Yep that’s right folks, we’re now into March, which means a couple of things for us here at BEXSONN and the wider watch community. 1. BaselWorld 2017 watch fair is upon us and 2. It is Watches of Knightsbridge’s first London auction of the year. We recently spent some time over at 64 Knightsbridge to have a look at a handful of timepieces in the upcoming March auction on the 18th. As usual we decided to pick out some of our highlighted lots and share our thoughts on them.
BREITLING TOP TIME 810
Lot 41: There’s no denying that right now the Heuer chronographs receive the major share of plaudits and collector desirability. We’ve highlighted Heuer chronographs before and there’s no doubt about their history and the important roles they played, most notably the copious number of famous wrists Heuer’s adorned. That said, if there is one watch brand that could perhaps rival Heuer in the desirability department, it would have to be Breitling. A brand, that of late, have come to the fore in terms of collectible vintage chronographs. Breitling’s are often largely ignored by collectors for some reason, however, I believe the Breitling Top Time 810 not only offers great value for money but it’s simple, clean, and sporty design is a great combination. The case of the Top Time measures, a rather large for its time, 38 mm in diameter but this model being the MK2 variant features perhaps the less desirable case but bigger winding crown. It has a sunburst silver ‘panda’ dial, with three black registers, baton markers and period correct hands. Beating away inside this Top Time is Breitling’s preferred chronograph movement: the Venus 178, which of course was used in the Navitimers and Cosmonautes. This particular example is up for auction at an estimated £2,800 – £3,400, which is in-keeping with today’s market prices but also indicates vintage Breitling’s are on the up and up.
HEUER ‘BUND’ FLYBACK
Lot 141: I don’t usually highlight these Military chronographs but recently, these timepieces have become rather hot property and they’re still relatively affordable – for now. That said, there has been a massive community dedicated to these timepieces for some time but it has always been quite niche, until recently. These Military flyback chronographs are the stuff of legend and there were quite a few made by Leonidas/Heuer back in the 60’s. There are quite a few variations, with the most coveted example being the Sternzeit.
These military flyback chronographs, were originally issued to either Italy or Germany. With these issued chronographs, they were normally returned by the pilot it was on lease to and serviced. During service, parts were often replaced, such as dials or movements to make the watch fit for duty, which most likely upset their initial value. This particular Heuer Bundeswehr 1550 SG (dated to circa 1970), is perhaps one of the more popular models seen but this doesn’t make it at all less special. Known as the “3H”, because the dial features “3H” within a red circle, denoting the use of tritium because Hydrogen 3 is the chemical composition for the lume.
This 1550 SG features the standard small ‘Heuer’ logo, with big-letter 3H-symbol and the T just above 6 o’clock. There are many different 3H dial variants, which you can see here, however this one features the dial where the Arabic numerals are fully visible. Housed in this 43 mm case is a Valjoux 230 flyback chronograph calibre and on the case back is the issued military markings. Quite fitting too, it comes on Bund-style, black leather strap. This German Military Heuer “Bund” Flyback chronograph is up for auction at an estimated £3,000 – £3,500.
OMEGA RAF ‘THIN ARROW’
Lot 164: I don’t know what it is but I seem to be drawn to the very clean and downright gorgeous looking Omega Royal Air Force (RAF), ‘Thin Arrow’ CK2777. The CK2777 was designed specifically by Omega to meet the stringent specifications set out by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) under a detailed document called DEF-3 and amended in 1959 for all HM Forces military ‘issued’ timepieces. It is thought that the MOD ordered 5,900 examples via The Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company Ltd for the RAF in 1953 and the watches were built to specific military requirements. Very few Omega RAF CK2777’s still exist in original condition – why? Because they were all recalled by the MOD and upon recall almost every ‘Thin Arrow’ watch was stripped down to its base plate, repainted by the MOD with the addition of a ‘fat arrow’ and a T in a circle to denote ‘tritium’ lume not radium. Of the handful of examples that did escape recall, most tend to be in so-so condition but as you can see this one is in excellent condition.
