Okay, so admittedly I wasn’t only in Geneva during the auction weekend of the 13th – 15th of May to go auction house hopping to see some truly exquisite timepieces go under the hammer – no. I was also there to see the truly exquisite watches on show at the Grand Kempinski Hotel. Why where there watches on show there? Well, the Davidoff Brother’s – whom we’ve highlighted before right here – were hosting a themed event that had been completely conceived and put together by them. The theme? It was a interesting one and perhaps one that doesn’t immediately jump out at you. Watches with Nicknames was the theme and we attended with friend and fellow collector/blogger (over at Fratellowatches), Michael Stockton.
For the uninitiated, you may be wondering just why but also how does this even work? What you’ve got to remember is the watch collecting community is huge and perhaps more so today when referring to vintage watches. With that, wrongly or rightly watches get given nicknames because believe it or not, it is as time easier to remember than reference numbers but even more so for dealers such as Roy & Sacha Davidoff it becomes an easy identifier too. While some nicknames are maybe a little far-fetched there’s no denying it does make things a tad easier.
As for the event, it was very successful with over 400 people in attendance and nickname or no nicknames, it was truly amazing to see these very impressive pieces all in one place at the same time – something rarely seen outside the walls of a museum or auction house preview for that matter. And if that wasn’t enough, to top it off was the diverse crowd present, from highly respected collectors to highly respected purveyors of watches. While we didn’t bring our camera out with us on the night, which would’ve meant us (me) juggling time speaking with fellow like-minded people and taking shots. We did indeed have the opportunity to snap some of the delicious examples on show, after the event.
TUDOR “BIG CROWN JAMES BOND” 7924
It’s no secret that James Bond, played by Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964), wore a 1959’s Rolex 6538 two-line big crown Sub with an MK 1 bezel insert that doesn’t have hash marks. That said, Roy & Sacha Davidoff chose to observe the calling of all Big Crown Submariners, as James Bond Subs including 6200, 6538 and 5510 references. This “Big Crown” trait even crept into the Tudor brand for the 7924 and shows how nicknames expand well beyond the origins, even if it was perhaps stretching it a bit but it was still more than welcomed. Years ago, dealers and collectors alike would call the 7924 the Poor Man’s James Bond Sub, but with today’s pricing James Bond Sub by itself is more appropriate. Perhaps the furthest stretch is the ‘James Bond small crown sub’ nickname referring to Rolex 6536 and 5508, which didn’t feature at the exhibition as the Brother’s felt it was a step too far.
ROLEX ‘JEAN-CLAUDE KILLY’ DATO-COMPAX 4767 & 6036
The Rolex “Jean-Claude Killy” Dato-Compax has always been an interesting piece but how it actually got its nickname is even more so. Jean-Claude owned a yellow gold 6036 and mentions it in the preface of a book in 1996. However, Antiquorum began using the ‘so-called Jean-Claude Killy’ for this reference around 1997/1998, since then the nickname has trickled down to all similar models regardless of reference. That said, it is widely thought that he owned the steel version but in fact the true JCK is yellow gold and while Roy & Sacha were perhaps unsuccessful in finding a nice enough one in time for their exhibition, this example was truly outstanding in the metal.
There was also another Rolex Dato-Compax in the mix: the reference 4767, which is one of the earliest Dato-Compax examples. Like I’ve already mention above, while it is known that JCK wore the 6036 reference, the nickname also stretches to this model too. The 4767 reference has a different case construction (monobloc) versus the later 6036 but one of the definite standout features of this reference has to be the rare radium luminous dial and hand configuration, it is no secret it is one of our favourites.
BREITLING CO-PILOT 765 AVI ‘LUCY DIGITAL’ & ‘LUCY ANALOG’
The Breitling Co-Pilot 765 AVI’s have a very unmistakable appearance but the nickname they’ve been coined could in fact be a more interesting talking point. Nicknamed Lucy after the remains of a 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton (nicknamed Lucy after a Beatles song – Lucy in The Sky of Diamonds – which was a favourite song of one of the excavators) of a predecessor to the homo sapiens, the Autralopithecus afarensis. The idea behind this nickname is likely the genesis or very early nature of first series Co-Pilot 765 AVI. This example is a 1953 first series, however, something that has maybe confused a few people over the years is the aperture at 3 o’clock. The window is often mistaken for a date aperture, but after handling one, you’ll quickly realise it is anything but. It is in fact a 15-minute countdown register that was used by pilots for their 15 minute pre-flight checks.
That said, the Analog ‘Lucy’ which was also part of the exhibition featured a more traditional layout, with 3 subsidiary dials, with the register at 3 o’clock serving as the 15-minute counter. Same idea as Breguet Type XX and now just as sought after.
