Last week, Chris looked at what is perhaps one of the most important watches to come to auction in recent times – the Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 that belonged to Paul Newman himself. While it’s not a bad star piece for Phillips’ first auction in New York, there are plenty others hitting the block that in any other auction house could be cover lots in their own right. Today, I take a look at three more ‘star’ pieces from next week’s New York sale.
OMEGA SPEEDMASTER ALASKA III
Lot 6: We all know the Omega Speedmaster as the watch that was chosen by NASA to be worn for the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission. What is much more fascinating than that is that there were pieces specifically made and issued to NASA after that period. Lot 6 is the Omega Speedmaster Alaska III and though to the layman it may look like an ordinary Speedmaster, it is the details that really make this a historically interesting and important watch.
In 1978, a small amount of Speedmasters were ordered by NASA for their Space Shuttle program, which was code-named ‘Alaska III’. The watch in question was a Ref. 145.022 and powered by an 861 movement, a pretty standard Speedmaster. That being said, one look at the dial and you will notice that you have radial subsidiary dials instead, completely unique to the Alaska Speedmasters. Furthermore, at the time, the U.S. government was enforcing their ‘Buy American Act’, which forced Omega to use an American case maker instead of their usual Swiss made, Huguenin Freres. The result is a peculiar case that although looks the same as a standard 145.022, is stamped with the American Star Case Company’s hallmark. On top of that, the dial is not signed Swiss Made. To top it off, the caseback is stamped with the NASA script enhancing the provenance of this piece.
This example is pretty close to unused, making it a serious collectors piece and one to store in the safe. With its historical importance and overall condition, I’d say it’s less of a wristwatch and more of a museum piece.
PATEK PHILIPPE REF. 1463 ‘TASTI TONDI’
Lot 19: Sometimes it’s easy to forget how rare a certain watch is when you see it too often. The 1463 is just that. Don’t get me wrong, it is still one of my favourites, with its FB case featuring those unique sunburst pushers and screw down caseback, but it seems every auction season, you come across one or two for sale.
The truth is, only an estimated 750 pieces were produced in the 1940s, with a majority in yellow gold. I have to remind myself that this indeed, especially in stainless steel, is a seriously rare watch. Nicknamed ‘Tasti Tondi’ in Italian because of its round sunburst pushers, the 1463 was the first and only waterproof chronograph produced by Patek back then. This example comes in stunning condition, stated by Phillips to have been barely worn, the two-tone dial is impeccable with its raised enamel printing very well-preserved.
Again, it is the details that really makes me love the 1463, and with this example being fresh to the market, I have no doubt it will fly.
PHILIPPE DUFOUR DUALITY
Lot 47: Of all the auction highlights I’ve done, all have been vintage so it is quite unusual for me to be writing about a modern piece. That being said, I think the name ‘Philippe Dufour’ transcends the term ‘modern’ and is no doubt worthy to be highlighted alongside the Speedmaster ‘Alaska III’ and Tasti Tondi.
Philippe Dufour is an independent watchmaker based in Le Solliat in the famous Vallee de Joux. I was lucky enough to pay the man himself a visit last year and I must say, he was one of the kindest and most interesting watchmakers I’ve met. Located in a small house and sporting a small sign that says ‘Philippe Dufour Horlogerie Compliquèe’, you would never be able to tell that inside this house is one of the greatest living watchmakers. Famed for his ability to finish movements, his work is undisputedly the best even when comparing to the likes of A. Lange and Sohne and Patek Philippe.
We all know the Simplicity as the famous Philippe Dufour watch but what came first was the Duality. What is interesting to point out, is that Philippe Dufour himself went through difficulties as an independent watchmaker when he first started out. Initially, it was planned that 25 pieces of the Duality would be produced, but the watch gained no traction and was ultimately a failure. Only 9 pieces were produced in the end. It wasn’t until the Simplicity was made that Dufour really became a legend and as we all know with collecting, pieces that were initially perceived as a flop (hint: Paul Newman Daytona) can have inverse effects in the modern-day. This is largely due to lower production numbers and with the Duality, it is no different. The Duality is much more complicated than the Simplicity as it was the first watch to ever incorporate a double escapement and if that isn’t enough to get you interested, this example on offer is the first ever made by Dufour himself- number 00.
I hate to say it, but Phillips has gone and done it again and this inaugural NY auction is sure to be a hit. To view the entire Winning Icons catalogue, visit the Phillips website.