’
Another interesting and unfamiliar chronograph we highlighted from this star-studded auction was this 40mm Eberhard & Co. Split Seconds chronograph. Powered by a Valjoux 86, the buttons on this Eberhard do not correspond as a normal split seconds should. The start, stop and reset are all controlled by the pusher within the crown and the top pusher is used to control the split seconds function. The bottom pusher, at 4 o’clock, is a slide that when activated, stops the time and locks it in, so that accidental re-activation of the chronograph is not possible.
Estimate: CHF 25,000 – 50,000 – Sold: CHF 45,000
LOT 109: ROLEX ANTI-MAGNETIC REF. 4768
One of our picks from the GWA3 was this Rolex 1948 reference 4768 anti-magnetic triple calendar chronograph, which is one of only 220 examples ever made. As mentioned, it bears many similarities to one of its siblings, the Dato-Compax, aka the “Jean-Claude Killy.” This avant-garde, rare beauty did rather well in the opening of the auction more than doubling its highest estimate.
Estimate: CHF 50,000 – 100,000 – Sold: CHF 233,000
LOT 199: AUDEMARS PIGUET REF. 5520
Another highlighted lot from the GWA3 auction was this ref. 5520 Audemar Piguet chronograph. We’ve said before just how rare AP chronographs are from this era because of their limited quantities. However, this AP didn’t do as well as expected and a possible reason behind this may be because it would appear that the movement and the case were made in different decades, which Phillips announced before it went under the hammer. But just how much of a bearing did this have on its value? In my opinion, none at all, as it was not uncommon back then that movements were made well before they were cased. Nonetheless, I think it still performed well.
Estimate: CHF 120,000 – 180,000 – Sold: CHF 149,000
LOT 209: PATEK PHILIPPE REF.96 ‘TELEPHONE DIAL’
Last but by no means least is this little Patek Philippe reference 96, with a telephone dial. We did say that the ref. 96 is the epitome of Patek’s beliefs, which incorporated downplayed elegance, sophistication but above all: good design. This timepiece alone defined the Calatrava style and it was also the first timepiece that heralded the new era of referenced watches for Patek. And I think it is safe to say its importance didn’t go unnoticed.
Estimate: CHF 25,000 – 50,000 – Sold: CHF 68,750
I think it is fair to say that once again Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo have done well, in fact to the total sum of some 30m Swiss Francs. However, there was a general opinion again that some of the lots just under performed. Though I think the expectation of setting multiple world records when Aurel Bacs takes the rostrum, to be somewhat too high and I personally don’t think these lots under performed but just sold for their actual market value. But on the other hand, there were a good handful of lots that massively over performed even to my amazement and to some of the floor bidders too. I think both of these auctions are evidence that the vintage watch buyer is becoming much more astute and selective of their purchases. For me, the Start-Stop-Reset auction was a touch of genius from Bacs and his team, it of course highlighted some niche brands most will never have heard of but most importantly, showed collectors, regardless of age, that brands other than Rolex and Patek Phillipe also made beautiful wristwatches and that can only be a good thing for the ever-growing vintage watch market.
But what does this mean in the grand scheme of things for these chronographs sold and relatively unknown vintage chronographs in the future? Like I said before, it was great to see chronographs like these assembled for an auction by Phillips. However, I would caution those who think of the prices set in this auction as the benchmark moving forward, as they aren’t relevant to the current market price but they are more of an indicator that the vintage chronograph watch market is alive and kicking. Moving forward I do think that vintage chronographs from this era will become ever more popular and this is just the beginning in my opinion, but who knows, I could be completely wrong.
For the entire list of the Phillips Geneva Start-Stop-Reset & Geneva Watches auction results, visit the official Phillips Watches website.