This example still features its original thin arrow black matte dial, though the radium lume on the dial and hands has been swapped out for something a lot safer. It sports its original flat brushed case with fixed solid metal lug bars and correct large non-logo crown in superb condition with perfect clear military engravings on the screw in caseback. Housed in this 37mm case, is the calibre 283 manual wind 17 jewel movement, with dust cover. It is up for auction at an estimated price of £3,500 – £4,500, which echoes the watches originality.
LONGINES/WITTNAUER CHRONOGRAPH REF. 7004A
Lot 181: Wittnauer as a brand are very well-respected amongst enthusiasts alike and can boast of rich history and achievements in their time. Purchased by Longines in the 1950s, the Longines-Wittnauer names graced many fine timepieces. This 1960s ref. 7004A makes use of the Landeron 248, which was only used in the earlier models from 1969 – 70. But this Landeron calibre 248 made use of an unusual feature, where the top pusher only activates the chronograph function, with the lower pusher both stopping and resetting the chronograph. This Longines-Wittnauer chronograph ref. 7004A features a black dial with luminous markers and a lollipop chronograph seconds hand. It features just two subsidiary dials, recording continuous seconds and accumulated minutes, with a tach-o-meter outer scale. The case measures a reasonable 40mm, features a red rotating MH bezel and comes on a leather strap. This is up for auction at an estimated £2,000 – £2,400, which I think would be a steal at this price.
ROLEX GMT-MASTER REF. 1675
Lot 235: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Rolex GMT-Master is, arguably, more likeable than the Submariner. Why? Perhaps the actual everyday usefulness is much more appreciated and there is also the point of, when you have a GMT, you just kind of have a GMT; not to say there aren’t subtle differences between them but each one just seems to be appreciated for what it is. This example has been consigned by the original owner, who just so happened to be an airline pilot. At the time of purchase back in 1971, he used his entire month salary to buy the watch during his travels to Beirut; a feat which is perhaps still possible today – if you’re a long-haul airline pilot that is. The watch itself is in great, honest, condition with natural signs of ageing and comes complete with all the original box and papers, booklets, as well as additional bezel inserts.
This 1971 Rolex GMT-Master reference 1675 features a matte black dial, with luminous markers and customary Mercedes hands, which were unfortunately changed during a service. Inside is the automatic calibre 1570, signed Rolex S.A. and dated I.70. The Oyster case measures approximately 40mm with its signature 24-hour “Pepsi” rotating bezel that one would imagine has discoloured during exposure in the pilots’ cockpit and comes on a folded link Oyster bracelet. This full-set GMT-Master ref. 1675 is up for auction at an estimated price of £6,000 – £8,000.
ROLEX AIR-KING REF. 5500
Lot 245: The Rolex Air-King has one of the most interesting histories of perhaps any Rolex model. Spanning some 70 years of continuous production the Rolex Air-King, though it hasn’t always been known by that name, is a true favourite amongst enthusiasts. It is said that some brave British RAF pilots discarded their low-quality, military issued watches in favour of Rolex Oyster Perpetual for missions. When word of this reached founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, he chose to honour these pilots by making a Rolex fit for the Sky. There was the Air-Lion, Air-Tiger, Air-King and the Air-Giant, of course the only name that stuck was the Air-King and so this was the only line Rolex continued with. The Air-King is greatly appreciated for its simplicity, affordability and depth in history but of the iconic Air-King references the most coveted is the 5500. In the 70-years plus of the Air-King’s existence the ref. 5500 has spanned 37 of those years and was largely left untouched.
This 1962 Air-King reference 5500 features a silver dial, which has aged to a beautiful creamy, almost boarding-on salmon, tone. It features arrow-head markers, alongside 3,6 and 9 Arabic numerals. The 34mm case houses an automatic Rolex calibre and comes on a jubilee bracelet made in England. And if there wasn’t more, it also comes complete with original box, guarantee, purchase receipt and service paperwork, which is dated 1972 – it is a stunning watch in the metal. This 1962 Air-King ref. 5500 is up for auction at an estimated price of £1,800 – £2,400, which I think would be an absolute steal.
The Watches of Knightsbridge auction will take place on the 18th March 2017, make sure you visit their website for this month’s full catalogue.