HEUER 1163 JOE SIFFERT MK1 ‘CHRONOMATIC’
The Heuer 1163 ‘Joe Siffert’ is a well-known watch and of course was given it’s nickname because of who wore it. Joe Siffert was a Swiss race car driver and like many at the time, chose to wear a Heuer. The real Joe Siffert that he wore and that Roy & Sacha exhibited is this white dial 1163 Mark 1 with Chronomatic at the top of the Heuer logo and a tachymeter bezel. Produced around 1969, it is estimated that probably only 20-30 of these are around today. Nonetheless, today there are 6 executions of the white dial 1163 tachy bezel and they’ve all been given the ‘Joe Siffert’ nickname. Even the manual wind Autavia 73663 with the white dial and black registers is nicknamed ‘Siffert Colors’, so in total there are 7 different versions of Joe Siffert out there.
BREITLING 809 ‘WIDE BEZEL’ ‘SCOTT CARPENTER’
The Omega Speedmaster was strongly represented at Roy & Sacha’s exhibition but when it comes to the first Swiss wristwatch worn in space, Breitling again has to be mentioned. This 1962 Breitling Navitimer 809, is nicknamed the Scott Carpenter. As mentioned this was the first Swiss wristwatch in space, used in May 1962 aboard the Mercury-Atlas 7 (before Wally Schirra wore the Omega CK 2998 aboard Mercury-Atlas 8 in October 1962). Though the Omega CK 2998 is the first Omega in space, it is not as well-known as the Breitling 809 wide bezel, which was the first Swiss wristwatch to go up with Scott Carpenter.
HEUER 2446 MK 3 MINUTES BEZEL ‘JOCHEN RINDT’
Another Heuer, worn by another famous racing driver, is the Heuer 2446. This particular example was actually property of our friend, Mr. Stockton – so we just had to grab a quick snap of it. Interesting to note though that either MK3 2446 (minutes or hours bezel) is nicknamed ‘Rindt’ but the correct configuration is Minutes bezel on a GF bracelet. The Hours bezel version was also present at the exhibition because the nickname is commonly used either way, regardless of what he wore.
ROLEX DAYTONA 6239 ‘PAUL NEWMAN’
By now, many of you should be aware of the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, we’ve covered on many various occasions over the years. That said, this example is the original configuration worn by Paul Newman himself, although the nickname has taken a broader scope to these exotic dials with matchstick registers. According to Rolex experts, Paul Newman’s wife offered him this watch (in this configuration) as a gift and he wore it on a black alligator Bund style strap also now called “the Paul Newman strap.” A photo of him wearing this watch was featured in an Italian magazine and later he also became an ambassador for Rolex. It is noted that he also wore a Zenith Daytona 16520 during Daytona races and later on.
There were also a couple of other steel PN’s on show but Roy & Sacha didn’t feature any in gold PN like Lemon or John Player Special because they just felt it didn’t quite fit in with the spirit of real Paul Newman. It should be noted that this dial is also referred to as the tri-colour or tricolore panda dial because it is red white and black while later Panda dials don’t have the red Minutes track. This is commonly also referred to as a ‘pump Paul Newman’ versus and Oyster because it doesn’t have screw down pushers and therefore no mention of Oyster on the dial.
ROLEX 16753 ‘CLINT EASTWOOD’
Even for me, this is a rather interesting piece and a nickname I was personally unaware of. It is noted that Clint Eastwood wore several versions of the two-tone GMT gold/brown bezel with brown dial & jubilee bracelet. The 1675 had a brown matte dial with nipple indexes. The same indexes were found on glossy dial on 16753 (quick-set date, updated calibre). Later, the metallic indexes were wider. In the 1982 film Firefox, Clint Eastwood looks at his watch, video can be seen on YouTube, and it is clearly a glossy nipple dial. This is the exact configuration The DB’s had at the event and speaking to them, it was challenging finding this exact configuration, especially in mint condition. That said, any two-tone gold/brown bezel GMT master (not always on jubilee) is also nicknamed Clint Eastwood regardless of dial configuration, again demonstrating this nickname stretched out a bit wider as well.
UNIVERSAL GENÈVE TRI-COMPAX ‘ERIC CLAPTON’ 881101/01
If you are into watches then you’ll likely beware that, world-renowned Guitarist, Eric Clapton has been known for having impeccable taste in watches. While he’s perhaps more famously known for wearing Rolex and Patek’s, it has also been noted that Mr. Clapton, in his early years, wore a Universal Geneve Tri-Compax. Eric Clapton wore the white dial 881101/01, which was in the past few years nicknamed the “Eric Clapton” (a nickname coined by our friend, formerly of Hodinkee now at Christie’s, Eric Wind). It was also interesting to see the black dial with red centre seconds hand, which was later nicknamed the ‘Evil Clapton’.
I think it is fair to say, Roy & Sacha Davidoff, hosted a truly brilliant and well thought out event with Watches With Nicknames. It was great to see these watches in the metal that you’d ordinarily be hard pressed to see outside the walls of an auction house. It was a great appetiser leading into the auctions that took place that weekend.
Many thanks to both Roy & Sacha for the invitation and we look forward to the book that will be available circa November this year, which will showcase all the pieces at the event.